FAUW statement on decision making about fall 2021 teaching

We recognize that decisions about fall teaching are being made in an environment of uncertainty. We also recognize the need to balance instructor preferences with student experience. It is our understanding that decisions about fall instruction have largely been made at the faculty level, using a variety of decision-making models. While FAUW supports a de-centralized approach given the varying needs across campus, we ask for earlier and more effective communication and consultation with fall term instructors—and with FAUW—as decisions affecting faculty working conditions are made, to respect the collegial governance model of the university.

We appreciate that most* FAUW members have been given a fair degree of choice as to how they deliver their courses this fall, but faculty were asked to make these decisions without access to essential information, including:

  • Anticipated safety protocols (e.g., information on ventilation, social distancing, how classroom changes are handled in buildings with constrained hallways, the availability of asymptomatic rapid testing responsibility for disinfection, and responsibility for compliance enforcement).
  • Expected decision rules which will trigger a shift from in-person to online (e.g., infection and vaccination rates, whether classes might shift from in person to online and back to in person).
  • Anticipated support for various models (e.g., the availability of classroom technology to enable streaming, registrar and AccessAbility support for testing and exams, the availability of technical support for hybrid models).
  • Consideration of faculty workload for hybrid models which will accommodate both remote and in-person students simultaneously, in the same section (e.g., extra teaching credit, overload pay, or temporary reweighting to accommodate extra work).

We heard updates on some of these items at the virtual town hall on May 11, but course delivery decisions were due on May 7, and many aspects of our fall working conditions are still unclear.

FAUW asks for transparent communication and updates on Waterloo’s position regarding access to vaccinations for faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students, as well as availability and protocols surrounding regular asymptomatic rapid testing. While we recognize that best practices continue to evolve and may change over time, we are aware of multiple initiatives at other institutions regarding testing and vaccine protocols, and infrastructure and teaching support, and ask to be kept informed of Waterloo’s evolving stance on these items.

We suggest that one way of achieving meaningful communication is by giving a member of the FAUW Executive Committee membership in key decision-making groups such as the newly announced Workforce Planning Task Force. We look forward to being more involved and better able to support and inform our members as we prepare to have more activity on campus.

*We have heard reports of some members, particularly lecturers, being pressured or forced to commit to in-person instruction for fall against their wishes, which is very concerning.

5 thoughts on “FAUW statement on decision making about fall 2021 teaching

  1. As a FAUW member, I find this statement very disappointing to read. Rather than asserting FAUW’s position at the table, we seem to be pleading with the administration to be included in the first place. How can FAUW effectively advocate for its members if it can’t even negotiate a seat on the Workforce Planning Task Force?

    Also, the footnote about lecturers is extremely concerning. What is FAUW’s plan for addressing this issue? Expressing concern is appropriate, but it should be backed up by concrete actions.


  2. Hi L,

    We are now participating in the Workforce Planning Task Force and will be asserting FAUW’s positions on issues there as things arise. Without knowing the specific questions the task force is making decisions about yet, we don’t know what those positions are at this point. It’s been very common across Ontario for faculty associations to be excluded from university pandemic-related decision making, and we’re glad to see that changing here now.

    Any individuals we’ve heard from with concerns about their fall teaching assignments have been referred to our Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee for assistance. The issue of instructors having to teach in person against their wishes seems to be quite rare, at least.


  3. Thanks for your reply. Are you able to provide details about who from FAUW is on the Task Force and what their mandate is? Now that FAUW has a seat at the table, what positions will it take?

    I am extremely disturbed by your comment that “It’s been very common across Ontario for faculty associations to be excluded from university pandemic-related decision making, and we’re glad to see that changing here now.” for several reasons.

    First, that this seems to be a widespread issue across Ontario is, frankly, unacceptable. I hope that FAUW has been in discussions with other faculty associations and/or with OCUFA on this matter. Faculty members are a critical part of the university community and as such should be included in these important decisions.

    Second, the fact that this issue is widespread does not amount to a justification for FAUW’s absence in the decision-making process until now, over a year into the pandemic.

    Regarding AF&T, I am glad that they will be providing advice on an individual basis. I have, however, noticed a tendency in FAUW to pass responsibility for what might be systemic problems onto individuals.


    1. Mario Ioannidis will be FAUW’s representative on the task force. I’m sure we’ll have more information to share about what the task force is doing, and what issues we need to take positions on, soon. For now, there is some information about it online here: https://uwaterloo.ca/coronavirus/return/return-campus-town-hall#flexible-working (under the first question in that section).

      Given what we’ve heard (both anecdotally and through an informal survey of our Council of Representatives), members have overwhelmingly been given choice in their mode of instruction this fall, so we don’t have evidence of a systemic issue in this case at this point.


      1. I look forward to regular and substantive updates from Mario on this.

        While we are fortunate that (for the moment!) member choice seems to be be norm, had the result not been as positive, it feels as though we would have been on our own. My point about systemic problems relates to recent FAUW trends toward decentralization.


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