Karen Sunabacka is an Associate Professor of Music at Conrad Grebel University College. This past October, FAUW sponsored her to attend the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Aboriginal Academic Staff Conference.
The 2018 conference theme was “Advancing Indigenization,” and plenary topics included: new Indigenous scholars, advancing Indigenous academic staff, Indigenizing the academy, Indigenous knowledge, and the state of Indigenous Studies programs in Canada.
After the conference, Karen sat down with FAUW’s Indigenization Working Group to share her reflections on the conference. She was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us to share with members of our broader community.
What were your expectations or hopes going into the conference?
As a Métis scholar and musician, I was hoping to meet other Indigenous academic staff and hear how Indigenization was going at other institutions in Canada.
What was your biggest take-away?
Indigenization means different things to different groups of people. I was surprised to learn about the differences between the ways University administrations tend to think of Indigenization and the ways individual faculty and/or faculty groups are approaching Indigenization. Faculty are looking at ways to incorporate Indigenous Knowledge into the curriculum, they are thinking about incorporating Indigenization into different ways of teaching, and they are looking at organizational structures and how to differently arrange the University structure as a whole (some talk about this as “Decolonizing” the University). Whereas Administrations tend to think of Indigenization as simply having more diversity of faculty, staff, and students.
I hope you are all excitedly preparing for a nice holiday weekend with family and/or friends. I am trying to, but this news story, “Ford government stopping university, college profs from ‘double-dipping,’” is getting in my way. Lines like “this includes the power to reduce pay to zero” make me pretty unhappy. Then some of the comments on the story make me just plain grumpy. (For those interested in the legal details, the story refers to the language in Bill 100, pages 116-17.)
This new (proposed) legislation is a
serious escalation in the public relations battle the Ford government has
decided to wage against Ontario faculty. Any guesses what the Ford government
thinks about sabbaticals or tenure? With that in mind, we need to defend
ourselves and our profession, and we need your help to do that. Here are four
talking points you can use in conversations with your family and friends this
weekend and beyond.
At Waterloo, the provincial government pays only 1/3 of our salaries!
Pensions are simply deferred compensation, and, roughly speaking, half of the pension we collect at Waterloo comes from our own contributions.
The average starting age of faculty at Waterloo is somewhere between 35-40 years old. Think about what that means in terms of the pension implications of such a late career start (not to mention the wait-time to start collecting a career salary).
Any Canadian employee working at age 71 or older is forced by federal law to start taking their pension.
FAUW wishes to update the membership about
a matter that is currently in progress. On February 20, the Provost issued a
memo to various administrators about increasing class sizes from 25 to 40 for
Undergraduate Communications Outcomes Initiative (UCOI) courses taught by
English or Communication Arts as stand-alone courses, effective as soon as
possible. That’s a 60% increase.
For those unfamiliar with UCOI, these are the courses that were recently created to replace the English Language Proficiency Exam (ELPE).
FAUW has heard from its members in affected units (both those offering the courses and those in other Faculties whose students take them) that they are deeply concerned about the following, among other, issues:
the lack of consultation with academic units and instructors prior to issuing the memo;
the increase in workload that instructors will experience as a consequence of the increased class sizes;
the risk that some definite-term positions created for the purpose of offering these courses will not be renewed;
pedagogically, the impossibility of delivering the courses’ intended learning outcomes with larger class sizes.
Our “People You Should Know” blog series interviews key people and offices at the University of Waterloo so you can make the most of their services.
Amanda Cook is the Director, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response at Waterloo. She supports all students, staff, and faculty on campus who have experienced, or been impacted by, sexual violence.
Why might faculty members be interested in your role?
For a couple of different reasons. If there are any faculty members who have survived sexual violence and would like to talk about resources that are available to them, any workplace accommodations that I can help facilitate, or any other way that I can support them—whatever that individual needs or wants—I am available for them.
And I also support
faculty who receive disclosures. Sometimes it’s just to consult about something
that they’ve become aware of, and sometimes they’re seeking to share
information with or accompany a person who’s come forward to them.
What advice do you have for faculty who’ve had a student
disclose an experience to them?
At the end of the day,
it’s about meeting the person wherever they’re at and trying our hardest not to
make it about ourselves. In an effort to be caring and compassionate, whether
we’re conscious of it or not, we bring a bias about what we think a person should do, or what we would do in the same situation. The
important thing is engaging in active listening and seeing what that person
needs and then trying to bridge them to another support that can provide the
safety or the resources they might need.
What’s the most important thing you want faculty to know?
I think a lot of times
folks minimize how much they’re impacted by caring about other people, but the
stress that causes, trying to coordinate and figure stuff out for students, it
sits with you for a while. Even if the student’s not doing anything, you as a
holder of that information might have some difficulty moving forward. So just
know that that’s normal and there are supports for you if you need that.
Also that there is no wrong question. I’ve had faculty just consult with me about what they could tell somebody if they come forward, hypothetically. I’m happy to work within hypotheticals.
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.
It’s possible: Despite their long history, universities aren’t immune to change. Digital technologies have fundamentally altered how people relate to factual information. Being resistant to commoditization, our teaching and research costs are mostly in personnel. Increasingly, research spans disciplinary boundaries and is collaborative. Global problems, especially with the environment, are becoming local and urgent. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission charges us to better include Indigenous scholars and ways of knowing. The ever-growing body of scholarship on teaching and learning gives evidence as to how university teaching should evolve.
The university is always adapting and responding to challenges like these. Participation in the distinctive university apparatus called collegial governance affords faculty members influence in that process.
How collegial governance works at Waterloo
The University of Waterloo is organized on a
bicameral model. Loosely, this means that our Board of Governors looks after
the institution as a nonprofit corporation with an annual cash flow of about a billion
dollars, and our Senate looks after the institution as an educational community
of about 40,000 scholars (faculty, students, many staff).
It’s not a total separation of interests,
however. To manage finances and risk, our Board must know the higher-education
sector, its value and values, its trends, and Waterloo’s distinctive roles in
it. To manage academic programs and policies, our Senate must promote academic
initiatives that show an attractive cost-benefit and risk-reward tradeoff.
Tensions are part of the model: autonomy versus dependence, academic freedom
versus responsibility, individual versus group ambitions, etc.