FAUW Board thankful for UW president’s support for faculty as fall term approaches

Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur held a Virtual Town Hall earlier this week, on May 20. It was well attended by the University of Waterloo community and the president fielded many important questions in addition to providing an update on the current state of the University.

One topic of particular importance to both faculty and students as we move into the Fall term is how courses will be delivered. The President stated that small courses will happen via on-campus delivery only if many considerations align, including whether instructors are willing to hold classes in person. 

There are a number of reasons a faculty member might not wish to hold in-person classes, including personal health concerns or health concerns of others in their household. The FAUW Board thanks President Hamdullahpur for showing such support for the wellbeing of our members and larger community during this trying time.    

Highlights from the May 7 Board meeting

  1. We welcomed some new board members who officially start July 1 but are attending as guests to learn the ropes. We also noted two committee appointments: Ranjini Jha has agreed to continue her role on the Pension & Benefits Committee for another term, and Dorothy Hadfield is interim chair of the Lecturers Committee
  2. Reports from the Complementary Teaching Assessment Project Team and Course Evaluation Project Team are going to Senate on May 19. You can read them in the Senate agenda as soon as they’re posted (they should be up any minute now).. The first part of the Senate meeting is open to the public, but since guests can’t speak during the meeting, we encourage you to make sure our faculty senators know how you feel about the recommendations in these reports. 
  3. We got a preview of some of the options for health benefits plan changes that are being considered by the Holistic Benefits Working Group. The proposed options will eventually be public in a Pension & Benefits Committee agenda, at which point members can read and send feedback to FAUW and/or the faculty representatives on the Pension & Benefits Committee. 
  4. We are finishing assembling our negotiating team. We will be polling all our members about negotiation priorities over the next term, so start thinking about what you’d like to see. Section 10 of the Memorandum of Agreement has all the details about negotiations.
  5. We heard that administrators are starting to reach out to members regarding reduced workload to retirement, early retirement, and unpaid leaves of absence. If you are considering any of these options, we strongly encourage you to talk to our AF&T team first so they can help you identify the most appropriate solution for your situation (which could be an alternate to those being offered). This way, you can be as informed as possible when you speak to your Chair/Dean. 
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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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Notes from our April 23 Board meeting + takeaways from CAUT COVID-19 town halls

Here are the highlights from last week’s FAUW Board meeting. Feel free to reach out to a Board member or comment below if you have questions! This post also includes some takeaways from the two CAUT town hall meetings on COVID-19 and the Academic Job that have happened so far.

Non-COVID-19 related items

  1. The Federal Court of Appeal released their decision on the York Access Copyright case. Overturning the decision of the previous court, the decision protects universities’ ability to opt out of the Access Copyright licence; however, it also suggests that our current interpretation of “fair dealing” may be too liberal. 
  2. We filed an association grievance last week about access to post-retirement benefits, mostly affecting lecturers. If this grievance can’t be resolved internally, the next stage in the process is to go to an external Arbitrator. 
  3. We reviewed an update to the University’s employee accommodation guidelines. We have some concerns about both the process leading to this update and the content we saw and will discuss this at the next Faculty Relations Committee meeting. 
  4. Something we missed in our last update: We passed a rather normal-looking FAUW budget at the general meeting on April 7. The budget accounts for both normal functioning come fall and some work-from-home expenditures for staff and executive members so that we’ve got our bases covered. 
Continue reading “Notes from our April 23 Board meeting + takeaways from CAUT COVID-19 town halls”

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:

Continue reading “What UWaterloo instructors need to know about copyright”

Veronica Kitchen’s April 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.

University of Waterloo Senate Meeting, 20 April, 2020

This was our second pandemic Senate meeting. It proceeded with many technical difficulties that we are assured will be resolved by the May meeting; there was even some discussion of whether we ought to continue, or had the requisite quorum of people who weren’t having technical difficulties to continue. We motioned, verified quorum, voted, and continued.

First things first: the April meeting marks the end of the Senate year, and so it is time to thank the [Arts] Senators who are ending their terms:

Outgoing Arts Senators: Tara Collington (French) & Maya Venters (student representative)

Outgoing Senators at large who come from Arts: Shannon Dea (Philosophy) (who is also to be congratulated on her appointment as Dean of Arts at the University of Regina; they are lucky to be getting her and we are sad to be losing her!)

