FAUW Celebrates Three Campus Champions and Six Decades of Collegial Governance

On October 26, FAUW held a 60th anniversary discussion exploring the unique relationship between faculty and the administration at Waterloo, and presented our first Awards of Appreciation to honour members of the University community who have made real differences in the lives of faculty members.

Panelists Roman Dubinski (FAUW president 1970–71), David DeVidi (FAUW president 2007–09), Lynne Taylor (chief negotiator and board member 2014–16), and Ian Goulden (dean of mathematics 2010–15) described the evolution of faculty representation at Waterloo, from the early relationship characterized by the University’s “benign paternalism” (in Dubinski’s words), through three attempts to unionize in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, to the “honest conversation” of the current arrangement.

The panelists discussed how this relationship works in practice, and how it differs from a union. The main difference is that, in our case, salary is negotiated separately from all other terms of employment. Rather than putting everything on the table (and at risk) in large-scale negotiations every few years, working conditions are continually negotiated —largely through biweekly meetings of FAUW and the administration at the Faculty Relations Committee (FRC).

This system allows us to “accomplish things you couldn’t in a full negotiation,” according to DeVidi. As audience member and 2004–07 FAUW president Roydon Fraser put it, “through honest conversation, you build understanding, and through understanding, you build, generally, good compromises.” Without the pressure of a looming deadline, Taylor explained, things move slowly, and both sides have time to give everything a “sober second thought.”

FAUW President Bryan Tolson and panelists
Left to right: David DeVidi, Roman Dubinski, Lynne Taylor, Ian Goulden, Bryan Tolson (FAUW president).

Surely there’s a catch

This system is not without its risks. Panelists highlighted the importance of having the right people on both sides. Goulden, our panelist representing an administrator’s perspective, pointed out that the provost has a great deal of influence over whether FRC is effective or just “a happy chat.” But overall, the system we have in place seems to be working.

And if it ever fails, we have the ability to seek recognition as a union. While the past union drives Dubinski recounted failed to result in unionization of faculty at Waterloo, they succeeded in encouraging the administration to make concessions and improve faculty working conditions. In fact, we have a near-unionization event to thank for the Memorandum of Agreement that governs working conditions today and which gives us a lot of the same powers as a union.

So, why aren’t we a union?

We promised that this event would answer the question “Why isn’t FAUW a union?” DeVidi offered this answer: “Most universities that unionize, there’s a galvanizing event, usually a massive clunker by some particular administration. So, I think a big part of the story is that the University [of Waterloo], compared to a lot of universities in Canada, has just been fairly well administered.”

Not all about FAUW

Following the panel, we shifted focus away from the Association and presented awards to Al Binns, director of Police Services for compassionately and discreetly helping faculty to navigate confidential emergency situations; Lynne Taylor, past chief negotiator for FAUW, for negotiating and co-chairing the 2015 salary anomalies review, and securing regular anomaly reviews into the future; and Linda Brogden, occupational health nurse, for supporting faculty members through some of the most difficult times of their careers and for her role in changing the conversation about faculty illness and mental health on campus.

FAUW Board members presenting awards to Lynne Taylor, Randy Jardin (for Alan Binns) and Linda Brogden
Left to right: Lynne Taylor, Bryan Tolson (FAUW president), Randy Jardin (accepting for Al Binns), Dan Brown (FAUW treasurer), Linda Brogden, Sally Gunz (past FAUW president).

Side note

Ian Goulden gave a great plug for another important mechanism at play in our relationship with the administration: FAUW’s Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T), which he called “a really strong thread that runs through the University.” If you’re not familiar with AF&T and its confidential services to assist faculty with difficulties impacting their terms and conditions of employment, we encourage you to learn about it.

Quote of the day

“We’ll call them the administration. They like to call themselves the University, but so do we.” –David DeVidi

President’s Report to Members

<![CDATA[Sally Gunz, FAUW President

As I write this, those of you who are teaching this term will be enjoying the winter term break. I wish you well. May you have a good holiday, catch up, or achieve whatever goals you set yourself for the week. I last wrote in November so it is time for a short update on matters relating to FAUW.

New president

First, and most importantly, congratulations to Bryan Tolson for his election as the incoming president of FAUW. I suspect every former FAUW president shares my sentiments; it is a real pleasure to know that there are always members of our academy willing to take over leadership roles on FAUW. Bryan is particularly dedicated to FAUW and its members and will make an excellent president. He is formally on sabbatical from March 1 until August 31st so I will continue on as acting president through July and August, with Bryan beginning his term in September.

