What will you do in your classroom for the September 30 National Day for Truth & Reconciliation?

— Steffanie Scott

Next Thursday, September 30, is the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (also known as Orange Shirt Day), a federal statutory holiday declared in response to Call to Action 80 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which reads:

We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, to establish, as a statutory holiday, a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process.

The Office of Indigenous Initiatives is hosting a number of related events this month, and there are things you can do in your classes or in your work—in any discipline—to use this day as an opportunity for reflection and/or action.

Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action and universities

Two of the TRC calls to action most often referenced in relation to universities are numbers 62 and 65 (emphasis added):

62: We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to: […] Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.

65: We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.

In the absence of these Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action being met by the government (alongside most of the other 92 calls), we as university instructors and faculty members can still do a lot to support them. As noted on the UW Indigenous Initiatives’ Truth and Reconciliation webpage, The TRC Calls to Action provide a platform for work to:

  • mobilize debate and discussion
  • create spaces to share knowledges and research
  • access resources of new and renewed disciplines, methodologies, and practices
  • acknowledge the heterogeneity of Indigenous peoples and pedagogies
  • work together toward decolonization

September 30 is an opportune moment to put this into practice in your classroom, especially if you have not already been doing so.

Continue reading “What will you do in your classroom for the September 30 National Day for Truth & Reconciliation?”

A Q&A with OrganizeUW

OrganizeUW is a grassroots drive to unionize TAs, RAs, and sessionals currently underway at the University. We know our members have questions about what this would mean for you and for UW, and OrganizeUW is here to address these questions and concerns!

Please visit their website, especially the FAQs, for more information about eligibility, the unionization process, upcoming events, and more. And if you can’t find an answer to your question, leave it in the comments!

Who is OrganizeUW? Who’s running it, and who on campus would be unionized if you succeed?

OrganizeUW is a grassroots campaign to unionize TAs and RAs at the University of Waterloo. The campaign was started by a small but passionate group of graduate students who wish to improve conditions for student workers at UWaterloo. We come from various faculties, departments, programs, and backgrounds. The campaign is supported by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

There also is a drive to unionize sessional instructors within OrganizeUW. By “sessional instructors” we mean various categories of academic workers (students and non-students) who have contracts less than one year in duration, for which there are many terminologies in use—e.g., “special (sessional) faculty,” “adjunct professors,” “definite-term lecturers,” “research fellows.” Workers in this group are normally not represented by FAUW.

[Ed. note: FAUW represents definite-term lecturers with appointments one year or longer. The term “definite-term lecturers” does also accurately describe sessional instructors.]

Where is the process at right now?

We are in the midst of our card-signing campaign to sign 50% of workers, after which the next step will be applying for Labour Board certification.

What happens once TAs, RAs, and sessionals unionize?

Initially—nothing! Well, mostly. If we decide to unionize, our working conditions will be legally frozen in place until a first collective agreement is negotiated with the university. This provides stability while we work to establish our independent CUPE local. Locking in the current state of affairs also secures an official baseline for future negotiations and protects against cuts. Finally, it allows time to develop proper procedures for the eventual transition to new terms of work. This helps to ensure that everything goes smoothly (in contrast to the disruption from UW’s recent, sudden restructuring of grad funding).

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A Lost Opportunity: Report from the FAUW Representatives on the Policy 76/77 Drafting Committee

– By Su-Yin Tan and Kate Lawson

We are very disappointed to report that the latest effort to improve terms and conditions of employment for Definite Term and Continuing Lecturers has failed.

We are the FAUW appointees on the Policy Drafting Committee (PDC) that began work in March to revise Policies 76 Faculty Appointments and 77 Promotion and Tenure with regard to teaching stream faculty members; the administration appointees were David DeVidi (committee chair) and Kevin Hare.

We report here on the PDC procedures, FAUW objectives, and what happened over the past six months. (Note that confidentiality provisions in the Terms of Reference for the PDC mean that we can report only on public documents and on our own activities.)

