FAUW Issues Update

David Porreca, FAUW president

It has been an extremely busy start to the Fall term.  Now that we are at the mid-way point, it is time to provide you, dear reader, with an update as to what has been keeping us at FAUW on our toes over the past several weeks.

ADDS status

The task force on the Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor status regulations is pursuing its work with a view to reporting to the Faculty Relations Committee and the Graduate Student Relations Committee in November.  We are looking at solutions to ensure good graduate supervision that meets students’ needs while addressing the manifold concerns with how the current ADDS policy is communicated, applied and enforced.  At FAUW’s request, the Provost’s Office has written to each individual faculty member who has been hired in the past 6 years to inform them of the current policy, and equivalent language has been included in employment letters for those colleagues hired this past year.

Since doctoral dissertation supervisors can belong to a number of different categories of faculty members (e.g., visiting, clinical, tenure-track, tenured at UW, hired with tenure from elsewhere), the eventual policy would need to be formulated in such a way as to address the issues relating specifically to each one.

New AF&T chair

I am very pleased to announce that our colleague Christopher Small from Statistics and Actuarial Science had kindly agreed to replace Peter Van Beek as the Chair of FAUW’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee when the latter ends his term of office at the end of August 2014.  The AF&T Chair is a challenging position that can have an enormously positive impact on the careers of our members, and we at FAUW are very pleased that Christopher has expressed such keenness to take on the role.


Our blog post from September 9 highlighted some of the issues relating to athletics that affect faculty members’ working environment.  New concerns have come to light in the meantime:

    University of Waterloo Physical Activities Complex

  1. There is no controlled access to the change rooms (e.g., turnstiles), which is commonplace in most reputable athletics facilities.
  2. All staff members who dispense towels and oversee the (otherwise) uncontrolled access to the change rooms must walk through the men’s change room area in order to gain access to their office space.
  3. Upon examination of the floor plan of the PAC, it turns out that the female change room is about ½ the size of the men’s. Unless there is a demonstrable difference in usage rates between the two groups, this layout is evidently problematic from an equity perspective.
  4. A rough estimate sees 1/3 of the lockers in the men’s change room being broken and unusable, and another 1/3 being unused (those with the locks upside down). In other words, the space is under-used by a substantial margin. The lockers are in a deplorable condition, and we should all be grateful that campus ambassadors do not take visitors through the change rooms.

In light of the above, the Faculty Association is pushing for renovations to the PAC that would

  • Restore separate change rooms for faculty and staff
  • Replace the lockers with new equipment
  • Maintain safe access to the emergency exits
  • Ideally, address the concern over equity

If all groups of stakeholders – faculty (FAUW), staff (UWSA), graduate students (GSA), undergraduate students (Feds) and the university administration (via Athletics or the Provost’s Office) – could come together to fund such renovations, all the stated groups would benefit at a modest cost to each.

Also, feedback from female colleagues as to the state of the women’s change rooms at the PAC would be greatly appreciated.  Please comment below or e-mail the FAUW president at dporreca@uwaterloo.ca.

Best practices in hiring

FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC) produced a 6-page report on “Best Practices in Hiring” for faculty members. This document has received endorsement by Deans’ Council and will be presented to the Executive Council of the university in late November. Recognition of the need for such a document at those high levels of university administration is an encouraging sign to be sure, as long as we eventually see proportional corresponding action.

Grad House memberships

Some of you have been asking about how faculty memberships at the Grad House work. Henry Ensley, manager of the Grad House, has written a letter explaining how it all works.

Instructor evaluations

FAUW is being consulted on what shape we would like to see course evaluations take in the future. Discussions will include student representatives and qualified staff from CTE. If you have strong feelings or ideas you’re willing to share about course evaluations, please comment below or e-mail the FAUW president at dporreca@uwaterloo.ca.

OCUFA Queen’s Park Lobby Day

UW’s Kate Lawson (OCUFA President) and David Porreca (FAUW President) met with four local MPPs on Wednesday 23 October at Queen’s Park: Ted Arnott (PC – Wellington–Halton Hills); Catherine Fife (NDP – Kitchener–Waterloo); Rob Leone (Cambridge) and Hon. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre). We had four basic messages to deliver to our representatives:

  1. That the province needs to fund an independent study on the working conditions of contract academic staff across the province in order to help resolve long-standing concerns about their job precariousness, lack of real academic freedom and potential for exploitation.
  2. That the province needs to provide temporary solvency relief to university sector pension plans for those institutions that need it.  We had been asking for a 1-year extension of such relief in order to give enough time to OCUFA to complete its study on university-sector pension plans. Much to our relief, however, in the middle of our meeting sessions, news came out that the province had granted a 3-year window of solvency relief.
  3. That the province needs to restore funding to its faculties of education. This question did not concern UW as much, so I shall not belabour it here.
  4. That the province need not incentivize differentiation between universities in the province because institutions of higher education are already plenty differentiated as it is, from small liberal arts colleges to the University of Toronto, with UW standing out – among other things – for its long-standing commitment to the co-op stream and for having a full Faculty of Mathematics.

