FAUW’s Priorities for 2018-19

—FAUW President Bryan Tolson with an update on what we’re working on right now and what’s coming up this year.

Welcome to a new academic year! I hope you all took some time off this summer. FAUW is gearing up for a new academic year and I want to quickly fill you in on the array of things we are working on—and to highlight two items that are timely for you to consider putting some thought into.

Performance evaluation addenda

First off, we are quickly approaching the deadline (October 15) for each department and school to update its Addendum to their Faculty Performance Evaluation Guidelines. One quick example of why this might be useful: FAUW thinks this is a reasonable place for departments to specify how teaching tasks are counted and/or what the normal teaching loads are for both tenured/ tenure-track faculty and lecturers in your department.

While you’re at it, make sure to change any reference to “course/teaching evaluations” to read “student course perception surveys” as per the decision of University Senate. Continue reading “FAUW’s Priorities for 2018-19”

Faculty Performance Evaluations To Get an Overhaul

The University of Waterloo is presently considering amending the Memorandum of Agreement to change the way in which faculty members are evaluated. While discussion of student evaluation of teaching abounds in the academic community, faculty performance evaluation has so far received little attention in comparison.
In this context, UW brings a substantive but positive proposal to cut performance evaluations for tenured and continuing faculty back to only every other year, and increases the transparency of the review process. Pre-tenure and definite term faculty members will still submit activity reports and receive feedback every year.
Evaluating each Faculty member is a very time-consuming exercise; spacing it out to every two years will free up time for both administrators and faculty members to address other pressing issues.
The full text of the proposed changes and answers to questions you might have are provided on FAUW’s website. The FAUW board of directors endorses these changes and believes that they are in the best interests of our members.
If you’d like to learn more or discuss the proposal with board members, we invite you to a town hall meeting on October 5, so you can make an informed decision before voting. The poll will be open from October 3 to October 14.
–Élise Lepage

Ratings for Service

From Sally Gunz, FAUW President

There have been rumours swirling around various places on campus for a year or more that FAUW is finally able to address. These relate to possible instructions from at least one dean to chairs to have the average for service in the annual performance evaluations in any particular department to be no more than 1.25 or ‘good’ (MoA, 13.5.3).

The position of FAUW has been consistently that this violates terms and conditions of employment as described in the MoA. Specifically, if the average of only one element of the three most faculty are evaluated upon (i.e., Research, Teaching, Service) is reduced, the consequence is to lower the weighting of that element (to below the 20 percent weighting for service for most faculty members). 

We have now had confirmed that in fact there is no such directive to lower averages for service. Obviously if anyone still hears from their own chair that service weightings must be lowered overall, please let us know. It often takes time for these kinds of rumours to be dispelled.

What is the Merit of Merit?

David Porreca, FAUW President
This post owes its origin to a discussion we had both at the last FAUW Board meeting and a subsequent e-mail conversation among Board members. Essentially, the question boils down to asking whether all of the effort expended on the annual assessment of merit for faculty members provides a net benefit of productivity for all the relevant stakeholders: individual faculty members, our university as an institution, and academia writ large? 
In other words, what purpose does our current scheme of merit evaluations serve?

Just a few years ago, FAUW and the university’s administration undertook a review of the faculty evaluation process, and decided to maintain the broad structure of our current scheme of performance evaluations while encouraging department chairs to use “the full dynamic range” of designations from 0 to 2, in 0.25 increments.  Data regarding the distribution of merit scores is provided in the appendices to the Work-Life Balance Report that was released earlier this year.  Salary increments based on merit are drawn from a different pool of money than the scale increase that FAUW negotiates on its members’ behalf. 
As we all know, this process of annual merit evaluations involves a substantial amount of effort from faculty members filling in forms and templates every January.  As anyone who has been department chair or who has contributed to a departmental evaluation committee knows all too well, those templates and CVs are only the beginning.  An unquantified number of very expensive hours gets invested annually in the evaluating, assessing, comparing and ranking of these materials once submitted, and the resulting evaluation rankings get yet another round of assessment and vetting at the various Deans’ offices across campus. 
As one might expect under circumstances where professionals are judged against each other, considerations of fairness on the one hand, and of inevitable professional jealousy on the other, create fertile ground for the questioning of the resulting evaluations.  A member must determine whether s/he has the wherewithal to challenge the chair’s decision, perhaps as far as an appeal to the Dean, and such an appeal would involve an investment of working hours for all concerned, faculty, academic administrators and staff. 
In addition to these resource-consuming mechanisms mandated by policy and the Memorandum of Agreement, there is also the human angle of productivity loss due to the mental anguish that fretting over this forest of procedures causes.
Considering all of the above, does the net difference between an evaluation score of 1.5 vs. 1.75 on a professor’s salary justify the investment of human capital into all the mechanisms described above?  In a nutshell, it would seem that never has so much time been invested for the sake of so small a net difference. 

