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.
We have heard concerns from some current lecturers about what we are calling “Pedagogical and Professional Development activities,” or “PPD.” They are worried that, in the Policy 76/77 revision process, FAUW is pushing for research to be a required part of the job for lecturers who move into the new professorial teaching-stream ranks.
This is not the case.
What are Pedagogical and Professional Development activities?
FAUW and the administration have not agreed to specific lists of activities yet. Here is just a sample of some activities that FAUW believes should count as PPD:*
Pedagogical development activities:
Exploring, developing, and/or implementing new teaching practices;
Designing or redesigning a course;
Participating in curriculum development or review;
Participating in teaching initiatives in your department or faculty; at the university; or at other universities;
Attending or participating in workshops and conferences on pedagogy;
Taking on internal or external educational leadership roles (e.g. teaching fellowships or invited teaching at other universities);
Performing disciplinary or pedagogical research/scholarly work (see “Where traditional research fits in” below).
Professional development activities:
If applicable, maintaining professional licences or accreditations (e.g. in engineering, pharmacy, accounting);
Other activities required to maintain professional standing in a field.
Where traditional research fits in
Policy 77currently states about both professors and lecturers:
University teaching is informed and enriched by the research and scholarship of the professoriate. The University expects its regular faculty members to be active participants in the evolution of their disciplines and professions, to keep academic programs and courses current with developments in their fields, and to communicate both their discoveries and their commitment to scholarship and research.
FAUW believes that, to be “active participants in the evolution” of their fields, teaching-stream faculty should be encouraged to, for example, attend disciplinary conferences. And, if teaching-stream faculty want to engage in traditional forms of dissemination of research/scholarly work—either in their discipline or in the scholarship of teaching and learning—it too should “count” as pedagogical development.
But, to be clear, FAUW is not advocating that teaching-stream faculty must do research.
Here’s the non-confidential stuff from the last couple of Board meetings:
The Board formally signed off on a new Equity Committee member. Committee appointments are typically approved all at once in the spring, at the recommendation of the committees, but Clive Forrester joined the committee recently to fill a gap.
The Board also appointed its first Parliamentarian (Katy Fulfer), a chair for the 2022 Spring General Meeting (Moira Glerum), three new members of the Nominating and Elections Committee (Mary Hardy, Narveen Jandu, and Dorothy Hadfield), and Ada Hurst as this year’s FAUW rep on the Online Teaching Awards Evaluation Committee. We received a lot of interest in that last one in particular and it’s very exciting to see so many people eager to offer their expertise in service of FAUW members.
Resources for instructors
WUSA wants to know what investments/resources would be necessary for instructors to be positioned to better accommodate students and disincentivize those who are sick from attending in-person classes, both in the current situation and in the future. If you have any suggestions, please comment below or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
FRC is not making as much progress as we expected this term and we will have a more fulsome update about that (hopefully very) soon.
The Board approved updated election procedures, which you can find on the FAUW website. There were only minor changes this year to clarify a few things and better account for submitting nominations online. The Board voted to prioritize Black faculty, Indigenous faculty, and faculty with disabilities in the tie-breaking procedure until such time as it is appropriate to revisit those priorities.
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.
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.
Here’s some of what we talked about at the last FAUW Board of Directors meeting:
Teaching assessment. The new student course perception (SCP) survey tool is launching this term, and FAUW (still) has concerns about implementing the new survey tool. In particular, we’re concerned that it’s being rolled out without training on how results will affect APR scores and before complementary teaching assessment methods are in place.
There is a large body of research that demonstrates unavoidable bias in SCPs and consequently argues they should never be used for summative assessment. The Renison Association of Academic Staff has reached agreement in its Collective Agreement that course evaluations will not be a required part of annual reviews nor tenure and promotion processes. In 2018, the arbitrator in a case at Ryerson ruled that student evaluations of teaching can’t be used to measure teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure, based on expert opinions that student evaluations cannot be used to assess teaching effectiveness.
FAUW staff. Katie Damphouse is back from leave and is once again your go-to person for help with navigating workplace policies and procedures! Hiring for the Executive Manager position is under way. We ask for your continued patience as Katie ramps up to full time and we complete the hiring process for the Executive Manager.
The UW Staff Association has called out recent University communications for “a lack of clarity and compassion for employees.” This comment is a symptom of deeper issues about valuing employee wellbeing and maintaining a long tradition of collegial consultation. The results of the University’s recent survey about how employees felt about returning to on-campus work make clear that this sentiment is widespread. President Vivek Goel acknowledged in the February 2 President’s Forum the administration has work to do on ensuring that employees feel heard.
One way the administration could improve on this front is to consult with employee groups the way that it is supposed to. We wonder, for instance, if UW might have ordered sufficient Rapid Antigen Tests and N95 masks, as some other universities did, if real employee consultation had been in place for the last twelve months.
Communication is not consultation
In response to our request for meaningful consultation with faculty on return-to-campus decision making, the administration said: “Timelines and procedures for normal long-term planning – where we can consult very broadly in open forum discussion and where planning decisions can be widely known before coming effective – are not well suited to decision-making in this environment.”
If “normal long-term-planning” procedures cannot be respected because of “this environment,” it makes one wonder why other norms—teaching loads, class sizes, performance reviews, student course surveys—proceed as usual. Does “this environment” refer to the pandemic that has been ongoing for almost two years? Faculty members have been compelled to find ways to make their instruction as “well suited” as possible to these changed and changing circumstances. At what point will decisions related to teaching again be the result of authentic consultation with faculty members?
Here’s what the FAUW Board of Directors talked about at its last meeting.