Our messages were well-received, in particular, the first point, with members from all three parties agreeing to request such a study from the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.


FAUW is anxiously awaiting the results of the latest simulation of the new scheduling system, as discussed in last week’s post by Bryan Tolson.

Senate bylaws

The Secretariat has announced plans to undertake a full-scale revision of the Senate bylaws. The first phase of this initiative is restricted to housekeeping changes, but revisions to Section 5 (selection of members of the Senate) are being left for last as they are more likely to be substantive. These revisions require great vigilance to ensure that nothing deleterious to our working lives as faculty members happens as a result of the proposed changes.  Faculty senators are encouraged to exercise active vigilance when these documents become available for consideration.

UW’s numbered policies

The Secretariat is also undertaking a full-scale multi-phased revision of all 69 of UW’s numbered policies (still listed as 1-77, with some gaps).  The first phase will involve housekeeping changes (e.g., regularizing and updating the names of buildings and offices that are mentioned in the policies), but later phases will also involve substantive changes.  Through the Faculty Relations Committee, the approval of the Faculty Association will be necessary for any changes that are to be made to Class F, FS and A policies.  FAUW plans to devote substantial time and energy to make sure that any changes are favourable to faculty members’ interests.  The numbered guidelines and procedures will also be subject of an eventual analogous revision.

Work-Life Balance Report update

The joint FAUW/Provost’s Office Work-Life Balance Report that was presented to Senate back in February 2013 is becoming integrated purposefully into the “Value System” focus area of UW’s newly released (but-not-yet-fully-Senate-approved) Strategic Plan.  FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee produced a “Compassionate Care and Bereavement Leave” report that will be considered in conjunction with the WLB report at the same level.

Event reminders

Please mark your calendars for the following events:

Privacy Colloquium: Wednesday, December 4, 2 – 5 in M3 1006, with reception to follow.
Fall General Meeting: Monday, December 9, 11-1, Location TBA. Light lunch provided

Scheduling System Update

Bryan Tolson, FAUW Director, Civil & Environmental Engineering

UW continues to move closer to implementing a proposed new scheduling system based on InfoSilem software. FAUW has been working hard to understand the impacts of the proposed system and has taken the position that the new software should not be implemented until it has been clearly demonstrated that it produces better results for all stakeholders than what we currently have. The Provost has agreed to this request. We want to share what we understand about the proposed scheduling system and urge you to join the discussion on this important issue.

Why you should care

As we all know, the inherent flexibility in course scheduling is one of the principal benefits of being a faculty member. This benefit functions to improve our work-life balance and allows us to do our jobs to the best of our ability.  For some of us, this means that we get to teach when we believe we teach best.  For others, it means we get to define blocks of time for research tasks and regular out of town research meetings and these blocks of time help us work as efficiently as possible. For some, like me, this benefit functions to ensure we can have a life where we can pick up the kids from daycare at a reasonable time or take them to hockey practice.

Moving to the proposed system could reduce our scheduling flexibility.  Such a change is totally reasonable if it is demonstrably required, e.g., students are not graduating on time under the current scheduling system. It is not so clear-cut given the primary reason for the new system, as FAUW understands, is to provide virtually all students with conflict-free schedules instead of forcing them to settle for their #2 or #3 choices of electives. To me, this lack of clarity defines the scheduling problem as a balancing act between undergraduate student scheduling preferences and faculty preferences (benefits).

