Senate Follow-Up

David Porreca, FAUW President

Last week’s post by George Freeman received more hits than all our previous postings combined. In response to several comments I received both personally and in the comments section, I had promised to provide a summary of the discussion that actually occurred.

I note, however, that the draft version of the minutes to the last Senate meeting are now available. I hereby invite all faculty senators to look over the text provided in the minutes and make sure the wording reflects the tone and content of the discussion as you recall it occurring.

Go Forth and Differentiate?

George Freeman, FAUW Past President

The Senate meeting of Monday, April 15 will live in my memory under the heading “kill two birds with one stone.” Unfortunately the two birds seem to have been institutional autonomy and collegial governance. Also, curiously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen more examples of the prisoner’s dilemma or tragedy of the commons illustrated in a single meeting. That’s because we had a great talk by Prof. Keith Hipel of Systems Design Engineering on methods to analyse problems which otherwise might go down those unfortunate paths. Then we went down them.

The story actually starts a long way back with a peculiar organization known as the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario or HEQCO. In early April, it produced a report entitled “Quality: Shifting the Focus – A Report from the Expert Panel to Assess the Strategic Mandate Agreement Submissions.

Anyone wanting to understand the shortcomings of education and business leadership in Ontario must read this report, keeping in mind the credentials of the people whose names are attached to it. I promise you will be shocked, by the naked self-interest and by the lack of sound evidence-based reasoning.

The strategic mandate agreements were a bait-and-switch game foisted on university and college presidents. Under the hint of some new money, they were asked to summarize the strengths and goals of their institutions. As you might expect, there’s a strong similarity among the submissions and also a bunch of points of differentiation, such as cooperative education at Waterloo. The new money seems to have morphed into new cuts. However, differences can be amplified and marketed and that appears to excite both government and industry.

The apparent shift in “shifting the focus” is to an explicitly two-tiered system of university education (like that bastion of social equity, the United States). The big lie in “quality” is twofold in my opinion:

  1. That quality can improve under this kind of differentiation, except for a few of the privileged or lucky, and 
  2. That costs can go down.

The HEQCO report gives no evidence for any quality increase or cost decrease. What the report does indicate is that Ontario’s universities are already differentiated on everything the panel cared to measure. Yet, they repeat over and over a call to differentiate. Thus, maybe it’s useful to contemplate where the problems with university differentiation might exist, or be perceived to exist.

The main ones I could think of, off-hand, are location and faculty pay.

Location is important because Ontario has built huge settlements ringing Toronto over the past few decades but not sited enough universities within them. Also, the present universities, being close to uniformly good and close to uniformly diverse in program offerings, attract many students from their local areas. This saves a lot of money for a lot of parents (except in the huge new settlements). A recent proposal from government had three distinctly second-tier campuses being built to serve these areas. However, such a direct approach to making quality lumpy has obvious and negative bang-for-the-buck optics. In any case, Ontario’s universities are clearly too uniformly good even when badly funded.

Faculty pay is important because it’s the supposed key to a two-tiered system. The dream seems to be to have large numbers of students educated by less expensive non-research-active faculty teaching more courses per year. Let’s say on average one of these people costs $100k and teaches eight courses in comparison with a present-day faculty member who costs $130k and teaches four courses. Then, three faculty members costing $390k and teaching twelve courses could be replaced by one faculty member and one non-research-active faculty member costing $230k and teaching twelve courses.

On the surface, this would save about 40% of the 30% of the university budget which goes to faculty salaries, say twelve percent. In the university system, that’s about three to four years of inflation covered at the cost of both research diversity (including graduate courses) and research resilience dropping by 67 percent. About one third of the approximately 10% of space used for academic offices might be freed up (half a building or so at Waterloo).

This might buy enough time to fund the construction of a cheap campus or two (12% of the system budget is about $800m). It would be to the great benefit of any politicians who could announce it.
Of course, I doubt one could come anywhere near this level of transformation, so the actual potential savings must be much smaller. In any case, a system which gives a viable research opportunity to all faculty is, again, too good and too uniform to market effectively as sound bites.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma

HEQCO’s financial survival depends on telling the government what it wants to hear. They especially like surveys of public perception and arguments involving performance metrics and system-wide control by outside, non-democratic and non-participatory agencies. Increasingly, university presidents and the Council of Ontario Universities seem to just fall in line, giving up their institutional autonomy and voluntarily playing the prisoner’s dilemma game while destroying the Ontario university commons. By Feridun’s description of the last COU meeting to Senate, there is zero chance of the university presidents cooperating against differentiation. Bird number one went down but the stone continued.

On further questioning, it emerged that Waterloo would consider shutting down departments as part of differentiation; perhaps those with not enough participation in graduate studies. The next natural question was about what kind of consultation might go on before (or while) proceeding with such a differentiation agenda at Waterloo. Apparently, the meetings around the mid-cycle review of the university’s strategic plan over the past year have given the administration a mandate to go in this direction. That, and the fact that other universities are already doing it. Bird number two, dead.

