Notes from our April 23 Board meeting + takeaways from CAUT COVID-19 town halls

Here are the highlights from last week’s FAUW Board meeting. Feel free to reach out to a Board member or comment below if you have questions! This post also includes some takeaways from the two CAUT town hall meetings on COVID-19 and the Academic Job that have happened so far.

Non-COVID-19 related items

  1. The Federal Court of Appeal released their decision on the York Access Copyright case. Overturning the decision of the previous court, the decision protects universities’ ability to opt out of the Access Copyright licence; however, it also suggests that our current interpretation of “fair dealing” may be too liberal. 
  2. We filed an association grievance last week about access to post-retirement benefits, mostly affecting lecturers. If this grievance can’t be resolved internally, the next stage in the process is to go to an external Arbitrator. 
  3. We reviewed an update to the University’s employee accommodation guidelines. We have some concerns about both the process leading to this update and the content we saw and will discuss this at the next Faculty Relations Committee meeting. 
  4. Something we missed in our last update: We passed a rather normal-looking FAUW budget at the general meeting on April 7. The budget accounts for both normal functioning come fall and some work-from-home expenditures for staff and executive members so that we’ve got our bases covered. 

COVID-19 related items

  1. We’ve been attending CAUT’s town hall meetings on COVID-19 and the Academic Job. Daniel Cockayne prepared a summary of key takeaways, included at the end of this post. The next town hall in the series is on April 30 and will look at shared governance in the time of COVID-19.
  2. We’re working on position statements on spring course evaluation and performance reviews for 2020.
  3. We saw some scary numbers at Senate about international students at Canadian Universities from a QS survey:  
    • 54% will defer by one year  
    • 15% changed their mind and will not be coming to Canada  
  4. We’re pushing for decisions about academic matters to happen at Senate, not solely under the Emergency Response Plan. Key decisions for fall term, if we’re largely or fully online, will include asynchronous vs synchronous teaching and potential changes to how teaching units are counted that we’re hearing rumours about. 
  5. Manitoba has asked universities to slash budgets by 10–30% over a few months. 
  6. We have heard that Renison is experiencing significant financial strain resulting in some staff being either laid off or placed in work-sharing arrangements. RAAS members are primarily unaffected to date. This may be due, in large measure, to the RAAS certification as a union two days before campus shut down. We have not received any information about the other university colleges. 

CAUT COVID-19 and the Academic Job series: Key take-aways for FAUW and FAUW members

From the April 16 and 22 town hall meetings. Compiled by Daniel Cockayne.

Julia Wright (Dalhousie University)

  • Three key issues for research (1) physical obstacles (research may be physically impossible, lab access, etc. for up to a year, perhaps longer), (2) workload issues (pivoting online quickly, supporting students, having to work from home), (3) psychological and structural barriers.
  • COVID-19 could work to undercut inclusion and diversity efforts of the previous decade.
  • What can the federal government do to support?
    • Federal support to transition precarious workers to permanent roles.
    • 2000 CRC-like positions for lecturers across the country, $50,000/position commitment from the government.
    • This would be a small commitment given the government’s existing financial commitment to emergency response.
  • We could use this as an opportunity to respond to the precaritization of the higher education sector that has taken place over the last decade.

Ian Milligan (University of Waterloo)

  • We need to be calling ‘online teaching’ ‘emergency remote teaching’. [I think certain groups at UW are already doing this.]
  • This helps to manage expectations.
  • This does not meant that we should reproduce the ‘reduced expectations’ rhetoric – we are doing the best job we can do with the resources with have given the terrible circumstances.
  • This is important given the expectation that students will challenge university fees including tuition, which isn’t necessarily negative, but we don’t want to reproduce an impression that instructors aren’t providing a good experience.
  • Calls on full-time tenured professors to pick up the slack.
    • Attend PD seminars.
    • This should be incentivized by chairs and deans.
    • The ‘sacrifice’ should be shared with equity concerns in mind – i.e., tenured professors should be doing more of this work, pre-tenure research time should be protected.

Stephanie Ross (McMaster)

  • Care work is already unevenly distributed, and this will be exacerbated given the crisis.
  • Costs of revealing ourselves to our students are unevenly borne (both in terms of who will be asked/expected to do this, and what might be revealed), i.e., by inviting students into homes through webcam use to record ourselves giving lectures.

Sam Trosow (Western)

  • Numerous intellectual property and privacy issues with moving online.
  • “Fair dealing” is quite flexible, especially in times of crisis.
  • Copyright Act fair dealing considerations: purpose (education is covered), character (how is something being used), amount (copy no more than what’s necessary), alternatives, nature of the work, effects.
    • Of these factors, no one takes precedent.
    • Given that we are providing an educational service to the public in a time of crisis, we are in a good position to take up the fair dealing rules.
  • Make sure though, that materials are not posted publicly, but only on password- protected course management systems.
  • Numerous privacy concerns (more an issue for student and instructor privacy rather than copyright) associated with online learning – all teaching activities are tracked, recorded, maintained, and are capable of being audited.

Q&A

  • Some universities have been able to gain concessions for some sessionals through language in collective agreements around ‘additional training’ – extra work of having to move courses online. Laurier has apparently been successful in this area.
  • Concessions should be asked for precarious and contract faculty – this is not the time to ask for concessions for tenured professors, even if they are doing extra work.
  • Emphasizes that online learning should be asynchronous – multiple time zones, differential access to internet and technology, rural and remote users, Indigenous users, etc. – lots of reasons why students might not have access to internet connections needed for reliable streaming.
  • Could be an opportunity to advocate for smaller class sizes.
  • One avenue toward gains to frame issues in terms of the whole sector, not just in terms of individual collective agreements. Reaching out therefore to other units in the sector.

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