Current status of the proposed scheduling system

FAUW has been told that the results of Simulation 3, which is the proposed system’s attempt at scheduling the 2013 Fall term for comparison with the actual Fall schedule, will be made available to individual faculty members within a few weeks.  FAUW is very concerned about the results of Simulation 3 will be the last piece of evidence examined to ultimately deem the proposed system better and hence go live with the software for scheduling the summer 2014 term. Despite Simulation 3 being the most realistic test of the scheduling software to date, there remain serious problems and ambiguities that are currently unresolved.  Let me share a few of these with you (note that this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Simulation 3 results will not be an accurate representation of reality because
    • An unknown and potentially significant number of faculty who are teaching in the 2013 Fall term did not specify their teaching constraints or preferences (you should have been asked for yours by your departmental scheduling representative and the assumption by the Registrar’s Office is that you have been asked).
    • The settings for faculty preferences in Simulation 3 will virtually ensure all faculty preferences are met because all preferences are ranked equally.  While in a real schedule build, these preferences would be assigned the lowest priority.
  • FAUW does not know the form of the objective function the scheduling software is actually trying to optimize when it builds a schedule.
  • Despite the reality of balancing student preferences with faculty preferences, there is no plan currently to use the software in a way to understand the balance or tradeoff between these competing objectives
  • There are seemingly no plans to conduct a simulation (i.e., test the software) for the Winter or Summer terms
  • We are concerned about the impact of this new system on the academic life of our students because we feel they also have not been consulted adequately

Another reason Simulation 3 is not accurate is that faculty members were not told what the software could do with individual schedules if preferences to the contrary were not specified.  For example, the software settings used in Simulation 3 could create a schedule that has you teaching back to back classes or teaching 5 hrs in one day…unless you specified an instructor preference to avoid these.  After I examined all the things the software could do based on the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Timetabling (PACT) documentation for Instructor Accommodation requests, I developed my list of Accommodation requests (my constraints and preferences) that I plan to submit for the next Simulation (or real schedule build).  I list them below so that other members can have some insight into the kind of accommodation requests they want to consider.

Bryan Tolson’s instructor accommodation requests for Winter & Spring terms

  • 4:30 – 5:30 pm, M-F:  child care logistical constraint.  Level 1[a]
  • No teaching at after 5:30 pm, M-F:  child care logistical constraint.  Level 1[a]
  • Regular University Level Administrative meetings (no teaching):
    • Mondays 3:30 – 5:30.  Level 1
    • Thursdays 2:30 – 4:30. Level 1
  • No back to back lectures.  Level 3
  • No lectures longer than 1.5 hrs.  Level 3
  • Prefer teaching 1 lecture per day.  Level 3[b]
  • No lectures on Fridays after 2:30 (Winter).  Level 3[c]
  • No lectures on Fridays after 11:30 (Spring).  Level 3[c][d]
  • No lectures 3:30 – 4:30 (Spring).  Level 3[d]

a There are two levels of child care accommodations with Level 1 having higher priority than Level 2.
By default the software assumes you prefer 2 days of non-teaching and thus squeezes two or more classes per day for one or more days.
c Many others will likely ask for this so if I don’t, the chances I teach Friday afternoons skyrocket.
d Teaching in the summer is not great because of an increase in family activities. Hence, if I‘m teaching I want my days to end early enough to allow for these activities.  Plus there should be more flexibility to build faculty-friendly schedules during the spring term.

How much you have to justify each of your preferences depends on your department, I suppose.  After you submit accommodation requests, I am not sure how much chairs will filter these requests.  I am also not sure if there is a feedback loop to tell you if an accommodation has been rejected by the chair.  So there appear to be some important departmental level discussions that you may want to ens
ure take place. If you are unclear about the definition of Level 1, 2 and 3 accommodations, this is something your chair/department scheduling representative or the PACT committee should be telling you.  Go to the same sources for the other potentially undesirable things the scheduling software will enable by default to happen to your schedule. FAUW will eventually step in to clarify these questions to our members if that becomes necessary but we are hopeful the communication lines to faculty are soon wide open.

Next steps for FAUW and faculty members

We will continue to try and understand the proposed system and work with the Registrar’s Office to iron out problems that come up.  We want to understand if the new system is better for faculty.  We want the best balanced schedule for everyone on campus.  Assuming the proposed scheduling system becomes a reality, we want a smooth transition and our insistence on continued simulations (testing) will help in that regard.  Reaching these goals requires feedback from our members.  If you are as concerned as we are about the proposed scheduling system and want to be more engaged, there are three things you can consider doing:

  1. Contact your departmental scheduling representative and make sure you understand how the process in your department works for specifying instructor accommodations.
  2. If you are teaching this term, please provide direct feedback to your scheduling representative or chair on your satisfaction with the scheduling results of Simulation 3 (which will supposedly be released within a few weeks).  Please respond to the survey you will eventually be asked to fill out regarding Simulation 3.  Be aware that the official feedback mechanism to the administration on faculty satisfaction will go through the chair/department scheduling representative and not FAUW.
  3. Consider contacting one of your Faculty’s PACT representatives with feedback they can bring to their next meeting.  PACT members are listed on the STEP Project website.