Items of interest on the regular agenda

  1. We approved language for the course calendar on procedures and guidelines for terminating relationships between a graduate student and their supervisor. [See page 79 of the agenda posted on the Secretariat’s website.]
  2. Report from the Appointments Review Committee; there were lots of technical difficulties during this presentation so I don’t have a lot to add to the slides that are in the agenda [page 82], but it sounded to me as if over 10 years Math and Engineering in particular are doing better at appointing women, which: Great If True.

President’s report

I know that at the moment this is what most people want to hear about! Again, I captured what I could, but I’d encourage you to refer to the minutes when they are published for the most correct and comprehensive updates.

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An update about things that aren’t COVID-19

—Bryan Tolson, FAUW president

Our regular updates about FAUW Board activities have been supplanted by our COVID-19 messages recently, but now that those have slowed, here’s an overdue update on some other things we’ve been working on (and also more pandemic developments). I hope you can all find a few minutes to read this and get up to date on FAUW’s activities and efforts on your behalf.

Thank you to everyone who attended our Spring General Meeting on April 7 and to those who asked questions. I think it went well under the circumstances and attendance was great, with over 100 people tuning in. Much of the content of this post is from my president’s report at that meeting, but there are a few new points as well.

New FAUW Board members

We welcomed some new Board members this term. Jordan Hale replaced Sarah Brown as our liaison from the Librarians and Archivists Association, and we have two short-term replacements for members on leave: Brian Kendall (taking Vivian Choh’s Science seat) and Alfred Yu (replacing Pat Lam as a director-at-large). 

Congratulations to our newly elected Board members starting their term on July 1: Joel Dubin (AHS), Kate Lawson (Arts), Alfred Yu (Engineering), Peter Johnson (Environment), Nomair Naeem (Math), Heidi Engelhardt (Science), and Narveen Jandu (at-large). We were pleased to see high voter turnout this year: up to 65% of eligible members voted for these positions. Thanks again to everyone who ran in this election.

Policy drafting

Policy drafting committees have had no support from the Secretariat since March 12 (their office, like most, has had to triage). FAUW’s position is that if a drafting committee deems it appropriate to continue their work, then they should do so. Some committees have been working and it seems support from the Secretariat is now starting to come back.

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COVID Coping Strategies: Avoiding communications snafus in the era of COVID-19

As our members adjust to working remotely, we’ll be featuring strategies that departments and faculty members are using to manage the transition. If you have something to share or want to suggest a person or department to feature, send a brief pitch to laura.mcdonald@uwaterloo.ca.

This is a guest post from Shannon Dea, FAUW vice president and professor in the Department of Philosophy. It was originally published in her regular University Affairs column.


“Is this thing muted? Can you hear me? Sorry, I forgot to unmute.”

As thousands of academics worldwide shift to virtual meetings and technology-mediated learning, these phrases have become ubiquitous. While many of us need to do a better job of remembering to unmute before we speak in our new Zoom and Teams reality, we also need to learn when to mute – or at least modulate – some of our communications.

Marshall McLuhan famously declared that the medium is the message. It is a good lesson to remember in the era of COVID-19. Whether we are teaching, participating in a meeting, or just grousing about stuff with our friends and colleagues, online modes of communication affect who we are communicating with, how they understand what we’re saying, and the downstream consequences of what we say. Combine this with some colleagues’ unfamiliarity with how online platforms work and you have a perfect storm.

Consider the good-hearted U.S. prof who last week tweeted out a compassionate thread detailing the hardships her students were experiencing because of COVID-19 and pleading for colleagues to be compassionate with their students. The overall message was a good one, but Twitter was the wrong place for the private details about students’ poverty, mental health and family deaths that she included in the thread. When the thread went viral, she realized her mistake and deleted the thread, but not before several people had screen-capped it. Now, that version is all over the internet, despite the original poster’s efforts to pull the thread.

