The Full Promotion of Teaching

What one professor learned while applying for promotion with an emphasis on teaching.

—James Skidmore, Professor and Director, Waterloo Centre for German Studies

I recently applied for and received promotion to full professor. People have asked why I didn’t do this earlier, and I usually gave one of two responses. I would either say that I was under the impression that at UW, you first had to win the Nobel Prize in Physics to be promoted, or I would point out that I’ve been full of myself for years and didn’t think I needed a letter from the President of the University to tell me something I already knew.

The thing is, I’ve always been more interested in my work than in my career; fixating on “rank” was a distraction I’ve tried hard to avoid. Besides, I assumed my somewhat nonconformist academic path might prevent committees from supporting the submission. My work at universities shows a stronger-than-usual commitment to teaching and service than is the norm, and I wondered if that wouldn’t prove to be a dealbreaker.

After attending the FAUW workshop on applying for promotion, and then seeking out the advice and guidance of Lori Curtis (at the time chair of the Academic Freedom and Tenure committee) and Katie Damphouse (the AF&T and Policy officer), I was able to confirm that putting forward a promotion dossier where the emphasis would be on teaching was actually possible under Policy 77. But it’s certainly not the conventional approach, and it required some careful handling.

Thankfully, it seems to have worked. The application went through without a hitch. There were no requests for further information, no off-the-record discussions about holding off on applying, no security personnel arriving at my office to escort me off campus (though I’ve been working from home since the pandemic started, so perhaps they did come by but couldn’t find me). And since I kind of had to figure this out on my own—I didn’t know anyone who had emphasized teaching when applying for promotion—I’d like to share what I learned about the process and how I went about it. Perhaps it will prove useful to you if your situation is similar to mine, but also to anyone putting together a promotion dossier.

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Action, justice, and heroism for our climate

Join the FAUW Climate Justice Working Group on the National Day of Action for a Just Transition towards a sustainable future (Huron Natural Area, March 12, 2-4 pm)

Altay Coskun for the Climate Justice Working Group

More than two years into the pandemic and two weeks into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it is difficult for climate action to make top headlines. But thanks to the heroism of the Ukrainian botanist Yakiv Didukh, the latest conference of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) aroused unexpected attention. He attended remotely from Kyiv and thus dropped out when required to retreat into the bomb shelters during Russian attacks, but returned to finalize his task on the final report. The Ukrainian delegation is quoted (by Reuters) to have “expressed how upset they are that this will distract from the importance of our report.” But perhaps it is rather the other way round: their courageous action will expose how shallow our own commitment to a swift and just transition has been all along. We can do better; we must do better. In Canada, we are blessed that we can explore adequate climate action and the facets of climate justice in a peaceful environment. This also means we have fewer excuses.

Most of us do not have a deficit of understanding, but one of justice and courage.

On February 28, 2022, the IPCC reported on “Impact, Adaptation and Vulnerability” (Sixth Assessment Cycle Report II) to the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres. The report is available in multiple formats, to allow for differing levels of understanding (I recommend the FAQs version for non-specialists such as myself). The scientific evidence for human-made climate change and the devastating effects on our planet have never been presented with more accuracy or with a higher level of urgency. The current commitments by nearly all states fail to meet the challenge described in previous IPCC reports. Even worse, those earlier reports were built on assumptions about the pace of climate change that, so we are now told, were much too optimistic.

One may doubt, however, that more scientific data will be the game changer. Most of us do not have a deficit of understanding, but one of justice and courage. Indeed, the notion of justice is ever more often evoked in political and scientific declarations relating to climate change. It played a significant role in the 2015 Paris Agreement. In the run-up to the federal elections of 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to pass a Just Transition Act, for which we are still waiting.

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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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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.

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Why Waterloo is not at risk of insolvency

In light of the devastating announcement about Laurentian University, members have been asking FAUW whether there is a need for concern about the University of Waterloo’s financial situation. We’ve asked Linda Robinson, fresh from a deep dive into UW’s finances as a member of our negotiating team, to answer this question. We hope this post from Linda will put your mind at ease by explaining that UW is in a healthy financial condition.

First, be aware that I have no inside knowledge about the University’s financial situation, but I did extensive analysis of the publicly available information as part of the recent salary negotiations. Unlike public corporations, who report their results quarterly, the University only reports annually through the release of their audited financial statements. With an April 30 year-end, we won’t see the full impact of the pandemic until the April 30, 2021 statements are released in the fall of 2021. What we do know is how the University fared as of April 30, 2020, and although this was only six weeks into the shutdown, it does reflect the impact of the ten percent tuition reduction for 2019/2020 and the provincial government’s funding freeze.

There are many financial metrics we could consider when analyzing the University’s finances, and I will comment on a few. Perhaps the most important consideration is that the University of Waterloo has no debt, nor have we since it was paid off in 2018.

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A Q&A about how the Tri-agencies are “modernizing” the grant management process

The Tri-agencies are developing a new, centralized portal to manage grants and applications. Professor James Danckert attended a stakeholder workshop in December. We talked to him about the plans for the TGMS and how FAUW members can provide feedback.

What is the Tri-agency Grant Management Solution (TGMS) Initiative trying to achieve?

The TGMS Initiative is a project to build a central grant portal for all three agencies, replacing the existing systems, with the aim of creating something more user friendly and modern. Importantly, with this system, you won’t need to re-enter the same information multiple times: for example, publications entered for a CV won’t have to be re-entered for a grant report, and information can be ported over from one agency to another.

What’s the timeline for rolling this out?

