Notes from our June Board meetings

In absolutely no particular order, here are some of the things we’ve been working on or talking about this month. As always, feel free to comment below or otherwise get in touch with a Board member to share your input.

  1. The library begins pickup service starting June 26!
  2. Major win: The Registrar’s Office (RO) will schedule synchronous course activities on request this fall (as usual). We also got confirmation that for the RO to not provide this service would require a decision at Senate. Thank you to everyone who helped advocate for this at Senate and through other channels. We’ve since released a statement to all members about the decision by three Faculties (Arts, Math, and Engineering) to not use RO scheduling services for fall term.
  3. There are new remote teaching guidelines regarding privacy and intellectual property—give them a read if you haven’t yet. We were not consulted about these guidelines and don’t have official opinions on them yet.
  4. HR has been prorating merit increases for faculty on paid sick leave. We believe this contravenes the Memorandum of Agreement (while there are provisions in the MoA for prorating merit, they are for unpaid leaves) and we are discussing this at Faculty Relations Committee.
  5. The end is in sight: The Policy 76 drafting committee has sent a draft to FRC. FRC is advising on next steps for consultation.
  6. We are sorting out what we will do in place of our usual new faculty social events in July and August. The University’s new faculty orientation (in which we play a supporting role) will be fully online.
  7. The Equity Office postponed its Pride celebrations in light of the Black Lives Matter protests and the vast increase in disclosures of racism from members of the UW community. The Gender and Sexual Diversity Working Group, on which FAUW is represented, has issued a statement in support of this decision.
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Veronica Kitchen’s June 2020 Senate Report

Veronica Kitchen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and an elected Arts Senator who produces a great summary after each University Senate meeting and has agreed to share them here. Her reports understandably focus on items relevant to Arts faculty and are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all the agenda items, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for the official minutes on the University Secretariat’s website.

[We’ve cut a few very Arts-specific items this time, because this was a long one!]

Items of interest [especially] to Arts on the Regular Agenda

  1. Graduate studies is changing calendar language re: students who are required to withdraw, and making it possible for students who are required to withdraw for academic reasons to voluntarily withdraw instead (thus making admission to another graduate program easier).
  2. Approval of a new Major in Communication Arts & Design Practice
  3. New transfer credit agreement between Arts & the University of Essex, in which students will get a BA and an LLB in Human Rights Law. Open to students taking a human rights minor.
  4. Changes to academic progression and admission to major rules in light of the increase in CR/NCR on student transcripts.
  5. Endorsement of the process in practice for minor changes to academic programming in light of COVID & remote teaching.  

Return to Campus 

Return to campus now has its own agenda item, instead of being delivered by the President. There is a new Integrated Coordination and Planning Committee to regularize return to campus. This will now be delivered in three segments by working groups of the ICPC.

Continue reading “Veronica Kitchen’s June 2020 Senate Report”

UW statement risks chilling Black anti-racism scholarship

On June 6, in relation to a matter with a faculty member that prompted a public outcry and media response, the University of Waterloo told the press that “The University of Waterloo unequivocally believes that there is no place for the use of the N-word in class, on campus or in our community.” 

At the June 15 meeting of University of Waterloo’s Senate, we heard from UWaterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur that the University would revise and reissue this statement, but we still feel it is important to release our response, originally written prior to this announcement at Senate. At the time we are publishing this response, the University’s June 6 statement is still online in its original form. 

FAUW is deeply concerned about the harm that racialized students, colleagues, and community members experience because of racist language. We are also concerned about the chilling effect that the University’s statement will have on University of Waterloo scholars, especially on Black, Indigenous, and other racialized scholars who research and teach about race and racism. Indeed, we are aware that at least two local Black scholars have also expressed this concern to the University in the last week. 

FAUW strongly opposes the prohibition implied by the University’s statement. Whether a word is appropriate for use in class is a scholarly decision that instructors must be free to make. In particular, instructors who teach about race and racism must be free, according to their best judgement, to lead unvarnished discussions about racist language. 