One might wonder what roles Senate, its Long-Range Planning Committee, and its Finance Committee play in this, especially if you read their legal responsibilities under the University of Waterloo Act and Senate Bylaws, in particular, the Act Section 22, Bylaw 3 Section 3, and Bylaw 4 Section 3. Apparently, their roles are deemed to be none, none, and none, except that the SLRP did assist Sallie Keller (former VPAP) with the strategic mandate agreement for Waterloo and Senate still gets to ask questions. SLRP will also review, in some sense, the strategic pl
an. FAUW members have some further leverage through Articles 15, 16, and 17 of the Memorandum of Agreement. Keep in mind, however, that the province does not respect such agreements or existing legislation very much lately.

The usual message is trotted out, that Waterloo might be a net “winner” in differentiation of teaching just as we appear to be so in the differentiation of research. However, in both cases, this is just in the context of everyone losing. The United Kingdom and Germany, strangely enough, were the touted models at Senate. The UK takes performance metrics to the limits of absurdity and seems to have completely abandoned the notion of the university as a social good. Germany is distinguished by having universities which are free but mediocre, according to The Economist last June. Not exactly the leaders I would have picked to follow.

Bottom line: If we’re so innovative, why would we seek to emulate haphazard social experimentation or mediocrity?

Addendum 1: A quick scan of the just-released strategic plan draft shows “cut” only three times, as part of the phrase “cutting-edge” and, although “different” appears seven times, it is never in the context of differentiation. Whatever mandate came from the consultations isn’t obvious in the plan.

Addendum 2: HEQCO must be rolling in money because reports come too fast to read. The latest from them claims that Ontario universities are efficient, productive, and accessible – then argues for a new accountability regime to improve what we do without additional funding. OCUFA characterized it quite astutely as “fiddling at the margins.” I feel so naive having worked here for 28 years without any notion of quality to guide me.

FAUW News Flashes

David Porreca, FAUW President

Today’s blog post aims to bring our readership up to speed on a number of different issues that FAUW is working on at the moment.

FAUW elections

All of the open positions on the FAUW Board of Directors have been filled by acclamation this year.  I am very pleased to welcome the following new faces for the 2013-14 academic year: Vivian Choh (Optometry and Vision Science), Jasmin Habib (Political Science) and Bryan Tolson (Civil Engineering). We also have an experienced hand with Frank Zorzitto (Pure Mathematics) returning to the Board, and I will be continuing as President.

MoA changes

Expect an electronic vote imminently on two separate questions, both of critical importance:

  1. Adding a modification clause to our MoA, which had been absent before; and 
  2. Re-configuring Article 14 on Research Integrity in order to abide by the Framework established by the Tri-Agencies and imposed upon all institutions receiving Tri-Council monies.

In principle, UW has until the end of the month to sort out the latter.  We are still collaborating with the Secretariat to establish mutually agreeable wording before presenting the final draft to a membership vote.


Discussions are ongoing with the Registrar’s Office to improve communications and procedures surrounding the testing of the new scheduling software.  FAUW has been informed that a communications professional has been hired by the Registrar’s Office in an attempt to remedy a long-recognized problem.  We wait to see whether this welcome development will make a positive difference.  FAUW is well aware that this issue rankles faculty members like few others can, so we are keeping a sharp eye on it.


Construction is underway on Columbia just north and east of the optometry building.  Since we have a significant financial stake in the operation, FAUW is helping Bright Starts Inc. (the amalgamated daycare operator) negotiate a lease agreement with UW.  Discussions are ongoing – this very morning, in fact. Stay tuned.

Access Copyright

Access Copyright has decided to press a lawsuit against York University for copyright infringement.  This will be a test case for the viability of that enterprise’s approach to academic users of copyrighted materials.  CAUT is paying very close attention to this issue, as is FAUW.

Fallout from our Spring General Meeting

The following items were raised at FAUW’s Spring General Meeting that we plan to tackle over the next weeks and months, in addition to all of the rest of what we are pursuing:

  • We need user-friendly software that allows faculty members to track their research funds in real time.
  • We need to push for the modification of the provisions for choosing membership on university-level committees such that regular faculty members are not placed in a position to run for election against their own Dean.
  • UW needs covered, secure, well-lit bike parking, and/or the ability to park one’s bike in one’s office, while acknowledging that the latter doesn’t work for students.
  • The net effect of full-cost programs has been exactly what FAUW feared it would be: the diversion of the teaching efforts of the full-time professorate to those programs, while leaving our regular students to be taught by sessionals and TAs, thereby de facto relegating them to a second-class student status.  This is a serious problem that will need careful attention, since it arises at the intersection of pedagogy and university finances.

Do you know of anything we need to add to this list? Please leave a comment below!

Work-Life Balance Report

FAUW has been asked to provide a prioritized list from the recommendations contained in the Work-Life Balance Report (full text available in the Senate materials from March) that UW is to tackle first for implementation.  If any of you have strong feelings on this question, please do not hesitate to provide a comment below, or contact the FAUW President.

