The anatomy of a FAUW general meeting: A recap of our 2021 Spring GM

In which we summarize the proceedings of our 2021 Spring General Meeting and explain how our general meetings work at the same time.

The logistics

General meetings are meetings of the voting membership of FAUW, at which members receive updates on FAUW’s work and vote on important issues such as our budget, constitutional amendments, or changes to the Memorandum of Agreement. General meetings are held in December and April each year.

Quorum for a general meeting is 30 members. Our in-person meetings typically drew about 60-80 members in recent years, but both the fall 2020 and spring 2021 meetings had over 130 members attend online. We’re investing in equipment to be able to livestream our general meetings once we’re back to in-person events so we can continue being accessible to more members, especially those working at satellite campuses.

The meeting chair changes frequently, and must be someone other than a member of the Board of Directors. (If you’re really good at chairing meetings, let us know!)

The consent agenda: Committee and officer reports

Our general meetings have always had an asynchronous component: written reports from our committees and, in recent years, from our representatives on University committees. All voting members receive these reports by email in advance of the meeting. Other members can request the reports.

Some reports are delivered during the meeting itself, particularly those from FAUW executive officers.

The president’s report

At this meeting, Dan Brown’s president’s report started with a few recent success stories:

  • Policy 14 (Pregnancy and Parental Leave, including Adoption, and the Return to Work) has been approved by the Board of Governors and is now in effect for all eligible employees who start(ed) a pregnancy or parental leave after April 6 of this year. We tried to have it applied to employees already on leave, but the University hasn’t budged on that. [See all blog posts about Policy 14.]
  • Our negotiating team achieved a good salary settlement covering the next three years, including the statutory maximum for salary increases under current provincial law.
  • The 2020 salary anomaly review has completed its work and informed individuals who will receive adjustments. Co-chair Marios Ioannidis noted later in the meeting that no solely gender-based anomaly was found this time around, and that there are a number of possible anomalies that require further investigation by the deans because the statistical model may not be robust to properly predict salaries of early-career members or those with salaries above the thresholds in our salary structure.
  • A new committee has been set up to focus specifically on updating the policies on faculty appointments and tenure & promotion to improve conditions for teaching faculty. The FAUW reps are Kate Lawson and Su-Yin Tan. Visit uwaterloo.ca/fauw/p76 for the latest information.

Dan also talked about ongoing and forthcoming issues, including the current state of planning for fall 2021. Decisions are mostly being made at the faculty or department/program level, which means members have more of a say than the FAUW Board does at this point. Some faculties/units are doing this with more detail and consultation than others. We are advocating for individual faculty to be primarily responsible for choosing the mode of teaching for your courses and for fall planning in general to be discussed more publicly and openly. We are actively collecting information, so if there are interesting/challenging/problematic/great things happening in your unit, please let us know. Individuals who need help with accommodations for the fall, please see our AF&T team for help.

Some other ongoing items on FAUW’s agenda include a few more policy committees underway or beginning soon and recruitment for FAUW committees—you can put your name forward via our website. We’re hosting a lunch & learn with Laura Mae Lindo on May 19 about how faculty can counteract anti-Black racism at universities, and last fall’s cancelled Hagey Lecture is being rescheduled for fall 2021—stay tuned for an announcement soon.

The treasurer’s report

The treasurer’s report follows a regular pattern: The budget for the upcoming financial year (starting May 1) is approved at the spring general meeting, and the audited financial statements for the previous year are approved at the fall general meeting. Here are some highlights from the 2021–22 budget:

  • We’ve increased our budget for course buyouts. This year we’ve added buyouts for the Lecturers Committee chair and P76/77 members.
  • The budgets for events, meetings, and professional development are lower than usual, though we’re hoping that by winter, some of these will be in person.
  • The Hagey Lecture budget was increased a couple of years ago to account for rising costs, but will be smaller this year as parking and food/reception costs will be significantly reduced with a predominantly (or fully) virtual event.  
  • Our current commitment to the daycare ends in 2023. After that, we can consider whether there are other ways we can support the daycare, as we know it is a very important resource for our members.
  • The donations and sponsorships section looks a little different this year: We’ve allocated $10,000 for a Black Faculty Collective speaker, $10,000 toward Indigenous student scholarships, and increased our contribution to the CAUT Academic Freedom Fund ($10,000 is more in line with a faculty association of our size).

Election results

Our elections are timed so that the results are announced at general meetings. At this meeting, Peter Johnson, Elections Committee chair, thanked the committee, the 18 people who put themselves forward for election to the Board of Directors, and those who supported the nominations. It’s a great sign of the health of FAUW that so many people want to be involved. There were 15 nominees for the four at-large seats, and three for the lecturer seat.

