A Quick Note On Scheduling

David Porreca, FAUW President

This post is intended to bring our membership up to speed on the latest developments regarding the new scheduling software being tested by the Registrar’s Office.  The discussion below is based upon a presentation and Q&A session held with Ken Lavigne at the most recent Faculty Relations Committee meeting on 14 March.

Positive Developments

a) “Pavilions”

The new scheduling software, known as “InfoSilem”, has the capability to have groups of buildings (i.e., “pavilions”) assigned to a specific academic unit such that that unit’s classes will only be held in those buildings.  In other words, for example, the English Department might choose “Hagey Hall, Arts Lecture Hall, Modern Languages, and PAS” as their ‘pavilion’, and therefore never again have to run to RCH or Optometry to teach a class.

b) Implementation

The new scheduling system will not be “going live” at least until the Spring of 2014, since results from further testing of both Fall and Winter terms are needed to optimize the new system.  In effect, the Registrar’s Office has been proceeding as if it were following FAUW’s call from a number of months ago that the new system not be implemented unless and until it be recognized as “better” than the system we have in place.  Although FAUW’s role is to look after the interests of faculty members, we understood “better” to apply to all stakeholders (including, e.g., students, grad studies, scheduling officers etc.).  If the testing from Fall and Winter prove to be sub-optimal, the Registrar has agreed that the implementation will be delayed further.

c) Improvements so Far

In the current iteration of testing, any scheduling restrictions expressed by faculty members have been inputted as if they were the most strict and rigid (“type 1”, according to InfoSilem’s ranking system, corresponding roughly to “medically necessary non-teaching time”; 2 other less restrictive layers are to be tested in later increments).  Despite this additional restrictiveness, the system produced schedules for those departments that participated in the testing so far that guaranteed at least two non-teaching days for 92% of the professorate, up from 87% in earlier tests.  In other words, we can expect further improvement on this front when the real-world, less-restrictive constraints are applied.

Needs Improvement 

a) Constraints vs. Preferences

Offering faculty members the opportunity to block off time in their schedule when they would rather not teach is how the tests have been proceeding so far.  Better yet would be a way of optimizing each professor’s schedule such that their individual schedules reflect the times when they want to teach.  Pedagogically, the latter is by far preferable, since UW students deserve to interact with their professors when they’re at their best.

It should be noted as well that the decisions regarding the levels of constraint mentioned earlier will be handled at the departmental level, just as it always has been, with no centralized awareness of the often confidential reasons for preferring some times over others.

b) Participation

If the tests are to accomplish their intended goals, all departments must participate, otherwise the tests will be skewed.  Only ~70% of departments have participated in the simulations so far, with only ~1/2 of graduate programs included.  For this Fall term, FAUW is pushing for each individual professor to receive a copy of their hypothetical “InfoSilem” schedule to compare to the real one they got under the current system.

c) Disparities across campus

The testing of the InfoSilem software is revealing significant disparities between academic units on campus in terms of how scheduling is handled at the moment.  Some units already ask for each individual’s preferred teaching times, which they tend to obtain for the most part, while elsewhere, faculty members have never, ever been asked such a question and have always accepted whatever schedule they’ve ended up with.  In other words, the change in practice with InfoSilem will affect the working lives of some more than others.  FAUW will be monitoring this situation closely, and we welcome feedback on how the testing of this system is experienced subjectively by you, our members.

Upcoming Events

There’s much afoot in the Faculty Association, and we want to do our best to keep you informed. Over the next month there are a number of key meetings and workshops happening, Head past the jump to find out more about the Council of Representatives meeting, the Spring General Meeting, and the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee’s promotion workshops.

Council of Representatives

The Council of Representatives is designed to ensure clear communication between the FAUW board and our members. Traditionally meeting twice annually, the council discusses issues that come from the department level, and checks on how FAUW is addressing the concerns of the members directly.

