Fall 2019 end-of-term round-up of FAUW activities

Before everyone disappears for the holidays (who are we kidding, most of you won’t see this until January), here’s a quick re-cap of what we’ve been doing this term, including an update on our priorities for 2019–20.

How we’re doing on our 2019–20 goals so far

  • Policy development: We are in the midst of some big discussions about how to improve our policy development process as a whole. Policy 33 (ethical behaviour) is moving along—FRC is processing 100 pages of feedback from the University community and will give direction on changes in the new year. Bryan is still hoping to get this approved before his term is up! Policies 14 (parental leave), 57 (accommodations), and 76 (faculty appointments) are still in progress.
  • Conflict of interest guidelines: Faculty Relations Committee is finalizing these.
  • Workload: We distributed a questionnaire to our Council of Representatives and are finishing up gathering the last of those and starting to analyze the information. We will share the results with our members next term.
  • Representation: Both research professors and our membership voted to support our position statement on representing research professors. This is at the Faculty Relations Committee now.

11 other things that happened this term

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The Twelve Days of Performance Review

It’s that time of year—the time when faculty members at Waterloo start thinking about writing their annual performance review documents and putting together their files. In this spirit, the FAUW Equity Committee offers twelve tips to help you think about equity as an essential part of this process.

A title card with mildly festive graphics: holly, mistletoe, etc.

On the first day of performance review season, collaborate with members of your own department to demystify the review process, especially for new faculty members. All APRs are local; what someone does in another department is probably not the same in yours. Consider starting a sharing circle: pool APR reports, with or without the numbers attached, so that you can get a feel for the genre. Pay it forward. Mentor those junior to you.

On the second day of performance review season, focus on your teaching effectiveness in the full knowledge that student questionnaires correlate principally with non-instructional factors (scheduling, student interest in the topic, grade expectations, and the like).

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) states unequivocally:

“Using SQCTs [student questionnaires on courses and teaching] for performance evaluation penalizes women, racialized and LGBTQ2S+ faculty, and faculty with disabilities. These faculty are also more likely to be the target of harassment in the anonymous comments sections of the questionnaires. Further, using SQCTs for performance evaluation risks undermining effective teaching and intellectual diversity.”

To cite this report in your own performance review documentation:
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “Report of the OCUFA Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching Working Group.” February 2019. https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/OCUFA-SQCT-Report.pdf

On the third day of performance review season, start a broader discussion at the department level. Every department has guiding documents that outline how to evaluate performance. Share the recent arbitration ruling at Ryerson University (Ryerson University v. The Ryerson Faculty Association, 2018) that student evaluations of teaching via course questionnaires are valuable instruments for “captur[ing] student experience” but cannot be “used to measure teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure.”

Or talk about how the Department of Psychology at Waterloo decided not to use student evaluations of teaching in their review process, citing the bias inherent in these evaluations. This effort was rejected at the decanal level, but maybe we just need more departments to take a principled stand. Consider citing the OCUFA document (see: day two) in your department’s review documentation. Ask what other sources of bias might exist in your department’s process.

On the fourth day of performance review season, your department gets a special gift: a junior faculty member on the performance review committee! Rotating junior members of the department onto the committee is important because it will pull back the curtain for these colleagues, but also because it can be unfair to junior faculty members to be evaluated only by senior colleagues. The Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between FAUW and the University delineates that there must be five members to assist the Chair on this committee (see section 13.5.6), but does not specify rank or other details about these members.

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Meet the Faculty: Julia Williams

Our “Meet the Faculty” interviews provide a window into the work lives of faculty across the University of Waterloo. Faculty members talk about the day-to-day joys and struggles, and share tips for getting the work done and staying mentally and physically healthy in academia.

Julia Williams is director of the English Language Studies unit, co-ordinator of the Applied Language Studies plan, and a continuing lecturer in Culture and Language Studies at Renison University College.

What do you teach and research?

I teach English for Multilingual Speakers (EMLS) courses and Applied Language Studies (APPLS) courses. I also carry a substantial administrative workload. Although research is not part of a continuing lecturer’s official workload, like many CLs, I do engage in research. I have written several textbooks for EMLS courses and conducted collaborative research with colleagues in Economics, Optometry, and Earth Sciences. Currently, I am working, with a colleague, on a survey of units administering English language programs at post-secondary institutions across Canada.

You have a number of service roles, including directing the English Language Studies unit. What else is filling your days right now?

I’m fortunate to have a varied and stimulating workload. I’m teaching and in the midst of providing feedback on student assignments, I’m the chair of Renison’s Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Committee, and I’m a departmental representative on the College’s Academic Council and the Community and Professional Education (CAPE) Council. I’m also a reviewer for two disciplinary journals and am developing a presentation for a conference in early December. Outside of work, my family and I are becoming more involved in the Ride for Multiple Sclerosis.

The Renison Association of Academic Staff has demonstrated that faculty have shared interests and can work together for our shared benefit.

You work at Renison. How would you describe your relationship to the University of Waterloo?

We have strong ties to the University of Waterloo through a variety of connections. English Language Studies offers communication skills courses, and we are integral to the Math and ARTS First communication skills initiatives. We participate regularly in community of practice groups run by the Centre for Teaching Excellence and the Writing and Communications Centre, and we have links with the Centre for Extended Learning as well. We also develop and maintain strong ties to the larger university through our undergraduate and graduate students who come from faculties all across campus.

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Meet the Faculty: Patrick Lam

Our “Meet the Faculty” interviews provide a window into the work lives of faculty across the University of Waterloo. Faculty members talk about the day-to-day joys and struggles, and share tips for getting the work done and staying mentally and physically healthy in academia.

Patrick Lam is the soon-to-be-ex-director of UWaterloo’s Software Engineering program and an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He’s also an at-large representative on the FAUW Board of Directors.

What do you teach and research, and what drew you to that work?

I am trained as a computer scientist and my subfield is programming languages and their applications to software engineering. When I came to Waterloo, I learned that Electrical and Computer Engineering departments tend to be quite scientifically diverse and include faculty from a wide range of disciplines, from physics to mechanical engineering, and fortunately passing through computer science as well.

Specifically, I develop techniques and tools which automatically understand what software developers are saying (and what they meant to say) when writing computer software. A common misconception that developing software is a solitary task where it’s just you telling the computer what to do. That’s totally not the case, especially today, and developers absolutely must communicate with their teammates (and others). My research aims to dig out some of the implicit communication developers are performing and make it explicit.

I believe that many of us just happen to fall into doing what we’re doing by coincidence, and I think there are a lot of interesting things to study in the world. But often there are mentors that help us find our own area. In my case it was my professors for undergrad, Prakash Panangaden and the late Laurie Hendren. I hope that I can similarly inspire my own students.

What kind of work is involved with being the director of a program?

Being a program director is a rewarding but high-volume service task. The two main parts are managing operational challenges and providing academic leadership to students and committees. Operational challenges include supporting instructors and balancing the concerns of the parent units; for software engineering this is especially challenging because it is jointly offered across Faculties by the School of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and these units are quite different. Academic leadership includes thinking about what the students should learn (and what they don’t need to learn) and guiding curriculum committee discussions. I strive to be a well-rounded intellectual role model for students.

For Software Engineering, we have an associate director who is the primary academic advisor. However, I do serve as a secondary advisor and work with students when they feel more comfortable with me. That is one of the most rewarding parts of the role, even if it’s somewhat peripheral.

At this career stage I feel like one can get stuck in what I call “associate professor purgatory.”

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