FAUW President Bryan Tolson made the following statement at the June 15 Senate meeting: 

Continue reading “UW statement risks chilling Black anti-racism scholarship”

Faculties withholding centralized scheduling support from instructors

Here’s the good news: After much discussion at Senate and behind-the-scenes lobbying, the Registrar’s Office is now scheduling synchronous meet times for fall 2020, as they normally would. 

Synchronous = students and instructor interact online in real time.
Asynchronous = weekly tasks and deadlines exist but there is no set class time.

The bad news is that at least one Faculty (maybe more) has opted not to use the Registrar’s Office (RO) to schedule synchronous activities, without appropriately engaging collegial bodies such as faculty council. FAUW believes this needs to change. 

Why not scheduling synchronous activities centrally is a problem 

  1. It’s bad for students. When scheduling synchronous activities is left to individual instructors (as in at least one Faculty), it’s very easy to create conflicts for students. That’s one big reason we have centralized scheduling in the first place. In an already confusing, difficult time, it is also unfair to expect students who are enrolled in more than one Faculty to navigate different scheduling processes. Further, instructors surveying students about their availability may inadvertently violate student privacy and confidentiality in a way that the RO won’t because the RO has existing systems in place to optimize scheduling without compromising student privacy. 
  2. It’s more work for instructors. Instructors are already working as hard as they can so let’s not ask them to do scheduling work that others normally do on their behalf (and are still employed to do).  
  3. It violates academic freedom. We are concerned that withholding central supports from instructors with the aim of constraining their pedagogical choices sets a worrisome precedent and risks violating instructors’ academic freedom to teach as they judge fit using the resources that are available.  
  4. It undermines collegial governance. Academic decisions of this type need to be made collegially through bodies established for such deliberation and decision-making. This circumvention of collegial governance is even more concerning given the substantial debate that colleagues had about this matter at Senate—the University’s highest collegial body and indeed the body charged in the University of Waterloo Act with making academic decisions.  
Continue reading “Faculties withholding centralized scheduling support from instructors”

Notes from our May 21 Board meeting

Here’s what happened at our last Board meeting:

  1. We tried out Microsoft Teams’ new ‘raise hand’ feature. It added some efficiency to the meeting—just remember to put your hand down after you speak. 😉 
  2. We heard about the updates Bryan (Tolson, FAUW president) is getting about the Integrated Co-ordination and Planning Committee (pandemic response) discussions. It’s not quite the regular communication that UW President Feridun Hamdullahpur suggested at Senate or in his virtual town hall last week, but it’s helping keep us in the loop. 
  3. We talked about some of our major pandemic-related concerns (now itemized on our website), including the role of Senate in deciding things like whether the Registrar’s Office will schedule meet times for the fall term or not (spoiler alert: we think this should be a Senate decision). 
  4. The CEPT2 and CTAPT motions both passed at Senate. Bryan voted against the CEPT2 update. We’re very happy about the support for CTAPT at Senate and that Waterloo now has a strong, public mandate to use means other than student surveys in evaluating teaching quality. 
  5. We discussed our recent member survey about preparing for spring and fall teaching. The results of that are on our website now: 2020 teaching survey results. We are particularly concerned that, at the time of the survey (May 8–13), 71% of respondents teaching in the fall said it was not clear to them how decisions were being made about how their courses should be delivered. 
    Another important finding is that 74% of respondents teaching in spring felt more unprepared than usual at the start of term and only 53% felt that they received adequate support for spring term overall. Which is why… 
  6. We formally adopted the position that student course perception surveys for spring 2020 should be used only at the discretion of instructors, as was the case for winter 2020. We’ll be advocating for that position with the administration. We’re also starting to talk about how to address 2020 performance reviews, overall. That’s with our Equity Committee now. 
  7. We talked about the various challenges the library is having in responding to the needs of researchers and students while buildings are closed and books are not circulating. FAUW is grateful to our colleagues in the library for all the difficult work they are doing in enabling our members’ work.  
  8. We got an update about T2200 tax forms and claiming home-office expenses. The update is that there will be an update from the University at the end of this week. We have some interim info about T2200s on our website. (Keep in mind that this is for next year’s taxes. On a related note: we don’t have an answer yet about claiming these same expenses (i.e. your home energy bill) on your FPER, but that also won’t be relevant until next year, as this year’s FPER still only applies to expenses incurred up to March 31. Many connectivity and equipment expenses are already eligible for FPER, so keep your receipts.
  9. We are picking up our faculty teaching workload survey that got sidelined in March. We gathered data from the Council of Representatives in the fall and presented preliminary findings at the February Council Meeting, but still have gaps. We will soon be sharing everything we have so far and crowd-sourcing corrections from members.

