Live-tweet thread from the Senate discussion on CEPT

The Course Evaluation Project Team (CEPT) report was discussed (and, ultimately, endorsed) at Senate on September 18, 2017.

FAUW Board member and University of Waterloo senator Shannon Dea live-tweeted the discussion, and we’ve compiled her tweets here, with a bit of editing for readability.

UW Senate now in session. Looking forward to a lively debate on student course perception surveys starting at 4:20.

Pres. Hamullahpur reports to Senate that Pitchfork ranks UW as top university for unicorns. (It’s not as exciting as you might think.)

The President’s report is still happening. Student course perception survey discussion delayed a bit.

Ok. Here we go. Time to discuss the course evaluation project (CEPT). Here’s some background from @FAUWaterloo: []

[Associate Vice-President, Academic] Mario Coniglio now giving the background on CEPT.

Coniglio describes “equity and bias [as] top of mind issues” in framing the CEPT project.

CEPT leader Mark Seasons now presenting, and again highlights negative impacts of bias on course evaluations. Says CEPT addresses this.

Seasons thanks community members, especially “three year club”, for their work on the CEPT project. Seasons reports that currently course eval practices at Waterloo vary widely across campus; some systems really outdated. Seasons provides overview of the many changes CEPT is recommending to the current system. It will evolve, the community will be updated.

George Dixon now moving endorsement of report and of Phase 2. Motion is seconded. Floor open for questions.

An amendment proposed: that the university provided sufficient resources to pilot in Fall 2017. Dixon: I haven’t seen a budget request yet.

Prez: can we come back to the amendment later? (No seconder yet.) Amendment not yet technically on the floor, but coming back.

FEDS Andrew Clubine: thanks to team. In favour of motion. Report affirms value of quality teaching esp. undergraduate. CEPT a step in the right direction, but work still to be done. An overdue improvement, but still need to address concerns, bias too. Improved data collection will help mitigate bias. Student senators will vote for motion.

FEDs prez: two key points quality teaching important and SCPs support that, but we must take concerns of bias seriously. Not a zero-sum game.

.@DavidDeVidi gives some history: FAUW members have long been concerned about annual review process. Much consultation about same. Research at UW (c. 2009) showed that good/bad teachers got same scores; that teaching evals overused in annual review. CEPT report addresses many of concerns raised in 2009. A good sign. He has received many concerned calls from faculty members about CEPT and today’s vote.

Seasons: we’ll get experts to design the tool, and then test for bias.

Bruce Richter: many senators received email from Psychology. Striking that the experts have come to a different conclusion than CEPT. Colleagues in Psych not optimistic that we’ll be able to fix bias problem. Teaching evals useful formatively to improve teaching; very different thing to affect faculty pay. Fundamentally incompatible. Tying pay to course evals at odds with supporting good teaching. Can lead profs to aim for high scores through shortcuts.

Seasons: we can’t control every aspect of bias. We’ll do the best we can. We recommended a multi-pronged approach to evaluations of teaching

Tara Collington: she and Fraser Easton received feedback from >30 Arts colleagues, prepared joint summary. Here we go: Fac members concerned about bias, unconvinced report adequately addresses concerns, concrete means for addressing bias not addressed. SWEC concerns not adequately addressed by CEPT. Validity of SCPs not adequately raised in report, discuss feedback from campus stakeholders

TC: CAUT released two recent policy statements cautioning against use of SCPs summatively. OCUFA too: SCPs should be used formatively.

TC: Collection and distribution –2 concerns. Value of data, implications of dissemination. Formative use doesn’t justify wide dissemination

Seasons: we’re aware of all of these issues. Big challenge working in multi stakeholder environment.

[Still a long speakers list. Buckle up…]

Seasons: we didn’t ignore any perspectives, but there was lots of disagreement, and we learned a lot from other universities.

Alexander Wray: students v.much in support of CEPT. Need an outlet somewhere. Otherwise, where do we go? Anecdotes of bad teaching @ Senate? What is teaching? [Time for some philosophizing… aided by some Webster’s definitions… Uh oh, and now we turn to the strat plan]

Wray: as partners, students ought to be evaluators, and ought to be participants. [whoa. Now a story from Mt. Olympus. Cautionary tale of Momus, plus some Game of Thrones. Huh]

Wray: mandate doc didn’t mention bias/equity. W2G Seasons for addressing bias. Wray: to faculty WTF guys — debate your employment conditions with your employer; don’t bother Senate with that noise.

