FAUW Updates – Part 2 of 2

David Porreca, FAUW President

This is a continuation from Part 1 posted last week.

6. Pharmacy building

East side of the pharmacy building showing flower garden

Photo by George Freeman

FAUW has received reports that certain peculiarities of the newish Pharmacy building on the corner of King & Victoria in Kitchener have been generating substantial environmental problems for the users of the building.  In particular, large teaching laboratories on the King Street side of the building have been experiencing high temperature and humidity levels on hot summer days.

Their large windows face roughly north east and would get direct sun in the early morning, especially around the summer solstice.  Users of the lab need the full protective gear of safety glasses, long-sleeved lab coats, etc., along with giant fume hoods to whisk away any hazardous vapours. It is possible the HVAC equipment in that part of the building is not sufficient to its task or needs adjustment in view of the exhaust force of the fume hoods.  FAUW and colleagues working in the Pharmacy building are working with Plant Ops to find a solution.

7. Fall break?

Sign post labelled October pointing to the right

© Filipe Frazao / Dollar Photo Club

The Federation of Students has expressed an interest in running a referendum on whether or not to call upon the university to establish a Fall Break, similar to the winter-term Reading Week.  Currently, 14 Ontario universities have such a break, leaving only 8 without one (UW included).  A Task Force has just produced a report for the Provost detailing the various trade-offs that would be needed for such a break to be established (e.g., some combination of shortening Orientation, allowing exams on December 23, Sunday exams, and other options).

The mandate of the task force was simply to gather information about these trade-offs, and to comment on their relative feasibility, rather to make any decisions or formal recommendations about whether or not to go ahead with this idea. The Task Force had good representation from all relevant stakeholder groups, and any moves toward a Fall Break would certainly involve much more extensive consultation of all the relevant parties. Any changes would require formal approval by Senate.

8. FAUW staffing

Just as the university itself is facing a crisis of continuity, the Faculty Association is also in a similar bind with respect to our staff. We have already bid farewell in early July to Jim Tigwell, our Communications Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, as well as to Carrie Hunting in mid-August, who was our Academic Freedom and Tenure and Policy Officer. Job postings forthcoming.

Geese graxing on the lawn beside the ENV3 building

Photo by George Freeman

9. Revamped course evaluations

Another Task Force, chaired by Mark Seasons (School of Planning) has been working on revising how UW conducts its in-class instructor evaluations by students. The faculty of mathematics and the faculty of science have been doing some pilot testing of all-electronic course evaluations using a very promising in-house electronic system. FAUW will be paying close attention to who has access to the completed evaluations, their format and content as well as to how they end up being used.

10. FAUW retreat and priorities for 2014-15

In July, the FAUW Board of Directors held its first-in-a-long-time strategic retreat to discuss large-scale issues facing us over the next year. During this retreat, we established a list of items that we hope to devote time and effort to over the course of the year. Some have already been discussed above, others are listed briefly here:

a – Surveys: the FAUW Communications Sub-Committee intends to do more intensive polling of our membership on assorted questions of concern during this year.

b – Revisions to Policy 33 (Ethical Behaviour)

c – ADDS status: the revised ADDS regulations are winding their way through various Faculty Councils before going for approval at Senate. Revisions to the draft FAUW negotiated with grad students and the administration last year is likely to undergo revisions as a result of this process. More as it arises.

d – Performance evaluations: The idea of shifting tenured faculty members to a biennial performance evaluation scheme will be considered once again over the course of the year.

e – Arts 1.25 for service: This refers to the manner in which standards were set and communicated for assessments on the faculty annual performance (merit) evaluation.  It remains unresolved from last year.

f – Best practices in graduate supervision: In collaboration with FAUW and the GSO, the Graduate Students’ Association is planning to develop a document setting out best practices in graduate supervision.

g – Athletics: We will continue to explore ways of improving our health and wellness facilities on campus in collaboration with the student and staff associations.

FAUW Issues Update

David Porreca, FAUW president

It has been an extremely busy start to the Fall term.  Now that we are at the mid-way point, it is time to provide you, dear reader, with an update as to what has been keeping us at FAUW on our toes over the past several weeks.