Elections for members-at-large of the board

Elections for four (4) member-at-large positions and one (1) lecturer position on the FAUW board will be held ahead of the April general meeting. I encourage anyone interested in running for such a position to discuss what it entails with any current or former board member. Nomination forms will be available on the FAUW website from March 1 with a closing date for nominations of March 13. The election itself (an online ballot) will be conducted March 21 through April 3.

Hagey Lecture

The Hagey Lecture is the premier event in the university speaker calendar. Typically it is held in the fall but this year it was shifted to March 2017 in order to accommodate the speaker’s schedule. The committee (chaired by Jasmin Habib) has selected an outstanding speaker. Dr. Carol Barnes (University of Arizona) will discuss how memory and the brain change during aging, highlighting some of the current thinking about how to optimize brain and mental functions throughout life. Please join us at the Humanities Theatre (HH) on 22nd March. Visit the event page to secure your free ticket.

Fall term break

The fall term break is a three-year pilot. Results from a student survey conducted by the Student Success Office will be presented at the next senate meeting. FAUW was asked about the perspective of faculty members and we encourage you to respond to our request for input if you have specific thoughts. So far the main concerns we have heard expressed centre around the difficulty for lab-based courses as a result of the two day, post-Thanksgiving break. Suggestions have been made that these could be overcome either by using the two days ahead of Thanksgiving (Thursday, Friday) or to extend the break to one week, as per the winter break. Those responsible for this project seem to be aware of these concerns but they did not indicate they would be making any changes. We would appreciate your input either on this or other issues relating to the break. For example, what was your experience of class attendance for the two days of the week following the Fall Break?

Please provide feedback in the comments section or by emailing laura.mcdonald@uwaterloo.ca.

Memorandum of Agreement

If you are tenured or a continuing lecturer, you will have now completed your last evaluation process until 2019. At the risk of stating the obvious, you will still be reporting on your activities for 2017 and 2018 but you will not complete a report until January 2019. Some further MoA changes will be circulated before long. These are generally of a technical nature. The one that will most affect you relates to histograms of performance evaluation. In the future you will be receiving a breakdown by all three categories (teaching, research and service). Full explanations of the changes will be provided at the time of the vote.

University governance and policy projects

On December 21, an announcement was made by the University president that the combined function of university secretary and general counsel would be separated into two offices. A consequence of this has been some delay in the policy revision projects. Policy 33 (Ethical Behaviour) work continues and it is expected that the review of Policy 42 (Sexual Violence) will begin soon. Policy 76 (Faculty Appointments) will begin its work again in March as will, most likely, the Policy 14 (Pregnancy and Parental leaves (including Adoption)) committee.

Surveys of student experience

We were all recently advised that the Course Evaluation Project Taskforce (CEPT) is currently reviewing the responses received to its draft report. The FAUW response is available on the FAUW website as is one from SWEC and a number of faculty members in the department of psychology. It remains a concern to FAUW just how many departments rely primarily – and in some cases solely – on student evaluations for the evaluation of teaching for annual performance evaluations and promotion and tenure given the very real concerns about the validity of these as measures of actual quality of teaching. FAUW has plans to help support the implementation of better practices for evaluating teaching over the year ahead. Note that the header used in this section follows FAUW’s recommended description for these exercises. The conclusion of the psychology experts and others is that it is inappropriate to expect students to be able to assess the quality of the teaching itself.

Other issues

  • FAUW has continued to work with the administration at the Faculty Relations Committee (FRC). You have all been notified about the provost’s new conflict of interest guidelines for hiring which were drafted jointly by FAUW and the administration. They take the form of a provostial guideline; these documents can be found on the Provost’s Office website and FAUW’s site
  • I would like to note that FAUW had no role in the provost’s recent announcement about business class travel, although I remain deeply jealous of anyone who has managed to pull this one off up until now!
  • Several hiring committees have either recently been struck or are about to be struck. I am FAUW’s representative on the committee to hire the university secretary and Dan Brown will be FAUW’s representative on the committee to hire a new registrar.
  • The Lecturers Committee published its report on the findings of its survey of all lecturers at the University of Waterloo administered in November 2015. 
  • If you are a new faculty member, please join us at another gathering either at noon or 4:00 on March 9. These are informal events at which you can meet fellow newcomers to UW and exchange experiences. Details will be posted to the FAUW website and emailed to new members soon.
  • The FAUW tenure and promotion workshop series will be held once more on April 4 and 5. These offer critical advice to those of you who are either untenured or are considering applying for promotion to full professor (See the FAUW Events page for details). 
  • FAUW will be introducing a new workshop to its series this Fall. In September there will be a workshop for all faculty members who have recently been tenured. More information will be available about this soon.
  • FAUW’s grievance with the administration was resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.