We began the process believing that Lecturers at Waterloo deserve working conditions near or equal to those of teaching stream colleagues at other large non-certified Ontario universities (University of Toronto and McMaster University). UWaterloo is in very good financial shape and UW’s Lecturers are just as qualified as Toronto’s “teaching-stream professors” and McMaster’s “teaching-track professors.”

We entered into the PDC process having studied relevant policies at these “comparator institutions,” willing to prioritize our goals, and prepared for good faith and collegial discussions with the representatives of the administration. We are thus very disheartened that no agreement on any revised policies was reached.

Continue reading “A Lost Opportunity: Report from the FAUW Representatives on the Policy 76/77 Drafting Committee”

No, a vaccine mandate does not violate rights

Guest post by Emmett Macfarlane, Department of Political Science

University administrators are apparently struggling with whether to impose vaccine mandates for all students, faculty, and staff who want to be on campus this fall. A vaccine mandate of this sort is the most effective means by which to protect the campus community, limit the spread of COVID, and protect those who, for medical reasons or age limitations, cannot be vaccinated (especially the children of students, faculty, and staff who are exposed if COVID is brought home to them).

One of the most common objections to vaccine mandates is that such a policy will infringe the rights of those people who have thus far refused to get vaccinated. Both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and provincial human rights laws, like the Human Rights Code of Ontario, are cited as preventing universities from implementing vaccine mandates.

This argument holds little water.

It is true that the broad liberty interests of unvaccinated individuals are affected by limiting where they can go, by instituting employment requirements, and by having their privacy intruded on by being required to disclose their vaccination status. Yet we already place limitations like this in many circumstances. Ontario schoolchildren have, for many years, been required to provide proof of vaccination to attend school. Smokers are not allowed to smoke in indoor public spaces, because we recognize the dangers of second-hand smoke.

In short, one person’s liberty interests end where the rights of others begin. We cannot allow people to invoke rights in the name of behaviour that produces incontrovertible harm to others.

Continue reading “No, a vaccine mandate does not violate rights”

Real academics don’t take vacations?

Our recent post “Help Dr. X take their vacation” received many spirited replies.

Some offered practical suggestions for Lecturers like Dr. X who teach three terms a year:

  • Post online content instead of class instruction for two weeks. How would chairs feel about this? What about students who listen to the online content and then email with a question or ask for help? Would the answer “I’m on vacation and will get back to you” be satisfactory?
  • Get someone else to cover your classes for two weeks. This sounds great, except … who would that be? Would you regularly take on extra work to “cover” for a colleague on vacation?
  • Take a holiday during fall break and reading week. Since many faculty use the “break” to mark or to prepare, a holiday at this time would take very careful planning. And some faculty have been called out for not being available to students or for not answering work emails during these times.

It’s also worth noting that Lecturers are far more likely than Professors to be held to the requirements of Memorandum of Agreement 11.2.3: “Vacation shall be scheduled at a time or times which are mutually satisfactory to the Member and the Department Chair.”

But some replies to the blog, both in the comments and elsewhere, hinted that vacations weren’t really the “done thing.”

Do academics even take vacations?

A recent meme suggests that eschewing vacations is a particularly North American phenomenon.

Could the “American” attitude also be the normal academic one? Do we dismiss the very idea of taking time away from our jobs?

If so, what are the costs of an academic culture that values, not just work, but overwork? What, for example, are we modelling for (and expecting from) our graduate students if “no vacations” is the accepted norm? Is this healthy—physically, socially, psychologically?

Continue reading “Real academics don’t take vacations?”

How much would a true non-teaching term cost?

One of the issues that the FAUW team hopes to address in the revision process for Policy 76 (Faculty Appointments) and Policy 77 (Tenure and Promotion of Faculty Members) is workload, one component of which is a regular non-teaching term for teaching-intensive faculty.