The Nominating and Elections Committee. This committee is officially up and running! The committee will collect submissions from people interested in representing faculty on UW and joint committees to help the Board and President make selections, with the aim of casting a wider net from now on. The committee will also continue the work of the Elections Committee, overseeing and recruiting members to run in Board elections. If you’d like to join this committee, or get involved in any way, get in touch!
The FAUW Parliamentarian role. The description for this position is now finalized and we are looking for someone to fill it! A Parliamentarian advises meeting chairs, committees, and members on matters of meeting procedure and helps to ensure that meetings are conducted in a manner that abides by the rules of the organization while enabling members to participate equitably in deliberations. The parliamentarian will need to be, or become, familiar with Roberts Rules of Order and the FAUW constitution. You can learn more about this role on the FAUW website, and get instructions for how you can put your name forward or suggest someone you think would make a good parliamentarian!
Policy 33 (Ethical Behaviour). A new draft of this policy went out for consultation a couple of years ago and the Staff and Faculty Relations Committees (SRC and FRC) directed the policy drafting committee to make changes based on the comments received at that time. Since then, it has gone out for further consultation to the President’s Anti-Racism Taskforce. FAUW is bringing its final questions and concerns to a special meeting of FRC and SRC on January 31. The Equity Committee chair noted at Thursday’s Board meeting that concerns the committee had in 2019 have not been addressed.
The University announced on January 21 that most classes will resume in person on February 7. Many of our members have expressed concerns over the last weeks and months about what is required for a safe return to campus, and about the disruption to pedagogy and significant additional workload involved in switching course delivery mode (again), and we have shared these concerns with the administration.
From the very beginning of the pandemic, FAUW has argued that collegial governance norms require that faculty members be consulted about and involved in decisions regarding pandemic issues such as the timing of a return to in-person instruction.
Despite this, neither the Association leadership nor faculty members collectively have been consulted about returning to campus, this time or any previous time. We have been told that consultation with faculty is happening at the “local” level, but as far as we can tell, this is quite rare. The FAUW Board is extremely frustrated with this lack of consultation, and a lack of recognition that we are raising credible issues that affect a large proportion of our membership.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, university administrations have developed the bad habit of making decisions about campus health and safety behind closed doors and circumventing existing shared governance bodies that include the voices of campus unions,” said Sue Wurtele, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “Given the increased danger of campus outbreaks with the Omicron variant, it should be obvious that this cycle can’t continue. It’s time to take the safer path, which requires full transparency about campus health and safety issues and accountable governing bodies that include experts from campus unions.”
What we’re asking for now
In light of the announcement about resuming in-person teaching, we have forwarded the following demands, based on concerns we’ve heard from members, to the administration:
That an adequate supply of N95 or KN95 respirators be provided for our members and for all members of the UWaterloo community who must be on campus.
That Rapid Antigen Tests be provided to faculty who are required to be on campus regularly, as soon as they are available.
That the University conduct an assessment to determine when COVID-19 booster shots should be mandatory.
That the University provide an update about safety upgrades to campus infrastructure that have taken place since July 2021, including information about air exchange rates and carbon dioxide levels in offices, classrooms, and other spaces, and information about how air quality will continue to be monitored and regularly reported to the campus community.
That faculty have the autonomy to consult with their students and to decide whether their courses should continue online or in-person.
That Faculty Councils and Senate have robust discussions of the conditions required for a safe return to campus.
That faculty be meaningfully consulted on decisions related to a safe return to campus and our pedagogical duties.
That until such meaningful consultation with faculty takes place, the administration stop claiming it is occurring.
That the results of the recent survey asking employees how they feel about returning to campus be released to the campus community, along with any parallel survey results for students.
As we announced in December, FAUW’s Executive Manager is on an 18-month secondment in the Office of Research. We are currently hiring a temporary replacement and expect to be working without an Executive Manager for around 6–8 weeks. With another staff member on leave, we’re down to just our Communications Officer and will need to triage FAUW activities for a couple of months.
That said, we’re still trying to keep members informed with updates as often as we can, starting with this catch-up post about topics discussed at the last few Board meetings. Some of this was included in the reports for the Fall General Meeting. If you didn’t receive those reports, make sure you’re a voting member and you’ll get them next time!
Member feedback is now being collected and shared anonymously with the Board routinely, as a report in Board meeting packages. Most recent comments are related to the pandemic, specifically 2021 performance reviews and returning to campus, which we will be discussing at the next meeting on January 20. You can send feedback and suggestions to your Council representative, a Board member, or email@example.com. Note that this pertains to general concerns only; if you have an individual concern, please contact the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee for support with your specific situation.
The new Nominating and Elections Committee is close to having its terms of reference finalized and approved, and will soon start its work helping the FAUW leadership and staff find suitable members for committee roles. If you’re interested in helping to represent your colleagues on a University committee, you can reach out to a member of the committee at any time to talk about how you might be able to help. The Nominating and Elections Committee itself will also soon need more members and is a great way to start getting involved with FAUW.
FAUW members, other instructors, and the many staff members who support teaching and learning at the University of Waterloo have gone above and beyond over the last two years to continue delivering excellent education to Waterloo students. The abrupt change to remote teaching last year accelerated positive innovations that were already in the planning stages. Together, we have learned new technologies, developed new digital assets, and experimented with new pedagogical approaches. Quickly adopting and adapting these approaches and innovations has required a huge effort by dedicated instructors and students alike.
This change has also come at a cost to many students due to technology issues, a sense of disconnection, and a lack of appropriate learning environments. For students who have not yet developed independent study skills and self-discipline, the switch to remote has been particularly difficult. As we prepare to return to on-campus teaching in the coming months, we have an opportunity to ensure that we carry forward the positive features and the lessons from this experience into a future of teaching and learning that is better for everyone.
These changes are far from over. The University—all universities—must significantly increase the resources available to enable instructors to deliver adaptable and universally accessible teaching.