News From Your Board: May 3 Meeting Recap

Here’s what went down at the first Board meeting of the spring term.

A member raised a concern about how FAUW dues are calculated at the Spring General Meeting. Currently, our dues are calculated based on the average salary of all members within a given rank. A review of other institutions revealed that we might be unique in this manner: Other universities charge dues based on a member’s actual salary. Our treasurer Dan Brown informed the Board that he is following up on the potential for this dues structure at Waterloo, and is planning to bring a more detailed assessment of the feasibility of this to the Board shortly.

We debriefed the GoFundMe campaign launched by FAUW to demonstrate support for diversity at the University of Waterloo in light of a planned (and then cancelled) event on campus featuring Faith Goldy and Ricardo Duchesne. Though this fundraising has been successful, the Board acknowledged that ongoing efforts are needed to ensure an open and accepting campus community. The Board also heard that, in response to this cancelled event, some faculty members and students were organizing a teach-in, which is now happening on Thursday, May 10.

FAUW’s executive manager Erin Windibank reported on happenings at the CAUT council meeting in April. In particular, CAUT is asking for any faculty who have recently had issues crossing the US border, for example with security or border services asking for access to social media accounts, computer or cellphone passwords, or questions about what one may be reading. If you have experienced these or similar requests, please email borderissues@caut.ca.

The Board voted to contribute to a fundraiser for Amir Kiumarsi, a faculty member and union steward at Ryerson University who was injured during the recent vehicular assault in Toronto. As contract faculty, Kiumarsi has no benefits or leave time, so his recovery will result in significant financial stress for his family. Ryerson contract faculty have set up a GoFundMe campaign to support Kiumarsi and his family.

Lastly, if you live in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding, or just really love political debates, FAUW is supporting an all-candidates meeting at 10:00 am on May 16 at Lazaridis Hall Auditorium (WLU).

—Peter Johnson, director for the Faculty of Environment

How You Can Support Fair Copyright and Federal Investment in Basic Research

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is a national organization representing 70,000 academic staff across Canada, including you! All faculty at Waterloo who are represented by FAUW are part of CAUT.

CAUT serves as a resource for faculty associations and members through research, legal support, workshops, and conferences, and lobbies governments on behalf of Canadian academic staff. It also provides ways for individual members to take action on issues affecting academic work.

This month, CAUT is asking members to participate in two major campaigns: Get Science Right, and the Fair Copyright campaign. Read on to find out how you can support these initiatives.

Get Science Right

Thanks to a concerted push by the academic community, the government is hearing the importance of acting on the Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science recommendation to deepen federal investment in basic research.

We need to keep up the pressure.

Here are some simple actions you can take to help propel fundamental research to the top of the government’s agenda for Budget 2018.

1. Meet your Member of Parliament.

Kick off the winter semester by meeting with your Member of Parliament (MP) to talk about important research underway or that could be at your institution, and the role this research will have in improving Canadians’ lives. MPs will be in their ridings until January 26, 2018.

CAUT has prepared some tips and templates to support you as reach out to your MP. Bring this flyer with you to leave with the MP.

2. Write letters to Cabinet Ministers.

Cabinet is where government priorities are set and funding decisions are made. In order to prioritize fundamental science, Honourable Kirsty Duncan, the Minister of Science, needs support at the Cabinet table.

Write letters to Cabinet Ministers to share how increased federal investment in fundamental research is essential to fulfilling their mandate. Use CAUT’s letter template to get started.

3. Sign and share CAUT’s petition.

Add your name to CAUT’s petition calling on the government to increase base funding to research granting councils by $1.3 billion over four years.

Once you sign it, share the petition on social media or via email.

4. Tell the federal government what’s in #YourBudget2018.

Visit #YourBudget2018 to take four short surveys and send an email to the Finance Committee with your priority for the upcoming federal budget – funding for fundamental research. Join the conversation online using the hashtag #YourBudget2018.


Fair Copyright

The federal Copyright Act is under legislative review. The review may roll back important rights, including fair dealing that the education community fought for decades to achieve.

Here are some things you can do right now to help defend these past victories, and advance new rights.

1. Read a Public Service Announcement in class on the importance of fair copyright.

2. Take a selfie with your publications or other creations and share it on social media using the message: I am a creator and I support fair dealing. #fairdealingworks #faircopyright

3. Encourage students to take a picture of their textbook receipts and share on social media with the message using the hashtags #fairdealingworks #faircopyright

4. Show this video at a meeting and in the classroom, put up a poster, and distribute information to colleagues and students to help them learn more about what is at stake.

5. Encourage everyone you know to sign CAUT’s petition calling for the protection of the fair dealing rights of academic staff and students.

To learn more about the Copyright Act review and what it means for academic staff, read our latest Education Review.

News From Your Board – November 23 Board Meeting Recap

Sally Gunz, Past President

This is the time of year when we debrief our Council of Representatives meeting (November 14) and set the agenda for the Fall General Meeting (December 6). The former was very useful—thanks to all reps who attended. Interestingly, the exercise Shannon Dea (chairing the meeting) led reps through in terms of who knows what about FAUW and the University has informed our agenda setting for the General meeting. More later when the agenda is circulated.

Heidi Engelhardt reported back about her work on the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health. She chairs the Academic Panel. This is an important initiative and the discussion allowed for review of the interactions between this panel’s work and other initiatives on campus, and the Policy 33 review in particular.

Bryan Tolson attended a Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) Council meeting in Ottawa this past weekend and some time was taken addressing issues expected to come up there.

