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.

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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.

FAUW supports Indigenous land protectors

In 2017, prompted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, University of Waterloo President Hamdullahpur announced the creation of an Indigenization strategy for the University. In the few years before, land acknowledgements had started to become a common practice across the University at public gatherings, on websites, and in email signatures.

On November 2, 2020, the University participated in Treaty Recognition Week for the first time by hosting a series of virtual events that covered, among other things, historical perspectives on treaty rights in Canada, and treaty rights from the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples including the Six Nations and the Mississauga of the Credit. 

These initiatives—the still-to-be-developed Indigenization strategy, land acknowledgements, and virtual education events—are not enough if the University does not follow through with concrete action.

The need for action and support for Indigenous Peoples is increasingly clear. Right now, land protectors on the territory of the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River and across Canada, are under attack not only in the courts but also by local governments, settler residents, and the RCMP as they assert their treaty rights. The FAUW Indigenization Working Group recently marked the 236th anniversary of the Haldimand Proclamation with a blog post sharing the history of the Haldimand Tract as well as information about ongoing struggles for treaty recognition now taking place in Caledonia, ON, in Waterloo Park in Waterloo, ON, and in Mi’kMaq territory in Nova Scotia. The FAUW Board recently voted to support the land defenders asserting their treaty rights at 1492 Land Back Lane in Caledonia. The Librarians and Archivists Association of the University of Waterloo has also written a letter in support, and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, of which FAUW is a member, has made a donation to the legal fund.

FAUW’s Equity Committee and Indigenization Working Group invite all University of Waterloo faculty to join in a fundraise-and-tweet effort to support the protectors of the Six Nations lands upon which the University is situated. We urge faculty to make contributions to both the O:se Kenhionhata:tie Land Back Camp now occupying Waterloo Park and to the 1492 Land Back Lane – Legal Fund. You may also choose to contribute to a supplies drive for 1492 Land Back Lane. We further urge faculty to ask the University to donate as well—if you’re comfortable doing so, you could even tweet the amount of your donation and a call for the University to match it. 

The FAUW Board has pledged the first $1,492.

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A more equitable approach to lecturer career progression

A post from the FAUW Lecturers Committee.

A slow path to policy development

Policy 76 – Faculty Appointments refers to continuing lecturers as “unusual.” This might have been justified in 2011, when the policy was last updated, but we now have two-and-a-half times the number of lecturers we did then. Lecturers are a critical component of the Waterloo faculty, and we need an updated policy to ensure lecturer career progression and allow lecturers to reach their full potential as valued members of the UW community.

In order to better understand the strengths of the current system of career progression for lecturers, as well as the problems that lecturers face when working to achieve their professional potential, we looked at some current statistics about this group of faculty and interviewed three lecturers who succeeded in moving from definite-term to continuing status in three faculties: Arts, Environment, and Mathematics. Their experience highlights the need to develop clear formal procedures for lecturer career progression.

Inconsistent procedures

As a result of insufficient guidance from university policy, until recently, none of the faculties have had official documents outlining the steps for lectures to take, materials to prepare, and timelines to follow in the process of transitioning from a definite-term lecturer (DTL) position to that of a continuing lecturer (CL). Consequently, different CL candidates experience the transition to this position in different ways.

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Marking the 236th anniversary of the Haldimand Treaty

October 25 marks the 236th anniversary of the Haldimand Proclamation (1784). This treaty promised land to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River in recognition of their service to the British Crown and the loss of their land in the American Revolutionary War. By 1798, non-Six Nations settlers moved onto the Haldimand Tract, violating the treaty after only fourteen years.

The University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge campuses) are located on the Haldimand Tract, which extends ten kilometers on either side of the Grand River. In addition to the Haudenosaunee, the land on which the University of Waterloo is situated is on the traditional territories of the Anishnaabeg and the Neutral peoples. Diseases brought by settlers swept through the Neutral people, and survivors have hence been adopted into the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. These are pieces of information you likely know, at least insofar as you have heard about them in the University’s land acknowledgement.

To mark the anniversary of the Haldimand Treaty, Members of the Faculty Association’s Indigenization Working Group want to share some of the resources they have found helpful.

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8 myths about UW lecturers

A post from the FAUW Lecturers Committee.

FAUW first started holding events specifically for Waterloo lecturers in 2014, but there have been lecturers on campus since at least the early ‘90s. With a distinct uptick in lecturer hiring over the last decade or two, there are now lecturers in every one of the University’s six faculties and they make up 18% of the FAUW membership. For many chairs, directors, deans—or just faculty colleagues—who are new to dealing with lecturer-rank faculty, there may be some uncertainty about who these people are and how they fit into their departments and schools. To help explain what lecturer faculty are—and aren’t—here are (in no particular order) eight myths about lecturers at Waterloo.

Myth #1: A lecturer is a lecturer is a lecturer

Fact: The term “lecturer” is often indiscriminately applied to everyone from sessional instructors hired by the course or term to permanent teaching faculty. At Waterloo, “lecturer” is one of the four faculty hiring ranks (the others are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor; see Policy 76 – Faculty Appointments). While sessional instructors are also hired at the rank of lecturer, they’re more correctly called adjunct or special lecturers and are administratively very different from the lecturer-rank regular faculty members (just “lecturers” from here on) that we’re talking about in this post.