In conclusion

There are a number of other issues we are dealing with at the moment where discussion is ongoing but there isn’t any concrete progress to report in this forum.  These include:

  • Our concerns over ADDS status.
  • Finding alternatives to the Registrar’s Office restricting student access to LEARN when their fees aren’t arranged on time.
  • Information collection from Short-Term and Long-Term Disability claims.
  • Parental leave salary top-up for families with both parents being university employees.
  • Compassionate care and bereavement leave.
  • Ongoing concerns over scheduling.

All this to say that there’s a lot going on behind the scenes for FAUW on behalf of our membership, and we’re far from idle!

Spring General Meeting

Today’s post is just a quick reminder that the FAUW Spring General Meeting is tomorrow at 11am in MC 4059. Topics on the agenda include a report from the president, treasurer, FAUW committees, our OCUFA Director, as well as the approval of our 2012 audited financial statements and 2013 budget, and an opportunity for members to raise issues and concerns. The full information package was distributed to our signed-up members. To sign up, fill out this quick form. We look forward to seeing you there!

FAUW Spring General Meeting Agenda

Also, the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee workshops begin tomorrow, and there’s room for a few people to drop in.

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

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

The Dubai Campus Re-Re-Visited and Memorandum of Agreement Changes

David Porreca, FAUW President

This week’s post provides a two-for-one deal: First, a response to Peter Douglas’ letter appended to the bottom of the previous posting entitled “The Dubai Campus and Transparency”; and second, a brief announcement about upcoming faculty-wide votes relating to changes to the Memorandum of Agreement.

The Dubai Campus Re-Re-Visited

In his letter addressed to the FAUW Board, dated to 10 February 2013, and added in the comments of the “The Dubai Campus and Transparency,” Peter Douglas, Director of UW’s Dubai campus, responds to one of the bullet points relating to the Dubai campus that had been included in our post about the resignation of the Vice President Academic and Provost. In this letter, he expresses his disapproval of FAUW’s position on the Dubai campus in no uncertain terms.

Here, I would like to respond by reiterating some of the main concerns that the Faculty Association has had with UW’s operations in Dubai from the beginning.

Firstly, by the very nature of the legal environment in the United Arab Emirates, there is no way that anyone could claim that all UW policies and procedures could be applied equally on our main campus in Waterloo as well as to the Dubai campus. In particular, the provisions we have that protect the rights of our LGBTQ community – students, staff and faculty – do not and cannot apply in the UAE. Being openly gay is a serious crime there, punishable with jail time and, for foreigners, deportation following jail time. Also, having sexual relations with anyone but one’s spouse (marriage is an essential component) is a similarly punishable offense.

Consequently, and by definition, the opportunities offered by the Dubai campus, in terms both of teaching and of learning, have not been open to the entire UW community of participating departments. It is therefore not a campus where principles of equity as we understand them here could be properly enforced, and hence FAUW’s opposition to its opening years ago, and also hence our gratitude at its closure.

The other main concern that the Faculty Association has had relates to the transparency of the operations in Dubai. These have been expressed in the previous posting and need not be reiterated here. If long-term financial planning had been shared openly with the UW community from the beginning, perhaps a more charitable eye may have been turned upon the several money-losing years of the operations in Dubai. As things stand, however, UW has spent seven figures learning an expensive lesson. What could UW have done otherwise with that money?

Finally, the word “debacle” has never appeared anywhere on the FAUW blog and is a mis-characterization of the postings that have appeared.

MoA Changes

There are two main changes to the Memorandum of Agreement that are currently in the works, and that UW faculty members will be called to vote upon before the end of April.

  1. Article 12.10: A paragraph will be added to the MoA allowing housekeeping changes to the MoA that both UW Administration and the FAUW Board agree upon to be enacted without re-opening the entire agreement. This is strictly a provision that will allow wording clarifications and small changes without going to a full formal vote each time. This has been common practice, but has never been accepted formally as a procedure. The full wording of the article clarifies that nothing to do with compensation can be affected by any changes enacted under the new 12.10.
  2. b. Article 14: A new framework for Integrity in Scholarly Research is being issued by the Tri-Agencies and is to be adopted by all institutions that receive Tri-Agency funding. A full description of the framework can be found here: Each institution must develop its own policies and procedures that abide by the regulations outlined by the Tri-Agencies. The changes implied by this new framework enable the formalization and systematization of certain disciplinary procedures relating to academic integrity that will, I believe, improve both the transparency and the muscle of UW’s regulations on this front. Of main concern to FAUW is that adequate provisions be included to prevent the misuse of these new rules (e.g., we don’t want to enable ‘witch-hunts’: frivolous accusations must be discouraged as much as possible, and any allegations that turn out to be false must be handled in a way as to minimize or eliminate negative repercussions on the accused).

So, stay tuned and, if you are a member of the Faculty Association, expect to be called upon to vote on these matters within a few weeks. Any faculty members who are not Faculty Association members should join formally so as to have a voice in these important upcoming changes.