The successful candidates are, in alphabetical order: Trevor Charles, Frankie Condon, Mary Hardy, Su-Yin Tan (lecturer seat), and Vershawn Young. They’ll begin two-year terms on the board starting July 1, 2021. You can read their candidate profiles on our website.

Discussion, motions, and more

General meetings are not just about FAUW executives talking; they also allow us to have conversations with members about FAUW’s priorities, work, and spending. At this meeting, a member asked about the value of CAUT and OCUFA—the fees for which amount to almost 47% of our annual budget. Bryan Tolson, chief negotiator, shared that OCUFA provided invaluable support for our recent salary negotiations, including training, regular meetings, and one-on-one consultations. Brent Matheson, treasurer, noted that as umbrella organizations, they provide access to a lot of data and research that we otherwise wouldn’t have, and they help to keep us plugged in to what is happening in the sector as a whole. [Editor’s note: AF&T also frequently relies on their knowledge of both employment law and how things work at other Canadian universities.]

While the president and Board of Directors often issue FAUW positions and statements, general meetings provide opportunities to make strong, member-supported statements about particularly important matters. At this meeting, members passed a motion of support for the Laurentian University Faculty Association:

FAUW expresses its support for LUFA/APPUL in its fight to ensure that Laurentian University’s future is strong and that its collective agreements are followed. We believe that proper collegial governance, with Senate oversight of all academic decisions, is essential for that strong future. And we call on the provincial government to properly fund the university, and to remove it from the current insolvency, and to restore proper standards of governance and accountability to Laurentian.

General meetings are also an opportunity to take the membership’s pulse or get input on a developing issue, which is what the Climate Justice Working Group has been doing over the last year. They led some preliminary discussion about FAUW declaring a climate emergency at the 2020 Fall General Meeting and provided an update at this one. Working group member James Nugent noted that the declaration and related action items would only apply to FAUW operations, not the University. The working group will be working with the Board of Directors and staff over the coming months to talk about how it would be implemented and are hoping to bring it back to the fall general meeting for endorsement. Members are welcome to get in touch—or to join the working group.

Changes to the FAUW Constitution—the document that outlines how FAUW is governed—are discussed and approved by members at general meetings. This year, the membership passed a motion to amend section 19 of the Constitution (Committees and FAUW External Representatives) to include the Lecturers Committee as a standing committee with the following mandate: “A committee which provides input on matters pertaining to all aspects of the working conditions of lecturers, and communicates issues raised by lecturers to the Board.” The Lecturers Committee was established as an ad hoc committee in 2015 and is very active in advocating on behalf of our lecturer members.

Sometimes motions are delayed or withdrawn based on feedback from members. A motion from the Equity Committee, opposing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism and its examples, was withdrawn shortly before this meeting, to allow for more thorough discussion. The committee wanted this motion on the agenda to facilitate a conversation about how to best address antisemitism and also protect academic freedom. Speaking to the motion’s withdrawal, Jay Dolmage, chair of the Equity Committee, noted that putting it on the agenda had a positive outcome in that several people reached out to him and made it clear that they would like to be part of this conversation. If you would like to be involved, feel that it will affect you, or have expertise on the subject, please reach out to Jay.

The open session

Finally, all general meetings conclude with as much time as we can manage for an open discussion with members. We always start with the prompts: “What do you want us to be working on?” and “Are there concerns coming out of your department, school, or faculty that we could help address?”

At this meeting, we mostly heard concerns about fall planning, including that it is too early to choose a teaching modality for fall and that FAUW should be advocating a clear position on fall teaching; and questions about whether faculty workload models are going to be adjusted to account for reduced TA support, whether faculty could be consulted about what it means to have a “safe classroom” (Dan Brown noted that the University is relying on public health for such definitions) and the possibility of a vaccine ID on campus (Dan has contacted OCUFA to find out what is going on across the province). Since the GM, FAUW has started a working group to investigate these and other fall planning concerns.

Lori Curtis, chair of the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T), shared that the committee has been supporting members who are concerned about going back to campus in the fall, and people who feel they can’t continue online. She recommended that senior faculty members advocate for junior faculty who feel they can’t step up and say they don’t feel comfortable teaching on campus, and help get the message to chairs and associate deans. AF&T has also been talking to Occupational Health about fall accommodations; the message they are getting is to wait and see what the options really are for fall before doing a lot of work to compile documentation.

We also answered a question about government grants appearing to be down in this year’s University budget. There is a change in how government funding is allocated, from operating grants to SMA performance outcomes. If you add those together, government support is the same as last year. This does mean, however, that the grant is frozen and has not gone up with inflation.

And that’s how a general meeting works! Be sure to upgrade to a voting membership before the next one so you can attend and vote!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.