ADDS status

The task force on the Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor status regulations is pursuing its work with a view to reporting to the Faculty Relations Committee and the Graduate Student Relations Committee in November.  We are looking at solutions to ensure good graduate supervision that meets students’ needs while addressing the manifold concerns with how the current ADDS policy is communicated, applied and enforced.  At FAUW’s request, the Provost’s Office has written to each individual faculty member who has been hired in the past 6 years to inform them of the current policy, and equivalent language has been included in employment letters for those colleagues hired this past year.

Since doctoral dissertation supervisors can belong to a number of different categories of faculty members (e.g., visiting, clinical, tenure-track, tenured at UW, hired with tenure from elsewhere), the eventual policy would need to be formulated in such a way as to address the issues relating specifically to each one.

New AF&T chair

I am very pleased to announce that our colleague Christopher Small from Statistics and Actuarial Science had kindly agreed to replace Peter Van Beek as the Chair of FAUW’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee when the latter ends his term of office at the end of August 2014.  The AF&T Chair is a challenging position that can have an enormously positive impact on the careers of our members, and we at FAUW are very pleased that Christopher has expressed such keenness to take on the role.

Athletics

Our blog post from September 9 highlighted some of the issues relating to athletics that affect faculty members’ working environment.  New concerns have come to light in the meantime:

    University of Waterloo Physical Activities Complex

  1. There is no controlled access to the change rooms (e.g., turnstiles), which is commonplace in most reputable athletics facilities.
  2. All staff members who dispense towels and oversee the (otherwise) uncontrolled access to the change rooms must walk through the men’s change room area in order to gain access to their office space.
  3. Upon examination of the floor plan of the PAC, it turns out that the female change room is about ½ the size of the men’s. Unless there is a demonstrable difference in usage rates between the two groups, this layout is evidently problematic from an equity perspective.
  4. A rough estimate sees 1/3 of the lockers in the men’s change room being broken and unusable, and another 1/3 being unused (those with the locks upside down). In other words, the space is under-used by a substantial margin. The lockers are in a deplorable condition, and we should all be grateful that campus ambassadors do not take visitors through the change rooms.

In light of the above, the Faculty Association is pushing for renovations to the PAC that would

  • Restore separate change rooms for faculty and staff
  • Replace the lockers with new equipment
  • Maintain safe access to the emergency exits
  • Ideally, address the concern over equity

If all groups of stakeholders – faculty (FAUW), staff (UWSA), graduate students (GSA), undergraduate students (Feds) and the university administration (via Athletics or the Provost’s Office) – could come together to fund such renovations, all the stated groups would benefit at a modest cost to each.

Also, feedback from female colleagues as to the state of the women’s change rooms at the PAC would be greatly appreciated.  Please comment below or e-mail the FAUW president at dporreca@uwaterloo.ca.

Best practices in hiring

FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC) produced a 6-page report on “Best Practices in Hiring” for faculty members. This document has received endorsement by Deans’ Council and will be presented to the Executive Council of the university in late November. Recognition of the need for such a document at those high levels of university administration is an encouraging sign to be sure, as long as we eventually see proportional corresponding action.

Grad House memberships

Some of you have been asking about how faculty memberships at the Grad House work. Henry Ensley, manager of the Grad House, has written a letter explaining how it all works.

Instructor evaluations

FAUW is being consulted on what shape we would like to see course evaluations take in the future. Discussions will include student representatives and qualified staff from CTE. If you have strong feelings or ideas you’re willing to share about course evaluations, please comment below or e-mail the FAUW president at dporreca@uwaterloo.ca.

OCUFA Queen’s Park Lobby Day

UW’s Kate Lawson (OCUFA President) and David Porreca (FAUW President) met with four local MPPs on Wednesday 23 October at Queen’s Park: Ted Arnott (PC – Wellington–Halton Hills); Catherine Fife (NDP – Kitchener–Waterloo); Rob Leone (Cambridge) and Hon. John Milloy (Kitchener Centre). We had four basic messages to deliver to our representatives:

  1. That the province needs to fund an independent study on the working conditions of contract academic staff across the province in order to help resolve long-standing concerns about their job precariousness, lack of real academic freedom and potential for exploitation.
  2. That the province needs to provide temporary solvency relief to university sector pension plans for those institutions that need it.  We had been asking for a 1-year extension of such relief in order to give enough time to OCUFA to complete its study on university-sector pension plans. Much to our relief, however, in the middle of our meeting sessions, news came out that the province had granted a 3-year window of solvency relief.
  3. That the province needs to restore funding to its faculties of education. This question did not concern UW as much, so I shall not belabour it here.
  4. That the province need not incentivize differentiation between universities in the province because institutions of higher education are already plenty differentiated as it is, from small liberal arts colleges to the University of Toronto, with UW standing out – among other things – for its long-standing commitment to the co-op stream and for having a full Faculty of Mathematics.

Our messages were well-received, in particular, the first point, with members from all three parties agreeing to request such a study from the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Scheduling

FAUW is anxiously awaiting the results of the latest simulation of the new scheduling system, as discussed in last week’s post by Bryan Tolson.

Senate bylaws

The Secretariat has announced plans to undertake a full-scale revision of the Senate bylaws. The first phase of this initiative is restricted to housekeeping changes, but revisions to Section 5 (selection of members of the Senate) are being left for last as they are more likely to be substantive. These revisions require great vigilance to ensure that nothing deleterious to our working lives as faculty members happens as a result of the proposed changes.  Faculty senators are encouraged to exercise active vigilance when these documents become available for consideration.

UW’s numbered policies

The Secretariat is also undertaking a full-scale multi-phased revision of all 69 of UW’s numbered policies (still listed as 1-77, with some gaps).  The first phase will involve housekeeping changes (e.g., regularizing and updating the names of buildings and offices that are mentioned in the policies), but later phases will also involve substantive changes.  Through the Faculty Relations Committee, the approval of the Faculty Association will be necessary for any changes that are to be made to Class F, FS and A policies.  FAUW plans to devote substantial time and energy to make sure that any changes are favourable to faculty members’ interests.  The numbered guidelines and procedures will also be subject of an eventual analogous revision.

Work-Life Balance Report update

The joint FAUW/Provost’s Office Work-Life Balance Report that was presented to Senate back in February 2013 is becoming integrated purposefully into the “Value System” focus area of UW’s newly released (but-not-yet-fully-Senate-approved) Strategic Plan.  FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee produced a “Compassionate Care and Bereavement Leave” report that will be considered in conjunction with the WLB report at the same level.

Event reminders

Please mark your calendars for the following events:

Privacy Colloquium: Wednesday, December 4, 2 – 5 in M3 1006, with reception to follow.
Fall General Meeting: Monday, December 9, 11-1, Location TBA. Light lunch provided

CAUT Gets Science Right, and Other FAUW News

David Porreca, FAUW President

Welcome back!  In this inaugural FAUW blog post for the 2013-14 academic year, I would like first to send out a keen welcome to all 70+ new faculty members who have joined UW over the last hiring cycle.  FAUW now represents ~1,150 faculty members.  I also plan to bring this blog’s readership up to date on the wide assortment of issues both new and ongoing from last year.


CAUT: “Get Science Right”

The Canadian Association of University Teachers is holding its inaugural Town Hall meeting that is part of its “Get Science Right” campaign, 17 September 3-5pm at the Waterloo Public Library.  This cross-country series of gatherings are intended to alert the Canadian citizenry about the federal government’s attitudes and policies toward a number of imbricated issues: the importance of primary, curiosity-driven research in general; the funding formulae for the Tri-Agencies; the muzzling of government-funded Canadian scientists; and the active discouragement and closure of scientific research when its results prove politically inconvenient.  The CBC will be filming an episode of The Fifth Estate at this event, and all faculty members who do research are encouraged in the strongest possible terms to attend.

Upcoming Hagey Lecture

The 2013 Hagey Lecture will be presented by historian Margaret MacMillan on Thursday, 19 September at 8pm in the Humanities Theatre, Hagey Hall. Admission is free. The topic of the lecture will be “Choice or Accident: The Outbreak of World War One”. Margaret MacMillan is regarded as a leading historian of the British Empire at the turn of the 20th century. She is an officer of the Order of Canada, a member of the Royal Society of Literature, and a professor of history at Oxford University.

