FAUW’s unanswered pandemic questions

FAUW’s job, in this pandemic and always, is to advocate for our members’ best interests and protect our members’ rights. In the current situation, that means persistently asking tough questions of administrators to make sure your interests and concerns are adequately considered in pandemic decision making.

Unfortunately, FAUW is not being formally consulted about pandemic-related decisions. President Hamdullahpur said at the May Senate meeting that the Integrated Co-ordination and Planning Committee (ICPC) is “constantly” in touch with the Faculty Association. Our members deserve to understand precisely what this means. FAUW requested engagement with the ICPC; specifically, we asked to participate in two of the three working groups in a non-voting capacity. Instead we are getting partial verbal updates from one—the academic working group. I get an update roughly once every two or three working group meetings (which is still multiple updates per week). I then must consult very quickly with one or more of the FAUW Executive team to provide written feedback to the working group chair in support of FAUW members’ interests. In addition, we bring many of the same issues to Faculty Relations Committee, which continues to meet biweekly.

To be as transparent as possible, we are now more explicitly sharing (on our COVID-19 page) the specific questions we are posing so you know what we’re discussing before we get answers. We hope some of you will reiterate anything you feel is important in your own discussions across our virtual campus.

—Bryan Tolson, FAUW President

Here are some of our open questions. We will add more to the COVID-19 page on our website as we ask them.

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for decisions about course delivery and related support?
    • Who decides on the mode of delivery for specific individual courses (remotely, in person, or in combination)?
    • Recognizing that some synchronous opportunities are vitally important for student engagement, even if they are optional, will decisions about synchronous/asynchronous delivery for the fall term be brought to Senate via its Graduate and Undergraduate councils?
    • Can the Registrar’s Office decide to withhold fall term synchronous scheduling support, including course meetings and final examinations, without Senate approval?
  2. How will faculty health and equity issues flowing from decisions about course delivery be handled:
    • What happens to in-person courses if there is a second wave of the virus and campus closes in the middle of fall term?
    • What forms of personal protective equipment will be required of faculty and students attending classes in person? Who will provide and pay for the equipment and cleaning? What recourse will faculty have if a student refuses to comply? [We haven’t formally posed this set of questions yet.]
    • What is the method for refusing in-person instruction for faculty who reasonably believe that they or someone they live with/provide care for are at risk?
    • How can we ensure that administrators (chairs, associate chairs, deans, associate deans) are educated about how to handle increased faculty physical and mental health concerns, expressed both formally and informally?
    • What happens if a faculty member is unable to complete teaching their course(s)?
    • How will the University monitor and respond to the disproportionate health and workload effects experienced by faculty who are members of equity-seeking groups under the Ontario Human Rights Code?
  3. What kind of access to technology can faculty expect of students studying remotely?
    • Are students and faculty being told about baseline technology requirements, such as the one used by CEL?
    • Can instructors make additional requirements for particular courses?
    • What is the University’s position on students who cannot meet technological requirements – should any or all such students be accommodated, and what is the specific role of faculty in accommodating? Is the answer the same for the Spring and Fall terms?
    • If faculty are expected to make technological accommodations for students, how will faculty be supported in terms of expertise and time required to do so?

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