FAUW’s ideal case scenario

Each individual faculty member should be empowered to designate a certain number of hours per week of non-teaching time, regardless of the rationale.  So far, this solution has been deemed infeasible for reasons that are unclear to us, but we will continue to explore ways in which it can be achieved.  Importantly, any such solution must have minimal impacts on our students’ timetabling.  Please contribute to the discussion by commenting below.

Privacy Colloquium

After a lengthy period of looking at various possibilities by a broad group on campus, the University is currently considering adoption of online processing of expense claims using Concur, a US-based company with a US-hosted system. As part of the consultation process, we are organizing an information session on the privacy aspects if we were to go ahead with Concur for this purpose. There will be two speakers, Jim Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), and Fred Carter, Senior Policy and Technology Advisor of the Ontario Privacy Commissioner’s Office. Following their presentations, there will be a question and answer session with a panel that includes the two speakers, together with other experts.

Prior to the Colloquium, Karen Jack, the University’s Privacy Officer, will send a list of questions to Fred Carter of the Ontario Privacy Commissioner’s Office, and Jim Turk of CAUT, asking that these be addressed as part of the presentations at the Colloquium. Your suggestions for questions of concern and interest would be much appreciated; please make them on the following web page by October 22.


The colloquium will be held on Wednesday, December 4th,  2 – 5 pm (followed by reception), in M3 1006. Please mark the date on your calendar for this important event.

Come back next week for a post breaking down what’s going on with the new scheduling system!

News from the OCUFA Director

—Jasmin Habib, FAUW Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Director

The OCUFA Board of Directors meeting that FAUW President David Porreca and I attended at the end of September was intense. While FAUW is engaged in important discussions about, for example, scheduling and the balance between work and home lives, both David and I were struck with the very serious threats that appear to be facing some of our colleagues across the province.

For example:

Major reforms to pension and benefits packages are likely. Some of the richer benefits packages, for example, those that offer post-retirement research allowances (Professional Expense Reimbursements), are likely to be hardest hit.

Program Prioritisation and Planning processes are underway at several universities and it appears they will lead to deep cuts to programs and academic staff.  Reports across the province are that these cost-cutting measures will be made at the expense of pedagogical excellence.

Serious concerns were also raised about a leaked document that sets out the Province’s “Differentiation Policy Framework”. Since we can all agree that our universities are already “differentiated,” at least to some extent, we do not have any clear sense as to why this particular policy has been introduced or exactly how it will be implemented.  As one Director put it: it seems that the Province is finding all sorts of bottom-drawer policies that may not make any programmatic sense (they may even contradict one another) but they just haven’t been tried out yet. What is most worrisome is that it appears – on the face of it – that smaller universities and their programs will be at highest risk.  To date, OCUFA has not been invited to comment on the matter, which is troubling. Nonetheless, they have made a public statement, as follows: “OCUFA will oppose any policy framework that allows government to interfere in academic decision making, properly the responsibility of university senates.”

For those who would like to learn a little more about what OCUFA does, I would encourage you to visit their website at www.ocufa.on.ca or the OCUFA Facebook page. There, you will find reports and policy statements and a link to Academic Matters.

There are several events that the OCUFA Executive, Directors and Committee members will be engaged with throughout this academic year, including:

  • In October, OCUFA arranges to have its Directors and Faculty Association Presidents meet with local MPPs. These meetings allow for a kind of face-to-face interaction that is quite rare but certainly incredibly important, especially as there is every possibility we will be moving into a critical election sometime early in 2014. David will be attending these meetings on behalf of the FAUW.
  • In November, the OCUFA University Finance Committee will be organising a workshop where they hope “to de-mystify budgets and the budget process.” David and I plan to attend these meetings on behalf of FAUW.
  • And, early next year, OCUFA, together with its standing committees (Collective Bargaining, Grievance, and Status of Women), is planning to organise a workshop “After Bill 168: Occupational Health and Safety in the Academy.” I plan to attend this workshop and it is likely that a member of the FAUW Status of Women and Equity Committee and/or the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee will be joining me.

Last but certainly not least: OCUFA will be hosting its annual conference in February. This year’s theme is “Future View”. The focus of panel discussions and keynote speakers will be on how we might re-imagine research, teaching and service in the future. A big concern: how might our practices have to change as governments shift their funding priorities away from our post-secondary institutions? Stay tuned!