Feridun: I’ve never seen GoT.

Gord Stubley: helped >50 faculty members read course evals, some bad comments, but also those of frustrated students trying 2b constructive. Course evals outdated and inconsistent. And our teaching has really evolved over the years. A lot! I strongly support this motion. It is an important step on the way.

[OMG too many Brians/Bryans on the speakers list. Hard to chair.] Here’s Brian/Bryan #1 [probably Brian Cepuran, alumni]: is uw prepared to invest enough to keep eValuate system running and keep the data safe?

Seasons: Yes! V. important.

Jennifer Clapp: much of what I was going to say has already been said. In answer to Wray’s question, we can’t separate tool from its purpose. Formative versus summative uses! Did CEPT discuss summative uses of the tool? Psych colleagues raised empirical concerns about this. Evidence suggests tying pay to course evals incentivizes grade inflation. Doesn’t serve faculty or students well.

GSA Prez: Robert Bruce. I’ll keep it short. Thanks for the hard work.

Bryan Tolson, @FAUWaterloo prez: thanks committee, but won’t support motion. Big concerns: biases, summative use of SCPs. What is the evidence that having a data set helps to address biases. Voting no on @FAUWaterloo board’s instructions.

[Oh, jeez. Zoned out for a minute and forgot I was live-tweeting. Ok, back now. ]

Dan O’Connor: sketches the many improvements CEPT made, endorses increasing use of other markers of teaching quality for summative purposes.

Prez: It’s getting late. Let’s keep it moving. No more long speeches. No more speakers on the list.

Mario: this initiative intended to improve teaching and learning culture on campus. Unfortunate that pol. 77 connects course evals to pay. The discussion should be around revising policy 77.

James Skidmore: lots of improvements here. We’ve long used course evals without any awareness of these issues.

Fraser Easton: thanks Seasons and team. To students: we take seriously being accountable to you. But systemic bias concern is l
egit. [Quotes colleagues seriously affected by racist/sexist comments.] Can’t continue to write a blank cheque to bias.

FEDs Hannah Beckett: formative role important. I don’t support system that reinforces bias. But we must continue to improve teaching. .

@DavidDeVidi: (1) take CAUT with a grain of salt. (2) bias also appears in research scores. Women get cited less, e.g.

And then I [@shannondea1] said: faculty can’t write CEPT a blank cheque because pol. 77 has been abused for years.

Seasons: thanks all for a lively discussion.

Motion passes. But the vote divided.

Wray is now chastizing @Fauwwaterloo and faculty again. “Talk to your employer!” he says.

New motion: to implement pilot F17, full implementation W18.

Kofi [Campbell, Renison Academic Dean]: this proposed timeline terrifies me on behalf of faculty members of colour. Change doesn’t come quickly. Let’s not rush it and botch the job. If it takes another three years to get it right, so be it.

Rob Gorbet: the process we’ve just heard about will take longer than a winter implementation.

Stubley: sympathetic to urge for a quick timeline, but cannot imagine meeting the proposed timeline.

.@JamesMSkidmore : asks Coniglio whether UW is committed to putting the resources into the project necessary to make it happen.

Coniglio: Too important to rush.

VPAP G. Dixon: We’ve taken 3 years, now have a path forward. Initiative will be adequately resourced. No need to impose artificial timelines

Motion (for Sept. timeline) soundly defeated.

Feridun: time to move forward and improve.

George Dixon: thanks Senate for fulsome discussion addressing longstanding issues.

I [@shannondea1] just moved To strike a working group to research and develop methods of assessing teaching and learning complementary to SCPs. Seconded by FEDs’ Andrew Clubine.
Chair requests tabling to next meeting. Dea and Clubine agree.

And thus ends the CEPT live-tweet. See you in the funny pages, peeps!

News From Your Board – September 14 Meeting

Welcome to a new series of FAUW blogs, “News From Your Board”. To increase the transparency of board activities and keep members up-to-date, we’ll be sharing some of the non-confidential discussion from our biweekly Board meetings.

The first highlight from the September 14 meeting was welcoming Bryan Tolson to his first board meeting as President. Bryan began with the always-aspirational goal to end the meeting on time!

We revisited ideas and plans for the year from our day-long retreat at the start of September:

  • better defining our membership
  • further communications improvements (like this series)
  • continued aspirations for a more robust teaching evaluation system to complement student surveys
  • how we can contribute to Indigenization efforts across campus

A regular part of each Board meeting is reports from FAUW committees and constituent positions, including updates from the Faculty Relations Committee (FRC). FRC is the main venue through which FAUW and the administration work together on collegial governance of the University. We also hear from representatives of the Lecturers, Academic Freedom & Tenure (AF&T), Status of Women & Equity, and Pension and Benefits committees.