Lecturers can have “definite term” or “continuing” appointments. Most lecturer-rank faculty are initially hired on definite-term contracts, which can be repeatedly renewed when they expire, although there is never any guarantee of renewal (see myth #7). Continuing lecturers have permanent, ongoing appointments that don’t have expiry dates. FAUW represents both definite-term and continuing lecturers (but not sessional instructors). About 40% of UW’s lecturers have continuing appointments.

Getting the terminology straight is just half the battle. The specifics of lecturer positions—how teaching loads are defined, what kinds of service and administrative tasks they do—can vary widely between faculties, and even between departments in the same faculty. According to our 2015 lecturers survey, about half of UW’s lecturers have an 80/20 teaching/service ratio; the other half reported a broad variety of teaching/research/service weightings.

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The Twelve Days of Performance Review

It’s that time of year—the time when faculty members at Waterloo start thinking about writing their annual performance review documents and putting together their files. In this spirit, the FAUW Equity Committee offers twelve tips to help you think about equity as an essential part of this process.

A title card with mildly festive graphics: holly, mistletoe, etc.

On the first day of performance review season, collaborate with members of your own department to demystify the review process, especially for new faculty members. All APRs are local; what someone does in another department is probably not the same in yours. Consider starting a sharing circle: pool APR reports, with or without the numbers attached, so that you can get a feel for the genre. Pay it forward. Mentor those junior to you.

On the second day of performance review season, focus on your teaching effectiveness in the full knowledge that student questionnaires correlate principally with non-instructional factors (scheduling, student interest in the topic, grade expectations, and the like).

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) states unequivocally:

“Using SQCTs [student questionnaires on courses and teaching] for performance evaluation penalizes women, racialized and LGBTQ2S+ faculty, and faculty with disabilities. These faculty are also more likely to be the target of harassment in the anonymous comments sections of the questionnaires. Further, using SQCTs for performance evaluation risks undermining effective teaching and intellectual diversity.”

To cite this report in your own performance review documentation:
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “Report of the OCUFA Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching Working Group.” February 2019. https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/OCUFA-SQCT-Report.pdf

On the third day of performance review season, start a broader discussion at the department level. Every department has guiding documents that outline how to evaluate performance. Share the recent arbitration ruling at Ryerson University (Ryerson University v. The Ryerson Faculty Association, 2018) that student evaluations of teaching via course questionnaires are valuable instruments for “captur[ing] student experience” but cannot be “used to measure teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure.”

Or talk about how the Department of Psychology at Waterloo decided not to use student evaluations of teaching in their review process, citing the bias inherent in these evaluations. This effort was rejected at the decanal level, but maybe we just need more departments to take a principled stand. Consider citing the OCUFA document (see: day two) in your department’s review documentation. Ask what other sources of bias might exist in your department’s process.

On the fourth day of performance review season, your department gets a special gift: a junior faculty member on the performance review committee! Rotating junior members of the department onto the committee is important because it will pull back the curtain for these colleagues, but also because it can be unfair to junior faculty members to be evaluated only by senior colleagues. The Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between FAUW and the University delineates that there must be five members to assist the Chair on this committee (see section 13.5.6), but does not specify rank or other details about these members.

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An opportunity to support the Wet’suwet’en people

A message from FAUW’s Indigenization Working Group:

In recent weeks, hundreds of scholars from around the world have signed on to an open letter expressing support for BC’s Wet’suwet’en people and calling on the Canadian Government and the RCMP to cease pipeline work on Unist’ot’en Territory. Read the letter here. If you so choose, you can add your voice as a scholar.

Note: the Indigenization Working Group is an ad hoc committee of FAUW. Its support of the open letter should not be construed as FAUW’s position. Visit our website to learn more about the working group and about Indigenization at Waterloo.

Service Opportunities for Lecturers

Brought to you by the FAUW Lecturers Committee.

Lecturer appointments at Waterloo usually include a service component of anywhere from 20% to 60%. This blog post will address some of the questions lecturers have about navigating this element of their job.

Why should I bother with service?

Service is assessed in your performance review. It is important to seek service opportunities not only because the service you do is directly related to the merit score you receive at the end of the year, but also because it is directly related to the success of the shared governance of the University. In order to be fairly represented, lecturers must be part of the decision-making process. The best way to do that is by serving not only within your department but across your Faculty and the University.

How do I find out what service opportunities are available?

If you’re not sure where to start in finding service opportunities, we recommend you speak to your chair, who may be able to identify needs at least at the department level.

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What Indigenous students want faculty to know

Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down with three Indigenous students at the University of Waterloo to hear what they would like faculty members to know about their experiences as Indigenous students in higher education.

Kiel Harris (Gitxsan/Gitanyow) is a third-year student in Planning who grew up in northern British Columbia on two different reserves. Kiel had already completed a college diploma before coming to Waterloo and is, therefore, older than many in his cohort. Kelsey Hewitt (Anishnaabe/Lac Seul First Nation) is a third-year student in Geography and Environmental Management who grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo. Kelsey also identifies as a mature student, having not started university straight out of high school. Finally, Anika McAlpine (Cree/Moose Cree First Nation) is a first-year student in Medicinal Chemistry who grew up off-reserve in northern Ontario, in a community that has a large Indigenous population.

Our conversation was broad and far-reaching, touching on challenges related to creating a visible Indigenous space on campus, concerns about implicit bias if students declare their Indigeneity to their professors, and the transitional issues Indigenous students from remote communities might face.

In this blog post, I focus on the students’ ideas about what faculty members can do right now to support Indigenization and Indigenous students in their classrooms. I’ve organized their thoughts chronologically, beginning with the first day of class and carrying through to final assessments.

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