Inaugural Blog Post… + Samosas!-David Porreca, FAUW President (Department of Classical Studies)

First: A hearty (and heart-felt) thank-you to Mary Hardy for shepherding FAUW through the difficult past few months, stepping into the breach and supporting the association when the help was sorely needed.

Second: Another note of thanks for the support the membership has shown in entrusting me with the FAUW presidency in these fraught times. I intend to do my level best to honour that trust.

But how?

My focus is on FAUW’s core duties: defending and enhancing the term and conditions of employment of faculty members at the University of Waterloo (that’s YOU). My first task is to assist in the formation of a strong negotiating team for the upcoming round of negotiations toward a salary settlement that should take effect on 1 May 2024. Stay tuned for announcements on that front.

FAUW’s core duties also include the defence of the following three basic principles – a well-balanced tripod, so to speak: collegial governance, academic freedom, and equity. Over-emphasizing any one of them at the expense of the others leads to an imbalance that risks toppling the whole.

Of these three, I feel that the first is the one that has become the most precarious within our institution over the past few years, and where my own capacities for bridge-building have the best chance of bearing fruit. Disruptions relating to the pandemic have not always brought out the best in people, leading to what I perceive to have been quite a bit of friction between FAUW and the university’s administrators. My first task is to attempt to restore a less adversarial relationship between these parties, and I invite my counterparts/colleagues in Needles Hall and elsewhere to join in meeting me halfway in this effort, to everyone’s benefit. I witnessed what a reasonably good working relationship looked like the last time I was in this position (2012-2015). One of my yardsticks for success will be how swiftly (and effectively, as far as you, the membership, is concerned) all the university Policies that have been open and under discussion for far too long (e.g., Policy 1, 12, 33, 57, 76/77) will be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

Academic freedom is also at risk as a result of external forces. UW has been in the news quite a bit lately relating to our substantial reliance on corporate sponsorships (or, “partnerships”), which had been heartily encouraged and welcomed until very recently. To me, this is a perfect example of how you can never do only one thing (i.e., there are always unintended consequences to anything we choose to do). In my view, corporate sponsorships are a necessary evil that hold the clear potential for jeopardizing the academic freedom of the researchers they involve. This is because the research that corporate entities sponsor tends (overwhelmingly?) to be goal-directed rather than curiosity-driven. If anyone out there feels that their academic freedom is being compromised, you are very much invited to approach FAUW representatives for assistance – we have an active Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee whose primary purpose is precisely to assist colleagues (especially those in precarious pre-tenure positions) in such matters.

In terms of equity, I feel that FAUW has a very strong and active Equity Committee, and the university has also established an EDI office. Both bodies are made up of colleagues (for the former) and staff members (for the latter) who are champions for the principal of equity. Their combined work ensures that any concerns over matters of equity are being addressed with all due zeal and vigour.

Broadly speaking, my approach to the new task of being president will be to listen carefully to anyone willing to share their perspectives on work-related problems (e.g., have any of you had trouble with our new insurer, Green Shield?). Consequently, I encourage anyone inclined to do so to attend my FAUW Open Office Hours (duration: ~90 mins, or until we’re done chatting) that I will hold twice monthly, every second Tuesday at 16:00 beginning on 23 May. I plan to alternate between hosting these office hours at my office itself (ML 231) and at the Grad House (for a more convivial, less formal atmosphere). The first such open session will be held at my office. Feel free to drop by for a chat – I look forward to meeting you!

Finally, at our recent Spring General Meeting, I took a screen cap of the word cloud generated by the question: “What would you like FAUW to work on in 2023-24?”, and here’s what we got

In light of this, I plan to bring our General Meetings back to being in-person, and I will see if we can still find the supplier of the famous samosas that so many seem to want – hopefully that business wasn’t one of the COVID casualties. I’ve always found that virtual meetings in 2D lack depth (in every possible sense), and I miss seeing everyone’s real faces rather than computer-rendered simulacra that often have trouble keeping up in real time. Again, I look forward to seeing everyone in 3D!