The last agenda item was the slate of upcoming FAUW events. Our packed Fall schedule includes the New Faculty & Family Welcome Dinner on September 22, a workshop for mid-career faculty on September 29, FAUW’s 60th anniversary party on October 26, a Council of Representatives meeting on November 14, and the Fall General Meeting on December 6.

And with that, Bryan managed to squeeze one of the most ambitious September agendas in recent FAUW memory into the actual scheduled time! Congrats Bryan! Looking forward to the next meeting in two weeks!

—Peter Johnson, communications lead, FAUW Board of Directors

Welcome back message from the FAUW president

Bryan Tolson, FAUW president

Greetings members of FAUW!

I trust your fall term is moving forward smoothly. I’m excited about my new role as your FAUW president, and I thank our new past president Sally Gunz for helping make the abrupt September 1 transition from my sabbatical to this role go as well as possible. I’d also like to thank her on behalf of all members for her incredible dedication over the past two years as FAUW president.

One of my first tasks as president was to participate in a very nice new faculty welcome event. I tried to impart some wise suggestions on our eager new colleagues. But since welcoming new faculty properly is really a continual process, I ask all of you who are not new faculty to reach out to new colleagues in your department/school: Drop by their office or take them for a coffee and ask them what they need help or advice on.

For new faculty engaged in research, help jump-start their research by considering whether you could benefit by having a new colleague co-supervise one of your graduate students or maybe find a way to share lab space and equipment with them. I’m sure new faculty would appreciate any gesture you make, so give it a go!


Now that I’ve asked you to do something, let me return the favour by sharing something to make your teaching easier. Ever heard of Crowdmark? I know you probably have if you’re in Math. I get the sense other parts of campus don’t know what Crowdmark is and I expect many of you failed to parse or read the somewhat cryptic email sent to all instructors last week. So let me try and fill you in a bit. Here’s the sales pitch:

  • Are you tired of the slow, serial process of having to pass boxes of midterms or final exams between you and your TAs for grading?
  • Do you find it difficult to organize marathon group grading sessions so that all marking can occur within a day or so of the exam? 
  • Do you wish you could grade exams while travelling without having to cart around the paper copies?
  • Would you prefer distributing graded exams back to your entire class with the click of a button?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you really need to have a look at Crowdmark. It digitizes the grading process (with the help of Media Services) so that you can share the digitized documents online with your graders. Interested? Learn more about Crowdmark and how to use it at UW.

Back to FAUW

I’ll avoid a long list of all the issues and initiatives FAUW is currently working on. I’ll save that for our General Meeting in December and my winter term update in January. And this year we plan to release high-level summaries of our biweekly Board meetings on our blog. You can get these by signing up for automatic blog updates.

In closing, let me say that I’d be happy to hear from you and I know other FAUW Board members would be as well. So check out who your Board members are and who your department/school FAUW rep is. Feel free to chat with them or bring an issue, suggestion, or feedback directly to me.

Email ( is probably most effective but in an effort to be regularly approachable, I will hold FAUW office hours on Mondays from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. in room MC 4001. Check our website on Mondays to confirm that I am actually there if you plan to drop by. 
Of course, I’m just as happy to chat at other times and you can drop by my main office as well in E2-2316 to see if I am free. Another fine location would of course be a pre-arranged Grad House chat.

Thanks for making it all the way though my welcome message – all the best in the fall term!


Join OCUFA at the $15 & Fairness Campus Assembly on September 15 and 16

Reposted from OCUFA, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, of which FAUW is a member.

OCUFA is part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness, a broad group that is advocating for better labour laws and a $15 minimum wage across Ontario. On September 15 and 16, the first ever $15 & Fairness Provincial Campus Assembly will take place at the University of Toronto. Faculty from universities across the province are invited to attend, and you can register here.

The assembly comes at a crucial time because Bill 148 will be considered in the legislature this fall. There will be discussions and workshops about how to win the strongest possible labour legislation, as well as how to advance the $15 and Fairness agenda on campus through collective bargaining and by uniting students, staff, and faculty. Achieving fairness for contract faculty will be a key focus throughout the agenda.

We hope you can join us! Register today. If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact Brynne at or 647.226.7184.