The next meeting is on Wednesday, March 20th, so make sure to let your representative know about some of the challenges you’re facing here at UW.

Spring General Meeting

Our Spring General Meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 9th from 11am-1pm in MC 4059. The Faculty Associations financial statements will be presented, and each of our committees will report on how they’ve been carrying out their mandate since the Fall. There’ll be a report from David Porreca, the president, and plenty of opportunity to ask questions and get feedback on issues.

Academic Freedom & Tenure Workshops

Peter van Beek, chair of the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee, will be offering the following workshops around the Spring General Meeting.

For Tenure-track Faculty

The probationary contract period and applying for tenure can be intimidating! The biggest risks you face are those stemming from uncertainty on your part about the expectations of your peers and of university policy. These workshops are designed to provide critical information on how to succeed and to ensure you know where and how to get your questions answered. The workshops complement the Documenting Your Teaching for Tenure & Promotion workshop presented by the Centre for Teaching Excellence.

Faculty recently hired to their first probationary term
Tuesday, April 9, 2:00 to 4:00 pm – MC 4059

Faculty applying for probationary contract renewal in 2013
Wednesday, April 10, 9:00 to 11:00 am – QNC 1502

Faculty applying for tenure in 2013
Wednesday, April 10, 12:00 to 2:00 pm – QNC 1502

For Tenured Faculty

Applying for promotion to full professor
Tuesday, April 9, 9:00 to 10:30 am – MC 4059

Tenured faculty who are considering applying for promotion in 2013 or the near future should attend this workshop for advice on Policy 77 and clarification of what is expected from peers and from the university in the promotion process. This workshop will walk you through the process step by step and will provide explanations of formal policy as well as practical tips to help you succeed.

Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor (ADDS) Status: An Obstacle or An Impediment?

David Porreca, FAUW President
Over the past few months, concerns about the impact of the university’s regulations surrounding ADDS status (known as the LIARS list in Engineering) have come to the Faculty Association’s attention.  Below the fold, you will find 1) a summary of the principal concerns surrounding this issue 2) what has been done about it so far, and 3) an open letter from a colleague wanting to share his strong concerns about this issue.

The Problem(s)
ADDS status is what a faculty member achieves when they are granted the privilege of supervising a PhD student solo, i.e., without a more senior co-supervisor. 
Concerns surrounding the way ADDS status is handled at UW are numerous:
1) The “regulations” relating to ADDS status are not part of any official university policy, guideline or procedure.  It has not appeared on any faculty member’s official employment contract or offer letter, as far as the Faculty Association is aware.
2) Their official home appears to be on the Graduate Studies Office webpage, and the specific implementation is left up to each of the individual faculties.  As of this writing, only two of the six faculties (AHS and Environment) had their version of the ADDS status regulations posted online in an easy-to-find location.  The Faculty of Environment has two different versions posted in two different spots.
3) Junior faculty members have not been adequately informed about the requirement for co-supervision until their first opportunity to supervise a PhD student arose.
4) In certain disciplines, especially those that fall under the umbrella of NSERC funding, faculty members applying for funding without having had the responsibility of the sole supervision of a PhD student find themselves at a disadvantage in the application rankings.
5) The intent of this regulation is not clearly articulated anywhere.

6) There are no checks and balances to ensure that junior faculty who are forced to co-supervise receive a fair treatment from their senior colleagues.

7) There is a large variability across departments, even within a Faculty, with regards to the criteria junior faculty must satisfy before they are granted ADDS status.