FAUW’s unanswered pandemic questions

FAUW’s job, in this pandemic and always, is to advocate for our members’ best interests and protect our members’ rights. In the current situation, that means persistently asking tough questions of administrators to make sure your interests and concerns are adequately considered in pandemic decision making.

Unfortunately, FAUW is not being formally consulted about pandemic-related decisions. President Hamdullahpur said at the May Senate meeting that the Integrated Co-ordination and Planning Committee (ICPC) is “constantly” in touch with the Faculty Association. Our members deserve to understand precisely what this means. FAUW requested engagement with the ICPC; specifically, we asked to participate in two of the three working groups in a non-voting capacity. Instead we are getting partial verbal updates from one—the academic working group. I get an update roughly once every two or three working group meetings (which is still multiple updates per week). I then must consult very quickly with one or more of the FAUW Executive team to provide written feedback to the working group chair in support of FAUW members’ interests. In addition, we bring many of the same issues to Faculty Relations Committee, which continues to meet biweekly.

To be as transparent as possible, we are now more explicitly sharing (on our COVID-19 page) the specific questions we are posing so you know what we’re discussing before we get answers. We hope some of you will reiterate anything you feel is important in your own discussions across our virtual campus.

—Bryan Tolson, FAUW President

Here are some of our open questions. We will add more to the COVID-19 page on our website as we ask them.

Continue reading “FAUW’s unanswered pandemic questions”

FAUW Board thankful for UW president’s support for faculty as fall term approaches

Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur held a Virtual Town Hall earlier this week, on May 20. It was well attended by the University of Waterloo community and the president fielded many important questions in addition to providing an update on the current state of the University.

One topic of particular importance to both faculty and students as we move into the Fall term is how courses will be delivered. The President stated that small courses will happen via on-campus delivery only if many considerations align, including whether instructors are willing to hold classes in person. 

There are a number of reasons a faculty member might not wish to hold in-person classes, including personal health concerns or health concerns of others in their household. The FAUW Board thanks President Hamdullahpur for showing such support for the wellbeing of our members and larger community during this trying time.    

Highlights from the May 7 Board meeting

  1. We welcomed some new board members who officially start July 1 but are attending as guests to learn the ropes. We also noted two committee appointments: Ranjini Jha has agreed to continue her role on the Pension & Benefits Committee for another term, and Dorothy Hadfield is interim chair of the Lecturers Committee
  2. Reports from the Complementary Teaching Assessment Project Team and Course Evaluation Project Team are going to Senate on May 19. You can read them in the Senate agenda as soon as they’re posted (they should be up any minute now).. The first part of the Senate meeting is open to the public, but since guests can’t speak during the meeting, we encourage you to make sure our faculty senators know how you feel about the recommendations in these reports. 
  3. We got a preview of some of the options for health benefits plan changes that are being considered by the Holistic Benefits Working Group. The proposed options will eventually be public in a Pension & Benefits Committee agenda, at which point members can read and send feedback to FAUW and/or the faculty representatives on the Pension & Benefits Committee. 
  4. We are finishing assembling our negotiating team. We will be polling all our members about negotiation priorities over the next term, so start thinking about what you’d like to see. Section 10 of the Memorandum of Agreement has all the details about negotiations.
  5. We heard that administrators are starting to reach out to members regarding reduced workload to retirement, early retirement, and unpaid leaves of absence. If you are considering any of these options, we strongly encourage you to talk to our AF&T team first so they can help you identify the most appropriate solution for your situation (which could be an alternate to those being offered). This way, you can be as informed as possible when you speak to your Chair/Dean. 
Continue reading “Highlights from the May 7 Board meeting”

