An update about things that aren’t COVID-19

—Bryan Tolson, FAUW president

Our regular updates about FAUW Board activities have been supplanted by our COVID-19 messages recently, but now that those have slowed, here’s an overdue update on some other things we’ve been working on (and also more pandemic developments). I hope you can all find a few minutes to read this and get up to date on FAUW’s activities and efforts on your behalf.

Thank you to everyone who attended our Spring General Meeting on April 7 and to those who asked questions. I think it went well under the circumstances and attendance was great, with over 100 people tuning in. Much of the content of this post is from my president’s report at that meeting, but there are a few new points as well.

New FAUW Board members

We welcomed some new Board members this term. Jordan Hale replaced Sarah Brown as our liaison from the Librarians and Archivists Association, and we have two short-term replacements for members on leave: Brian Kendall (taking Vivian Choh’s Science seat) and Alfred Yu (replacing Pat Lam as a director-at-large). 

Congratulations to our newly elected Board members starting their term on July 1: Joel Dubin (AHS), Kate Lawson (Arts), Alfred Yu (Engineering), Peter Johnson (Environment), Nomair Naeem (Math), Heidi Engelhardt (Science), and Narveen Jandu (at-large). We were pleased to see high voter turnout this year: up to 65% of eligible members voted for these positions. Thanks again to everyone who ran in this election.

Policy drafting

Policy drafting committees have had no support from the Secretariat since March 12 (their office, like most, has had to triage). FAUW’s position is that if a drafting committee deems it appropriate to continue their work, then they should do so. Some committees have been working and it seems support from the Secretariat is now starting to come back.

Policies for faculty (F) and faculty/staff (FS) currently being drafted or revised are:

  • Policy 57 – Accommodations for Faculty & Staff 
  • Policy 14 – Pregnancy & Parental Leave   
  • Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour 
  • Policy 76 – Faculty Appointments 

FAUW is expecting news at the Faculty Relations Committee (at least in the form of updates, if not drafts) for all of these policies over the next month or two. We will share what we can on these in our Board meeting updates here on the blog.

The past few years have taught us how inadequate and inefficient the UW policy drafting process is. As these policies were initiated under this inadequate process they are all limping along to completion. Note that I said the process is inadequate—I am not criticizing the dedicated and hard-working members (including employee and student reps, admin reps, and members of the Secretariat) of the drafting committees.

FRC and Staff Relations Committee (SRC) approved the creation of a compassionate care policy for faculty and staff, and we’ll be using this to test drive a new, more efficient approach to policy development. The next step is creating the terms of reference for this drafting committee. I’m sure you’ll understand the priority level of that has slipped a bit, so I’ll suggest we start the clock on efficiency monitoring once the terms of reference are finalized.

Salary negotiations

Planning for salary negotiations will start soon and continue into the Fall, with negotiations beginning by December, for an agreement effective May 1, 2021. This planning will involve discussions and decisions at the FAUW Board informed by feedback we collect from members over the spring and summer. If you are interested in joining the negotiating team, please send a short statement describing your interest and qualifications to laura.mcdonald@uwaterloo.ca.

Research professors and other labour relations at UW

We have agreement from the administration that there will be a formal, University-recognized vote of research professors on the question of FAUW representation, but we’re not yet sure of the timing. In the pre-COVID era, I had hoped such a vote would have happened this month.

In January, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) Council voted in support of forming a union to represent graduate teaching assistants, research assistants, and sessional instructors. It is currently with the GSA Board of Directors to determine whether and when to act on the Council’s request. FAUW continues to have no position on who should represent sessional instructors at UW and is waiting to see what happens with the GSA.

Academic staff at Renison recently held a successful certification vote and were officially unionized (two days before campus closed). We don’t expect this to affect our service agreement with the Renison Association of Academic Staff.

Evaluation of teaching

CEPT2 (Course Evaluation Project) and CTAPT (Complementary Teaching Assessment Project) reports are coming to Senate in May. Keep an eye out for them in the agenda package on the Secretariat website.

Workplace Violence prevention program

The Workplace Violence prevention program is being revised, prompted in part by FAUW identifying gaps that leave faculty vulnerable in cases of, for example, receiving threats from students.