ON THE OTHER HAND…

If one compounds that difference over a professor’s whole career, the differences do add up.  Annual performance evaluations are essential for a university with high aspirations.
They serve the role of both carrot and stick.
In principle, they reward those faculty members who, by virtue of having more talent or working harder, accomplish more as teachers, researchers and administrative colleagues. These people expect and deserve better raises in recognition of their accomplishments.
At the same time, evaluations serve as a reminder to the lazier side of our nature that we
should be making strong contributions as researchers, teachers and administrative colleagues.  Despite what we like to believe about ourselves, we are not solely driven from within to be good professors. We need help from knowing that some sort of annual accounting has to be provided.
No system of performance evaluation can be perfect.  Given our human nature, a perfect system for doing such business is not possible.  All that an institution can do is try its best, and continue to seek improvements towards fair outcomes.  But “fair” is a tough target to hit in this endeavor, and there is no getting around it. 

To Provost or Not to Provost?

David Porreca, FAUW President

Well, as many of you already know, our institution had a heart attack last week. Dr. Sallie Ann Keller resigned from the position of Vice-President Academic and Provost (VPAP) after nine months on the job.

Quite understandably, this topic dominated the discussion at the Faculty Association Board of Directors’ meeting this past Thursday. This sort of development tends to lead to speculation about what might have gone wrong. In this post, however, I would like to highlight some of the significantly positive developments – from the Faculty Association’s perspective – that have occurred under Dr. Keller’s leadership:

  • UW did the right thing in not signing on to Access Copyright’s framework. Instead, we have developed our own set of copyright guidelines that are described in full in the UW Copyright FAQ.
UW Dubai Campus
UW Dubai Campus
  • UW’s satellite campus in Dubai is closing. The opening of this campus was actively opposed by the Faculty Association from the get-go for a variety of good reasons, including the lack of a credible business plan for the project, and the impossibility for all UW policies to apply on that campus (e.g., an openly gay faculty member would be committing a capital offence the moment they set foot off the plane in the United Arab Emirates).

    Although the manner in which the closure has proceeded has generated no small amount of controversy, the facts that a) enrolment never met expectations; b) resources were deployed whose opportunity cost for main campus operations were recognized to be deleterious; and c) concerns over equity for participants in activities at the Dubai campus were never adequately addressed, have all made the Faculty Association cheer its closure. In fact, it has been difficult to resist loud shouts of “We told you so!!”

  • Inequities surrounding benefits for couples who are both UW employees have been resolved.
  • The railroading of a new scheduling system with inadequate communication and inadequate consultation with key stakeholders had been slowed, such that all interested parties can get their concerns integrated into the deployment of the new system over the next year or so.
  • After unconscionable delays and consequent mushrooming of costs, the construction of a consolidated daycare facility for the university community is finally going ahead.
There are other files around which we have seen significant progress:
  • The approaching resolution of issues around the collection and retention of confidential medical information from those applying for Short-Term and/or Long-Term Disability benefits.
  • Implementing regular, systematic checks for faculty salary anomalies and their adequate resolution.
  • The oversight and governance of Senate-approved centres and institutes, so as to avoid in the future the controversy surrounding the governance of the Balsillie School of International Affairs

All of the above being said, we recognize that there are still some issues that are the source of significant concern for our membership that we still need to push forward:

  • Per diems. Reports keep coming in that other institutions (e.g., the University of Toronto and McMaster University) have managed to retain their per diem systems for expense claims despite the apparent imposition of provincial regulations. Investigations are ongoing on the applicability of the systems deployed at those institutions to UW.
  • Senate Long-Range Planning Committee oversight of satellite campuses. We are aiming to set in place regulations that will prevent the occurrence of future debacles such as our Dubai campus. Defining satellite campuses is a key component of this issue.
  • Pensions: Not everyone is happy with the changes to our pension plan that were put forward last year for implementation in 2014. Efforts are ongoing to improve the situation through broader consultation.
  • The Work-Life Balance Report authored by DeVidi, Parry, Collington, Clapp and Brown contains a number of sensible recommendations to improve our working conditions. The exact mechanisms for the implementation of the Report’s recommendations are still under discussion.
  • Concerns over the inadequacy of UW’s provisions for compassionate care and bereavement leave have been raised and distilled into a report for FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee. The implementation of this report’s recommendations is also under discussion.
  • Having biennial evaluations for tenured faculty members is an issue that has been raised many times over the years which we will be looking into more closely.

Well, there you have it: the good, the “in progress” and the “yet-to-do” lists. The length and significance of the first two are a testimony to the good working relationship the Faculty Association had with Dr. Keller. We look forward to having an equally productive relationship with Dr. Geoff McBoyle who will be returning as the interim VPAP, as well as with his eventual permanent successor.