The current Policy 76 includes a provision for non-teaching terms: “…Lecturers shall have the option to have at least one term in six be a non-teaching term.” The interpretation of this clause, however, varies across faculties and even departments. In the faculty of Environment and in several departments in Engineering and Science, the non-teaching term is taken to be a reduction in load in that academic year; other faculties such as Arts, Health, and Math interpret the non-teaching term as a redistribution of load. In this case, lecturers teach their normal annual course load in two terms rather than three.

What lecturers say

Results from the recent FAUW Lecturers Committee survey, which had a response rate of 80%, show that 61% of the 192 respondents had had at least one non-teaching term during their employment at the University. Among these lecturers, 37% had what we’ll call a “true” non-teaching term (i.e., their teaching load was reduced not redistributed) while the remaining 63% had their load redistributed. For the 39% of lecturers who have never taken a non-teaching term, the redistribution of workload was cited as the most common barrier.

In recent faculty consultation sessions organized by the Lecturers Committee, lecturers shared that that having time and resources to fulfil professional development and scholarly work is a high priority. Many lecturers commented that a true non-teaching term would allow them to engage in scholarly activities including curriculum development, professional development, pedagogical research, and staying up to date in their field. There was also discussion around the mental health benefits of a non-teaching term during which lecturers could also take their annual vacation entitlement and recharge.

We should also recall that the University’s current Strategic Plan states that Waterloo strives to be “a people-centered institution committed to genuine care, concern, respect, inclusivity and well-being for all.” These values include commitments “to embed and promote sustainability and foster personal development and supportive environments for mental health and resilience, physical health, social inclusion, belonging and spiritual well-being in campus culture.”

Ensuring that teaching faculty have adequate time to engage in foundational academic activities—such as staying up to date in their fields and planning new courses—as well as much needed personal activities—such as taking vacations— is necessary for UW to fulfil these commitments.

The numbers

So, how much would it cost the University to implement a true non-teaching term for lecturers? Relying on FAUW membership data on lecturers and on data collected from the FAUW Lecturers Committee survey, we’ve come up with an upper-bound cost estimate.

Continue reading “How much would a true non-teaching term cost?”

The UW Equity Survey: An important, easy win

You are so tired.

There is so much work to do. It’s hard to get going on the big things on your to-do list. But you have thirty minutes in your day and you are hoping to get something important accomplished. You probably aren’t going to finish your book, write your grant proposal budget, synthesize a polymer, or mark all of the essays that were just submitted. You probably aren’t going to vacuum, and you probably shouldn’t cut your own hair.

But in just ten minutes or less, you could complete the Equity Survey that was sent to you by UWaterloo Communications. You could start that, finish it, and cross it off your list. Then, you could offer yourself a simple reward with your remaining twenty minutes. Jay Dolmage of our Equity Committee completed the survey and then had a piece of pie. Joe Qian finished it and then had a nice lunch. Kim Nguyen answered all of the questions and then ate ice cream cake. Aimée Morrison went for a leisurely bike ride after she was done.

There aren’t many easy wins right now. But this is one of them. A robust response to this survey from faculty is so important. Having this data will allow the University to better develop resources. It will allow FAUW to better advocate for equity. Doing your part will be a great use of your valuable time.

June 17 Board meeting report

This is our last Board of Directors meeting report until September, and Dan Brown’s last president’s report. We’ll continue posting here and emailing members over the summer about policy development and other issues as they evolve.

President’s report

-dan brown

This will be my last report as FAUW president, and this board meeting will be the last for FAUW’s vice-president Johanna Wandel, treasurer Brent Matheson, at-large representatives Narveen Jandu and Dina Dawoud, and Engineering representative Alfred Yu. I’m extremely grateful to all of these colleagues for their service! I’m also looking forward to seeing what the new board makes happen, with Lori Curtis moving into the president’s role. 

The news from the past two weeks has been especially grim, with the discovery of a mass grave at a residential school in Kamloops, BC, and with the murder of a Muslim family living in London, Ontario that has been declared a hate crime. At times, it’s overwhelming to me just how much work on reconciliation, dialogue, and changing our society must happen; at other times, I’m excited by just how much better our society can become.