While physical distancing might tempt us to talk on social media in the same way that we would at the water cooler, your social media remarks can attract a much larger and much different audience than you predict, and once your comments are public, there is no way to reel them back in.

Continue reading “COVID Coping Strategies: Avoiding communications snafus in the era of COVID-19”

Veronica Kitchen’s March 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.

University of Waterloo Senate Meeting, 30 March 2020

Well, colleagues, this was different. The February Senate meeting was cancelled (not enough material). We had an extra-ordinary (but in hindsight rather ordinary) confidential Senate meeting on March 9, and then—well. You know. 

Kudos to Karen Jack, Emily Schroeder, the President & VP Academic, the IT folks in the background and everyone else who managed to pull off a 90-ish person Senate meeting on Microsoft Teams having never done it before. Now that was extra-ordinary. 

Items of interest (to Arts) on the consent agenda

Much of the Senate’s business was moved to the consent agenda in order to make it easier to vote on everything at once. There was an opportunity for Senators to ask to move any individual item onto the regular agenda, but this was not necessary.

  • The Clinical Research Ethics and Human Research Ethics Committees have been renamed Boards, in alignment with common practice at other universities.
  • The MASc in Applied Psychology is to be renamed the MASc in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
  • Final Assessments for English Language and Literature and Italian Studies were approved.
  • For reference, the consent agenda includes the two motions passed earlier this month: to change the academic year dates for the Spring 2020 term, and to allow students to convert a received numerical mark for the Winter 2020 term to CR/NCR easily.
  • A call for nominations for honorary degrees.
  • An interesting report from Johanna Wandel re: the December meeting of the Council of Ontario Universities’ Academic Colleagues meetings.

As always, you can find all of these in further description in the minutes.

President’s Report

As you can imagine, the President’s report was about the university’s response to COVID-19. I captured as much as I could of the discussion and here are (some of) the important bits. There is fuller information on most of this on the University website:

The President and senior response team are in 2x a day phone meetings. Key strategic issues are:

  1.  Continuity for Canadian students (ie incoming first year class, graduates)
  2. Loss of international students and recruitment
  3. Impacts on research
  4. Securing research from cyber threats (phishing)
Continue reading “Veronica Kitchen’s March 2020 Senate Report”

COVID Coping Strategies: Triaging Spring Term

As our members adjust to working remotely, we’ll be featuring strategies that departments and faculty members are using to manage the transition. If you have something to share or want to suggest a person or department to feature, send a brief pitch to laura.mcdonald@uwaterloo.ca.

This is a guest post from Johanna Wandel, FAUW Board member and Associate Professor in Geography and Environmental Management.


The past couple of weeks have challenged us in ways most of us never anticipated. We’re dealing with moving teaching online, fielding questions from students when we don’t have the answers yet, or both—on top of the other stressors and disruptions brought about by the pandemic. Academic units are making tough decisions on very short timelines, with limited information. I’m an associate chair (undergraduate) in a medium-sized unit, and want to share how we’re making some of our decisions.

Course scheduling as of two weeks ago

Undergraduate course offerings are firmed up almost six months before the start of a given term. Once students pre-enroll, the registrar’s office projects demand for courses based on previous years’ data and units decide if they need to add or remove lab sections, increase or decrease course caps, and so on. Once scheduling runs (around the middle of the previous term) rooms and times are added, at which point it becomes much more difficult to change class sizes or eliminate/add a lab section. So that’s where we all were for Spring 2020 as of early March.

Enter COVID-19

In a very short time, we’ve all been asked not only for a plan for finishing our current courses remotely, but to move the entire Spring term online. This week, all the admin teams are asked to indicate, for every course on the Spring schedule: Will it go ahead? If yes, synchronously or asynchronously? Is there a change to the cap? It was clear to my unit that we’d have to triage: Which courses can effectively meet their learning outcomes in an alternate delivery format, and which can’t? The decisions we all have to make must balance the need for a meaningful learning experience for our students with what we can realistically do. Those of us in admin roles also need to consider students who need specific courses to graduate, prerequisite sequencing, and course caps—some courses can handle larger class sizes if we go online, but others cannot.

Continue reading “COVID Coping Strategies: Triaging Spring Term”