The Tri-agencies are in the process of finding a vendor to build the system, and simultaneously engaging in ongoing consultation with stakeholders. They are looking to have demonstrations of the proof of concept by early 2021. Once they start building it, they plan to roll things out pieces at a time, which they acknowledge could pose a communication challenge.

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Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice Kicks Off with “absolutely great” session

On July 16, over 150 people attended an inaugural webinar organized by the Indigenization in STEM Community of Practice (CoP). It featured Veselin Jungic sharing his experiences collaborating with First Nations communities across British Columbia and Alberta to create an innovative, community-based program to engage First Nations children and youth in studying mathematics.

Who is Veselin Jungic?

Dr. Jungic, a mathematics professor from Simon Fraser University, is a 3M National Teaching Fellow and a recipient of several teaching awards including the Canadian Mathematical Society Teaching Award and the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences Educational Award.

What is Math Catchers?

Beginning in 2011, Math Catchers is a program to interest Indigenous elementary and high school students in studying mathematics. Adopting Indigenous ways of knowing, Math Catchers uses storytelling, puzzles, pictures and a variety of hands-on activities to make math relevant and fun. Characters like Small Number and Big Circle are featured in a series of stories showcasing how math is everywhere, a vital part of everyday life.

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10 ways academics can promote climate justice today

Written by professors Allison Kelly and Sharon Kirkpatrick of the FAUW Climate Justice Working Group.

The pandemic has consumed much of our attention and energy over the last few months, making it understandably difficult to find the mental and emotional space to consider other societal challenges. However, as the pandemic persists, we may gradually be able to turn our attention to issues such as climate and racial injustice that pre-dated – and will certainly outlive – the pandemic. Alongside the devastation of the pandemic come opportunities to reflect on the status quo and to identify ways to create a more sustainable, just future for us all. As faculty members, we are in a unique position to take meaningful action toward climate justice.

Our actions can not only make a difference to the climate justice agenda but may also serve to reduce our own eco-anxiety while modeling actions other members of our community can take. Here are some things we can all consider doing:

  1. Add your voice. Sign petitions advocating for climate-just change at institutional and governmental levels, and share your actions with others to inspire them to do the same. One immediate action we can all take is to support the call for UW to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in a just, climate-safe future, just as our faculty colleagues have done at other top universities such as Harvard and UBC.
  2. Get involved. Join groups on campus dedicated to climate justice, including FAUW’s Climate Justice Working Group, Indigenization Working Group, and Equity Committee. These groups allow us to connect and work with like-minded colleagues and can turn feelings of isolation and eco-anxiety into collective inspiration and action.
  3. Hold the University accountable. Raise climate justice at the tables at which you sit and highlight the co-benefits of actions to advance climate justice for the University’s broader goals – including sustainability, mental health and wellness, equity, and Indigenization – as well as for its reputation as an innovator and risk taker.
  4. Be an advocate. Lobby your professional organizations to tackle climate justice, for example, by reducing conference-related air travel. Our adaptations to the pandemic have taught us that virtual conferences can be highly engaging; they can also be more accessible to those who typically cannot afford travel to in-person meetings, making them more equitable.
  5. Branch out in your research. Be innovative in imagining how you could integrate a focus on climate justice in your research. You may not see obvious links, but climate change will undoubtedly impact all our fields and we desperately need expertise and insights from all disciplines to tackle this issue! Form and join groups of researchers across disciplines that care about this issue.
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Veronica Kitchen’s June 2020 Senate Report

Veronica Kitchen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and an elected Arts Senator who produces a great summary after each University Senate meeting and has agreed to share them here. Her reports understandably focus on items relevant to Arts faculty and are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all the agenda items, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for the official minutes on the University Secretariat’s website.

[We’ve cut a few very Arts-specific items this time, because this was a long one!]

Items of interest [especially] to Arts on the Regular Agenda

  1. Graduate studies is changing calendar language re: students who are required to withdraw, and making it possible for students who are required to withdraw for academic reasons to voluntarily withdraw instead (thus making admission to another graduate program easier).
  2. Approval of a new Major in Communication Arts & Design Practice
  3. New transfer credit agreement between Arts & the University of Essex, in which students will get a BA and an LLB in Human Rights Law. Open to students taking a human rights minor.
  4. Changes to academic progression and admission to major rules in light of the increase in CR/NCR on student transcripts.
  5. Endorsement of the process in practice for minor changes to academic programming in light of COVID & remote teaching.  

Return to Campus 

Return to campus now has its own agenda item, instead of being delivered by the President. There is a new Integrated Coordination and Planning Committee to regularize return to campus. This will now be delivered in three segments by working groups of the ICPC.

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What UWaterloo instructors need to know about copyright

Usually when we talk about intellectual property at the University of Waterloo we are talking about Policy 73 (Intellectual Property Rights) which provides that inventors own much of the IP they create. Today, however, we’re talking specifically about your use of copyright-protected materials in class (or on LEARN) as an instructor and the risks of violating copyright.

First, a (very brief!) primer on copyright. A copyright is fundamentally the right to restrict distribution of a creative work. Let’s say I take some pictures of cats. I am the copyright holder of these pictures, and other people cannot legally make copies of, or distribute, these photos without my permission, unless under the so-called fair dealing provision. Fair dealing allows others to use portions of my work for educational purposes.

How do you know what you can use?

As an instructor, you will often be using others’ copyrighted materials for legitimate reasons, and our copyright law permits you to do this without seeking permission from the copyright holder under certain circumstances:

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