Canada’s Best Diversity Employers Award

FAUW has some concerns about how we can get traction on closing gaps in diversity and equity while UW is receiving diversity awards (see the April Senate agenda). We don’t want to minimize the good things that are happening at Waterloo, but we (and the administration) all need to remember that we have very substantial equity gaps and a lot of work to do. Among other concerns:

  • UW is lowest in the U15 for percentage of faculty identifying as female (and 5% behind 14th place, according to data from UW Institutional Analysis and Planning).
  • We do not have an accommodations policy for disabled faculty (or staff).
  • Our pregnancy and parental leave policy is outdated and provides top-up amounts that rank near the bottom of the U15.
  • We do not have a compassionate care leave policy for faculty (or staff).

We have started addressing some of these issues through policy, but we’re still working on drafting these policies and FAUW is going to need our members to be vocal in their support of them once we reach the approval phase.

Smoke-free campus

The Wellness Collaborative asked FAUW to support a smoke/vape-free campus. With campus mostly closed, this is probably not particularly high on the University’s priority list at the moment, but we’ll let you know when it’s back on the agenda (and you’re welcome to share your thoughts in the comments at any time).

And now an update on the pandemic response

As I said at the General Meeting, overall, we’ve been pleased with the administration’s response so far, particularly: tenure clock extensions on request, winter term student survey results being for instructor use only, the FPER deadline extension, and the ability to defer upcoming sabbaticals. The pace at which the administration has stepped forth to address these items has also been great.

Of course, there is still much more to negotiate. FAUW is trying our best to triage our way through concerns and questions, putting the highest priority on things that are creating the most anxiety for our members and the things that are time sensitive. I believe the administration is also doing their best to engage in these discussions as well.     

We are still working with the administration to sort out course evaluations for the spring term and beyond, and how to equitably account for the pandemic in future performance evaluations and tenure/promotion processes. We are frequently updating our COVID-19 page with answers to these and other questions (such as concerns over access to campus, COVID-19 disclosures and teaching workload concerns). We hope to formally document these pandemic-related considerations in a letter of understanding with the University, to supplement our Memorandum of Agreement, as is becoming the standard at universities across the country.

FAUW recognizes that this is an unprecedented situation that will affect University operations for a long time, with serious potential financial consequences for UW. Things will have to change and we trust that everyone will continue doing the best we can under these new circumstances. But I want to assure you that FAUW is working harder than ever to advocate and negotiate on your behalf. After reading this and our COVID-19 page, if you think there is an issue we haven’t addressed, please email me or comment below.

I want to make a special note regarding pandemic impacts on faculty. FAUW is beginning to see evidence of what many of us have, sadly, expected: the members most impacted by all of this are (and almost certainly will continue to be) female faculty and primary caregivers in general. This really is a top-of-mind concern for us moving forward.

Another top-of-mind concern that will evolve very quickly is the decision making over the next three-to-six weeks regarding how the fall academic term will happen. Some things I want you all to know about that:

  1. If you want your voice to be heard in these decisions, you will need to pay close attention and react swiftly.
  2. FAUW is trying to understand the decision-making process. The UW Emergency Response Plan (ERP) currently in effect introduces some lack of clarity into the decision-making process when contrasted with the Powers of UW Senate under the UW Act. I do not believe the ERP was designed for a period of extended application, especially one during which governance bodies such as Senate and the Board of Governors are also functioning.
  3. FAUW wants to see governance decisions move away from the processes under the UW ERP and toward normal UW collegial governance processes (or at least some collegially agreed-upon “new normal” that reasonably approximates past practice).

More than ever, to help your colleagues and students get through this, we all need to be flexible and accept the reality that we likely will not accomplish all the work we wanted to this spring, summer, and beyond. Please, if you have the bandwidth, reach out to colleagues and try and help them manage. If you have no bandwidth left, reach out to your colleagues or chair and request the help you need and deserve. If your requests for help go unanswered, prioritize your and your family’s health in your decision making and contact FAUW as soon as possible through our AF&T team for confidential and personalized advice.

Virtual office hours

I’m now holding weekly office hours on Microsoft Teams, Wednesdays 1:00-2:00 p.m. Feel free to send me a message using the MS Teams chat function during that time to request a video conference. I’ll reply with a video conference invite if I am not in another call. I’m happy to discuss anything you bring to the table. If you’d like to arrange an alternative meeting time, email me and I’ll try to make it work: btolson@uwaterloo.ca.

Take care everyone,

Bryan

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