A number of other problems are raised in the open letter appended below.
What Is Being Done
The Faculty Association has brought forward the concerns raised by several faculty members around this issue to the Faculty Relations Committee. 
Some fact finding has revealed that UW is exceptional among the U15 universities in imposing co-supervision on junior faculty members.  Each institution has its own set of regulations governing the capacity to supervise PhD students – often involving faculty members qualifying to join a Faculty of Graduate Studies, which UW doesn’t have – but none other than UW require junior faculty members to solicit co-supervision services from senior colleagues.
Consultation is underway with various stakeholders (e.g., GSO, Graduate Student Association) to determine the precise intent of the regulation as it stands, and how that aim can be achieved without imposing co-supervisory status upon junior colleagues. 
Your feedback
Have you been adversely affected by the University’s current practice surrounding ADDS?  Do you have any feedback that would help the Faculty Association to argue the case on behalf of our junior colleagues?  Please post your comments in the “Comments” section below. If you wish for only FAUW to see your comments, please send them to the FAUW president, David Porreca.
Here is how one of our colleagues feels about ADDS status (courtesy of Bryan Tolson, Civil Engineering):
An Open Letter to the UW Community:  Concerns With the ADDS Regulation
Dr. Bryan Tolson, University of Waterloo
Dr. Bryan Tolson
I am an ADDS (Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor) faculty member at the University of Waterloo.  I can solely supervise PhD students.  However, I haven’t always had this right, because the ADDS regulation prohibits new faculty members from acting as sole supervisors.
Before reading further, please take about 5 minutes and examine the ADDS regulation at the official GSO link: https://uwaterloo.ca/graduate-studies/about-graduate-studies/organization-graduate-studies#6Please note that as of March 10, 2013, the regulation as it reads online is not the most recent version approved by Senate in June, 2010.  I’m not sure where to tell you to find the ‘real’ regulation in practice today at UW.  Neither does Google: I encourage you to perform a search of the UW website for “Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor”.
Now that you’ve read the regulation as it appears online, let me give some background.  The ADDS regulation was initially created in 1968, 11 years after UW started offering graduate degrees.  At that time, Graduate Studies wanted to address a common problem: that many faculty at UW were pulled from industry with a Master’s as their terminal degree.  The intentions were reasonable: a faculty member without a PhD supervising PhD students can lead to a host of problems.  It was argued (correctly in 1968) that the ADDS regulation was needed to uphold the reputation of our graduate program.  However, it is now 2013 and conditions are different at UW.  The existence of the ADDS regulation today actually hurts our reputation for Graduate Studies – it suggests we hire new faculty who are implicitly incompetent at supervision of advanced research (even for topics directly related to their own PhD research).
We don’t require new faculty to co-teach their first course, so why do we require new faculty to co-supervise PhD students?  Another question to ponder:  How do we attract the best and brightest new faculty to Waterloo with this regulation, which does not have a counterpart at most other Canadian universities?  Until now, UW quite honestly has often misled them, unintentionally of course, by not telling them about the ADDS regulation before they sign their contract.

I could not find reference to the ADDS regulation in any of the following sources:

  • Employment contract for new faculty members (to my knowledge)
  • UW Policy documents (Class F pertaining to faculty only)
  • The Memorandum of Agreement between the Faculty Association and the Administration
  • An 18 page document produced by Graduate Studies called “A Guide for Graduate Research and Supervision at the University of Waterloo. 2011”  
  • Watport website entitled “UW New Faculty Survival Guide” 

In the last few weeks UW administrators and the Faculty Association have begun discussing how to address a few of the problems associated with the ADDS regulations and that is a good thing.  I am however concerned that most administrators and the UW Community in general are not aware of all the problems and arguments against the ADDS regulation.  Hence, one goal of this letter is to put this issue on everyone’s radar so that all the problems associated with this regulation will come to light.  It seems potential changes to the ADDS regulations and the way it is implemented have also been discussed.  Given that solutions to the issue appear to be surfacing, another goal of this letter is to ask that administrators put another option on the table and give it real consideration – the abolishment of the ADDS regulation.  Ask yourself, “Why not?”  In my opinion, abolishment seems to be the only real option considering the following summary of key regulation issues:

After arriving at UW, new faculty are blindsided by a restriction on their Academic Freedom by a regulation that is inaccessible, can be administered based on unwritten rules at the Faculty level,  is not currently the norm in Canada, and is known to reduce Tri-council grant amounts for UW professors.