8 myths about UW lecturers

A post from the FAUW Lecturers Committee.

FAUW first started holding events specifically for Waterloo lecturers in 2014, but there have been lecturers on campus since at least the early ‘90s. With a distinct uptick in lecturer hiring over the last decade or two, there are now lecturers in every one of the University’s six faculties and they make up 18% of the FAUW membership. For many chairs, directors, deans—or just faculty colleagues—who are new to dealing with lecturer-rank faculty, there may be some uncertainty about who these people are and how they fit into their departments and schools. To help explain what lecturer faculty are—and aren’t—here are (in no particular order) eight myths about lecturers at Waterloo.

Myth #1: A lecturer is a lecturer is a lecturer

Fact: The term “lecturer” is often indiscriminately applied to everyone from sessional instructors hired by the course or term to permanent teaching faculty. At Waterloo, “lecturer” is one of the four faculty hiring ranks (the others are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor; see Policy 76 – Faculty Appointments). While sessional instructors are also hired at the rank of lecturer, they’re more correctly called adjunct or special lecturers and are administratively very different from the lecturer-rank regular faculty members (just “lecturers” from here on) that we’re talking about in this post.

Lecturers can have “definite term” or “continuing” appointments. Most lecturer-rank faculty are initially hired on definite-term contracts, which can be repeatedly renewed when they expire, although there is never any guarantee of renewal (see myth #7). Continuing lecturers have permanent, ongoing appointments that don’t have expiry dates. FAUW represents both definite-term and continuing lecturers (but not sessional instructors). About 40% of UW’s lecturers have continuing appointments.

Getting the terminology straight is just half the battle. The specifics of lecturer positions—how teaching loads are defined, what kinds of service and administrative tasks they do—can vary widely between faculties, and even between departments in the same faculty. According to our 2015 lecturers survey, about half of UW’s lecturers have an 80/20 teaching/service ratio; the other half reported a broad variety of teaching/research/service weightings.

Continue reading “8 myths about UW lecturers”

Notes from our April 23 Board meeting + takeaways from CAUT COVID-19 town halls

Here are the highlights from last week’s FAUW Board meeting. Feel free to reach out to a Board member or comment below if you have questions! This post also includes some takeaways from the two CAUT town hall meetings on COVID-19 and the Academic Job that have happened so far.

Non-COVID-19 related items

  1. The Federal Court of Appeal released their decision on the York Access Copyright case. Overturning the decision of the previous court, the decision protects universities’ ability to opt out of the Access Copyright licence; however, it also suggests that our current interpretation of “fair dealing” may be too liberal. 
  2. We filed an association grievance last week about access to post-retirement benefits, mostly affecting lecturers. If this grievance can’t be resolved internally, the next stage in the process is to go to an external Arbitrator. 
  3. We reviewed an update to the University’s employee accommodation guidelines. We have some concerns about both the process leading to this update and the content we saw and will discuss this at the next Faculty Relations Committee meeting. 
  4. Something we missed in our last update: We passed a rather normal-looking FAUW budget at the general meeting on April 7. The budget accounts for both normal functioning come fall and some work-from-home expenditures for staff and executive members so that we’ve got our bases covered. 
Continue reading “Notes from our April 23 Board meeting + takeaways from CAUT COVID-19 town halls”