This week is Convocation. Normally, it’s one of my favourite events of the year, and it’s hard to believe we have had two years of these being done online. I hope that we can return to hooding our graduates soon, and sending them off into their careers. It’s also the last week of Convocations with President Hamdullahpur as one of the presiding officers.

We heard some updates about teaching plans for fall at the town hall on Tuesday. I’m hopeful that COVID cases become less prevalent as vaccination starts to take effect here in Waterloo Region. Our colleague Mario Ioannidis continues to meet with relevant people from HR and other offices across campus as part of a taskforce on returning to campus.

What else we talked about

The Board received a draft of Policy 57 – Employee Accommodations for a preliminary review. Faculty Relations Committee will discuss the draft this week, and once it receives support in principle there, it will go out for wider consultation. Our representatives on the Policy 57 Drafting Committee are Jay Dolmage and Lori Curtis.

Vershawn Young updated the Board about the development of a Black Studies program at Waterloo. The Black Studies Implementation Team submitted two new diplomas to the Arts Undergraduate Affairs Group on June 3: General Black Studies diploma and Fundamentals of Anti-Racist Communication. Since then, they submitted a fulsome report and recommendations to senior University administrators. Young suggested FAUW could support four of the Implementation Team’s recommendations in particular:

  • Implement an advising system to keep track of students enrolling in and matriculating through the two Black Studies diplomas.
  • Establish and task a team to develop and implement the Black Cultural Centre.
  • Transfer the Lecturer lines of current Black Faculty into tenured and/or tenure-track lines.
  • Appoint Black Studies Programme Director and Advisory Board to Participate in University Black Cluster Hires.

We approved new members of FAUW standing committees, starting July 1:

  • Equity Committee: Jay Dolmage will continue for another year as chair. Mario Boido, Barbara Schmenk, Elizabeth Meiering, and Antonio Muñoz Gómez (LAAUW) are joining the committee.
  • Lecturers Committee: Su-Yin Tan has been re-elected for another two-year term as chair. Sarah Ruffel (SCI)l, Laila Rohani (ARTS), Elena Neiterman (HEALTH), Jenny Howcroft (ENG), and Rania Al-Hammoud (ENG) will join the committee.
  • The Executive Committee (and Faculty Relations Committee representatives) for the next year will be Lori Curtis (President), Kate Lawson, (Vice President), Heidi Engelhardt (Treasurer), Trevor Charles, and Mario Ioannidis.
Continue reading “June 17 Board meeting report”

Meet the lecturers: Lamees Al Ethari

As we work on securing improvements to the working conditions of teaching-focused faculty at the University of Waterloo, FAUW is interviewing lecturers across campus to find out more about their experiences at Waterloo—and how potential policy changes might affect their work.

Lamees Al Ethari has been a lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature since 2015. Let’s meet Lamees!

Lamees Al Ethari

What does your job include right now?

My contract officially defines my load as 80% teaching and 20% service. I teach 7–8 courses per year, mostly ENGL 109 (Introduction to Academic Writing) and creative writing courses, but occasionally also literature courses. In 2019, I developed and taught a course titled Displacement Narratives in the Arts First program.

In addition to teaching, I keep active as a researcher and creative writer. I participate regularly at academic conferences, readings, and literary festivals. I have also published a memoir and a collection of poetry. I co-founded a SSHRC-funded community writing and performance workshop, The X Page, for local immigrant and refugee women. I have been a coordinator and an editor with the workshop since 2018. I am also a nonfiction editor for The New Quarterly, a national literary magazine housed in St. Jerome’s University.

What parts of your work are you most passionate about?

I love teaching—it’s really a big part of who I am professionally. But I also love doing research—research allows me to work on projects that relate to my own academic specialization.

While some of the research I do is on pedagogy, most of my research is on immigrant women’s narratives, especially from the Middle East. I focus on their journeys from home, the trauma they endured, what they left behind, and their experiences of trying to resettle in the diaspora. I have applied that research in teaching both my writing and my literature courses.