Each of these statements can be backed up by facts and testimonials.

UW needs a clean slate in order to truly address, to all stakeholder satisfaction, the issues surrounding PhD supervision in 2013.  The norm at the University of Waterloo should be that new Assistant Professors that are tenure-track and hold a PhD are allowed to solely supervise a PhD student. While it is important for the university to promote faculty success at graduate supervision, as well as protect graduate students, the ADDS regulation is not the correct mechanism for doing so.
So now I ask something of you all to keep this discussion moving forward:
  • FAUW Board Members: this blog is a great start but also consider advocating for ADDS abolishment. 
  • Assistant Professors:  if you agree with my position, post your comments in the “Comments” section below and note if you, like so many others, were misled by UW.
  • ADDS and LIARS card-holding members, chairs and Deans: ask an Assistant Professor in your department/faculty what they really think of ADDS (LIARS is the Engineering equivalent).
  • PhD students at UW and the Graduate Student Association: as you render judgment on my position, think about two things.  First, put on your Assistant Professor hat for a second (some of you will join us in a few years) and think hard if ADDS is a regulation you would like to be subject to as you start your academic career.  Second, remember that there are superior alternatives to ADDS that can meet the needs of graduate students and new faculty. A good start might be a FUSS (Faculty Unfit to Supervise Students) list, which can provide a mechanism for protecting graduate students, both Master’s and PhD, from faculty from those with a track record of poor supervision without unduly constraining new faculty.
  • Senate members: if your vote is needed on the ADDS issue, please base your decision on demonstrable facts and testimonials.  Task forces can be initiated to deal with any concerns arising from ADDS abolishment (for example, Graduate student protection and new faculty supervisory mentoring mechanisms).  
  • To our President:  see the above request to Senate.  Please tell the UW community what you think about the issue.  Please also see that UW form task forces to address issues surrounding PhD supervision that are relevant in 2013. If the ADDS regulation disappears, I will be the first to volunteer for one of these task forces.

Patchwork fixes to the current ADDS regulation will not serve new faculty or UW in general. In my opinion, ADDS has got to go.
ryan Tolson & Contributors

The Hagey Lecture Perspective: 1982

The Hagey lectures are the University of Waterloo’s premier invitational public lecture series. Since 1970, outstanding individuals, who have distinguished themselves internationally in some area of scholarly or creative endeavour have given talks intended to challenge, stimulate and enrich not only the faculty, staff and students of the University of Waterloo, but all members of this community.

These annual lectures are co-sponsored by the Faculty Association and the university, and with the success of this year’s lecture by Dr. Paul Collier, we’d like to take the opportunity to celebrate some of our past lectures. 

In 1982, Margaret Atwood became the first female lecturer in the Hagey lecture series, joining pre-eminent scientists, politicians, and Nobel laureates. Already an award-winning author at the time, her accolades included the winning the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry (for the Circle Game in 1966) and the E. J. Pratt medal, as well as serving as the University of Toronto’s Writer in Residence. The year before, in 1981, she was celebrated by Chatelaine as their woman of the year. To have such a prestigious Canadian author so near to Waterloo was too great an opportunity to pass up.

During her visit, she held a seminar on the writer and her craft, lecturing to the English Language and Literature department, as well as students in the Writer’s Workshop on campus. Her second seminar, held with Women’s Studies, Drama, History and Fine arts, focused on the writer as a cultural agent, and the impact writers can have on the larger community. Her lecture, “On Writing the Male Character,” remains one of the best Hagey lectures on writing in the series’ 40 year history.

Since her lecture here, Margaret Atwood ascended from being an eminent writer to being one of the most read and celebrated authors in Canada, receiving another Governor-General’s award and most recently the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal. Her contribution to literature is recognized across the globe, and it was both an honour and a privilege to have her at Waterloo.