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FAUW Welcomes New Staff Member

Please join FAUW in welcoming Katie Damphouse, our new Academic Freedom and Tenure and Policy Officer. We are delighted that Katie has joined our team and is ready to take on the challenges of her new role. She has been part of the University community for 10 years and brings experience in mediation, coaching and policy development. Her passion for advising others will ensure excellence while assisting faculty with a variety of issues.
Welcome, Katie! 

Why UW? Reflections on How UW Operates

David Porreca, FAUW President

In my 22 months’ experience as FAUW President, I have had the opportunity to attend a number of meetings with my counterpart colleagues from other institutions at the provincial level under the auspices of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA – of which our own Kate Lawson is President) and at the federal level under the Canadian Association of University Teachers(CAUT). At these meetings one thing inevitably stands out to me in the starkest possible terms: how differently UW operates as compared to other institutions.

Ring Road at the University of Waterloo
Credit: George Freeman

Generally speaking, the tone of interaction between faculty representatives elsewhere and their institutions is one of chronic mistrust and by-default antagonism. By contrast, UW manages to operate smoothly, with open and constructive dialogue on issues and concerns happening through well-recognized, well-respected and effective channels (e.g., Faculty Relations Committee (FRC), FAUW’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee (AF&T)).

In my experience observing other large organizations both academic and non-academic, institutions end up with the unions they deserve, initially as a result of poor management. UW somehow has avoided such pitfalls.

So, what makes UW operate so differently? I’ve been puzzling over this question and have the following speculations to offer, most at the intersection of faculty working conditions and financial considerations:

1) UW’s decentralized structure

There are few if any other universities where both Chairs and Deans hold so much power as compared to central administrators. There are a number of problems that result from this situation but, on the whole, these problems tend to be relatively easily ring-fenced and solved – in no small part thanks to FAUW’s AF&T Committee. By contrast, bad decisions at other more centralized institutions tend to have a much broader impact and be that much more difficult to overturn and/or solve.

2) Role of FAUW

As much as UW’s decentralized structure helps to keep problems manageable, FAUW’s role as I see it is to identify, highlight and help spread the good ideas that appear organically within the relatively siloed units on our campus.

3) Importance of hiring committees

Despite the theme of point 1, upper-level administrators do have an outsized importance on our lives as academics. UW – with FAUW’s input – has been wise in whom it has chosen to sit on the hiring committees of upper-level administrators. Having right-minded people [on this, see point 4 below] on hiring committees has meant that, by and large, we have ended up with right-minded people running our institution.

4) Right-mindedness & problem-solving

There is a functional recognition of the importance of scholarship as the main purpose of our institution, i.e., the dynamic interplay between teaching and research, faculty and students. This common cause of scholarship is underpinned by a shared vision of the importance of academic freedom, collegial governance and principles of equity. This has led to a collaborative atmosphere in which the vast majority of the problems that arise get resolved without the intervention of expensive lawyers or arbitrators (see point 5 below).

Flowers outside the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) at the University of Waterloo
Credit: George Freeman

5) Grievance resolution by peers

As a non-unionized faculty association, we do not rely on expensive external arbitrators to resolve internal academic disputes involving faculty members. Instead, we have a process of appointing as-needed tribunals of peers whose membership is a) mutually agreeable to all parties; b) expert in the local culture of our institution; c) much cheaper than externally hired arbitrators. These tribunals are used for all tenure and promotion appeals and are an option for most forms of formal grievances, and they typically resolve disputes in a matter of 3-4 months, as opposed to elsewhere where the turnaround time can be counted in years. The upside is that the cost of operations is much, much lower both for the administration of the university and for the faculty association. Indeed, the mil rate used to calculate FAUW dues is the third lowest in Canada, and is one-half to one-third the rate used at the majority of other universities. The downside is that the task of defending faculty interests involves voluminous volunteer service work for FAUW and its subcommittees, AF&T in particular.

Come back next week as David lays out five more reasons that contribute to the University of Waterloo’s success!