Bright Starts Daycare

Good news: the construction of the Bright Starts amalgamated daycare building (between the train tracks and the Optometry building on Columbia) is still on schedule, to be ready for occupancy in mid-November. Barring unforeseen impediments, only delays in provincial inspection and licensing will keep this new facility from beginning its operations on schedule in January 2014.

Replacing Per Diems: Online Expense Claims?

UW is considering the purchase of an automated online expense claims system intended to replace the now-abandoned system of per diem expense claims. This process has raised a number of concerns regarding the security of faculty members’ private financial transactions if a non-Canadian cloud-based provider is selected to supply the software package. Consequently, in collaboration with the Secretariat and the Dean of Mathematics, FAUW is helping to organize a half-day colloquium on electronic security issues so as to inform the university’s decision when it comes to this critical software purchase. Stay tuned to this space for more information about this important event!

Changeover in Administration

UW is undergoing a massive changeover in the individuals occupying the upper levels of administration.  The following high-profile positions are currently awaiting permanent occupants:

  • University Registrar
  • Vice-President Academic and Provost
  • Associate Provost, Human Resources
  • Equity Officer (brand-new position created to address ongoing concerns about equity in hiring at UW, among other things)
  • Director of Institutional Analysis and Planning (Allan Starr has recently been hired into this position)

Scheduling

FAUW will be watching very carefully the progress of the testing being done on the proposed new scheduling system this fall.  FAUW is holding firm to its position that the new scheduling system will not be allowed to go live until it is shown to be better than the current system for all constituents (i.e., faculty members, students, administrative staff) and for room allocation.

With respect to faculty members, FAUW aims to have each colleague receive two schedules: one hypothetical created using the new system, and the real one arrived at using the current scheme and that is actually the live schedule for the term. FAUW is volunteering to coordinate the compilation of faculty members’ preferences for one schedule or the other.  Stay tuned!

No Faculty/Staff Change Room in PAC?

Over the summer, it has come to FAUW’s attention that the separate, dedicated change room for faculty and staff has been closed without a replacement planned until further notice.  Faculty members and staff are now meant to share change rooms and shower space with students.  This is an unacceptable situation for a number of very good reasons – the ease of use of camera phones and the potential for sexual harassment lawsuits come to mind.  An informal survey conducted by FAUW over the summer showed that the overwhelming majority of faculty members responding (38 of 40) were upset at the change in PAC facilities. This change also affects UW staff, and I am pleased to report that both FAUW and the Staff Association will be encouraging a return to the status quo ante (or some acceptable alternative) in the strongest possible terms.

Secure, Covered Bike Parking

Thanks to FAUW’s suggestion, four spots for covered, secure bike parking have been installed outside of Rod Coutts Hall with a view to assessing how much demand for these there actually is. While this is a commendable start, it is FAUW’s view that such secure facilities fall under the category of “build it, and they will come.” The cost-to-benefit ratio for this initiative should make its spread across campus both inevitable and a no-brainer. Further deployment of these facilities is a priority for FAUW, and we will continue to encourage the university administration to see its merits and virtues for the entire community – students, faculty and staff (e.g., greater fitness and work-life balance; improving security of UW community transportation infrastructure; stemming the flow of incessant reports of bicycle thefts to UW Police; encouraging the reduction in fossil fuel use).

Short-Term / Long-Term Disability Claims

The concerns that FAUW had raised in the summer of 2012 about the improper collection and transfer of information between Short-Term and Long-Term disability claims between UW and its insurance provider, Great-West Life, have largely been resolved to FAUW’s satisfaction.  Many thanks to all those who contributed to its eventual resolution, both from within FAUW and from UW’s staff in Human Resources.

Et Cetera

Other items on FAUW’s to-do list for this year:

  • The prioritization of the implementation of the Work-Life Balance Report’s recommendations, as well a
    s those contained in the Status of Women and Equity Committee’s Compassionate Care and Bereavement Leave Report.
  • Defining the relationship between FUAC faculty members and their main-campus departmental counterparts.
  • Discussions surrounding the definition of ADDS status are ongoing, and the working group in charge of revisiting this set of regulations aims to report to Faculty Relations Committee and the Graduate Relations Committee this term.