What has your experience been like trying to navigate the process of becoming a continuing lecturer?

That’s a really interesting question. A lot of the process actually seems very much up in the air. Each person seems to have had a different experience, and my questions weren’t answered in a timely manner because no one seems to know what the process is, and it’s not the same across different departments. Originally, I understood that I could apply in my fifth year, but that turned out not to be the case. The situation kept changing, there was nothing solid to go by, no guidelines to follow.

I submitted my application at the end of 2020 and didn’t hear anything about the application for a few months. (I finally received my continuing offer in May 2021.)

The lack of information is problematic and needs to be addressed by the Faculty and the University or it will continue to be problematic for those who follow after me. I’m not the first person in this kind of situation, and it’s not just for continuing status. A clear and consistent process will allow lecturers to plan ahead and be prepared.

Have you applied for any research grants while working at Waterloo, and how did that go?

I’ve applied for two research grants. I faced some complications with the first application process because, once again, there were no clear guidelines for lecturers applying for grants. However, when I applied for a SSHRC Connection Grant in 2018, I was told that I just needed to get approval from my chair, who supported the application and the project. We were awarded the grant in 2019, which funded the first cycle of The X-Page workshops.

Research grants, like these, allow us to be part of the academic community and they help us expand the work we do in our classrooms. I know that many of my lecturer colleagues are working on interesting and innovative research. They would benefit greatly from research grants that could support and fund their projects.

Sabbaticals and non-teaching terms provide us with the time to develop our teaching, update research, and find new ways to introduce material in order to keep our courses interesting and engaging.

Continue reading “Meet the lecturers: Lamees Al Ethari”

June 3 report from the Board

Here are the updates from the June 3, 2021, FAUW Board of Directors meeting.

Policy 76 (Faculty Appointments) change

On June 1, the University Board of Governors approved an update to Policy 76 that changes the threshold for which appointments need to go through UARC—it will now review appointments “longer than two years,” rather than “two years or longer.” As we reported last time, this will remove the primary reason for two-years-minus-one-day appointments. We asked the deans to add an extra day to all two-years-minus-one-day appointments and have heard from three that they are doing so. Two faculties don’t have any such appointments, and the sixth is discussing the issue further but we expect that to be resolved soon.

This extra day comes with significantly improved benefits, including dental coverage, better sick leave, long-term disability coverage, access to the Employee & Family Assistance Program, eligibility for the new pregnancy and parental leave policy, and tuition benefits under Policy 4 (for employees) and Policy 24 (for employees’ children). It can also have implications for retirement benefits eligibility.

Other work on Policy 76/77 will continue through the summer.

Equity data survey

We’re excited that the University equity survey will be going out soon. We encourage you to participate in it. This survey is what will provide the Salary Anomaly Working Group with the data needed to run the race-based salary anomaly review that we negotiated in our latest salary settlement. There is a lot of information about the survey and how the data will be used on the Equity Office website.

Response to FAUW position on fall 2021

Mario Ioannidis is representing FAUW on the new return-to-campus working group. This group has representatives from the Staff Association, Occupational Health, the Safety Office, Human Resources, and Plant Operations, among other units, and meets every other week. They are informing institutional guidelines (e.g. classroom capacity) for a staged return from now through January 2022, and applying a change management framework to this return. The group recognizes that returning to campus significantly affects faculty members.

Mario and Johanna Wandel met with Plant Operations. Plant Ops started upgrading HVAC systems (of which there are more than 300) as soon as campus emptied out last year. They are using MERV 13 standard air filters throughout campus and we’re working with them on getting detailed data to members about the rooms they use.

Tenure and promotion 2021

We are asking the University to ensure that departmental and faculty tenure & promotion committees (and external referees) take the effects of the pandemic on teaching and research into account when reviewing tenure and promotion files this year.

Continue reading “June 3 report from the Board”