Finally, with salary negotiations about to begin, our team (Benoit Charbonneau, Shelley Hulan and Dave Vert) is seeking guidance from the FAUW board on its mandate and, of course, it is best we treat these discussions as confidential. The team for the administration is, as with the last round, three deans but a completely new slate: James Rush (AHS), Pearl Sullivan (Engineering), and Steven Watt (Mathematics). Negotiations begin on December 1 and will run through the early months of next year. More on this in due course.

Lessons from the CAUT New Activists Workshop

Elise Lepage, FAUW Board member
On November 24, I attended the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ New Activists Workshop in Ottawa on behalf of FAUW. This was the second edition of this day-long workshop and it was well attended by more than 40 colleagues representing universities from coast to coast. I found it both well- thought-out and structured, and yet just open enough for effective and meaningful discussions to happen.
The workshop started with an open discussion to identify the challenges faced by post-secondary education. The list was long and it appears that despite the major differences in terms of size, location, and mission of each university, all of us share very similar concerns.
We summed this list of concerns up in four keywords: austerity, solidarity, equity, and (lack of) collegial governance. Groups were formed around these major topics to further the discussion, and offer some strategies.
Another keyword that came up in all the discussions was indigenization, and it appears that Canadian universities are at very different stages in this process. Good practices have to be shared. CAUT offered its support in facilitating this academic culture shift.
[Editor’s note: University Affairs has a good overview of indigenization efforts across Canada (and criticisms of such), and the University of Regina offers 100 ways to Indigenize and decolonize academic programs and courses (PDF).]
There were also hands-on sessions in which we developed communication and organizational skills such as writing a grievance or a press release, or producing awareness-raising materials such as posters and videos.

Overall, it was a very useful and informative workshop, and I am looking forward to sharing and applying some of these ideas and skills in my work with FAUW.

Putting a Face on Contract Faculty Members: A Recent Study

Guest post by Kate Lawson for CAUT’s Fair Employment Week

Most of us would agree that academic jobs should be good jobs. But many of us have little knowledge of the real working conditions and academic background of contract faculty members, colleagues who are also known as “sessionals” or “part-timers.”

A recently published study by C.C. Field and G.A. Jones from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) provides much-needed data about who contract faculty are at Ontario universities.

If you think that “sessionals” teach “part-time” by choice, that they lack a terminal degree, do not engage in research, or teach “on the side” because they have a full-time job elsewhere, then you are thinking of what Field and Jones call classic sessionals. In their study, classics sessionals comprise 24.8% of those surveyed.

By contrast, 61.3% of contract faculty are what they term precarious sessionals who rely on their income from instructional work.

Field and Jones state that they use “the term ‘precarious’ for two reasons: first, many are working full-time equivalent workloads (when courses are available) on a semester-by semester basis, with little or no job security; and second, these sessionals are likely to be either hopeful or disillusioned with the idea of having a full-time permanent career in the academy.”

So who are the “precarious sessionals,” according to Field and Jones?

  • They are likely to be female (60.2%); 
  • They are likely to hold a PhD (70.94%); 
  • They are likely to work on short-term contracts of less than 6 months (53.9%); 
  • They are likely to aspire to a full-time position with benefits in the academy. 

Do “precarious sessionals” work part-time?

  • many are working full-time equivalent hours and course loads; 
  • 63.1% teach an average at least two or more courses per semester in the winter/fall.

Is the “precarious sessional” pool a transient one?

  • Field and Jones report: “One of the most surprising findings is that sessional faculty are not as transient a group as one might have anticipated. In fact, over 15% of our sample have been working for more than 15 years as a sessional instructor. Only 12.6% of respondents reported that they had worked one year or less, with 26.12% having between 2 and 4 years of experience, and 26.8% having between 5 and 8 years of experience. Those with 9 to 14 years of experience make up the final 17.8%. Roughly one-third of all respondents had 9 or more years of experience as a sessional instructor.” 

Do “precarious sessionals” engage in research?

  • 37% are pursuing an active program of research, even though research is typically unremunerated. 

What are the effects on individuals of short-term contract work?

  • 89% find short-term contractual employment to be a source of considerable personal strain (compared with only 29% of classic sessional faculty). 

What do contract faculty earn through teaching on a sessional, part-time, or contract basis?

  • roughly 45% of sessional faculty earn less than $19,930 (the Low-income measure after tax);
  • 25.6% earn between $19,930 and $39,999; 
  • 17.3% report a middle-class income of between $40,000 and $79,999; 
  • 2.6% of respondents earn more than $80,000
Field and Jones’ study also provides a lot of useful suggestions for department chairs at places such as UW. For example, in order to help improve the working conditions for contract faculty, chairs can try to ensure that they have:

  • Contracts issued well in advance of the teaching term; 
  • Timely access to learning management systems, photocopiers, the library, and professional development opportunities; 
  • Private office space so that contract faculty can meet students; 
  • A stable email address; 
  • Invitations to department meetings; and 
  • Supplies such as whiteboard markers, paper, and letterhead. 
If you care about the quality of higher education in Ontario, you should care about the working conditions of contract faculty members. I urge you to read the study in its entirety.

Field, C. C. & Jones, G.A. (2016). A Survey of Sessional Faculty in Ontario Publicly-Funded Universities. Toronto: Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education, OISE-University of Toronto.

CAUT Discussion List on the Copyright Act Review

In anticipation of the upcoming parliamentary review of the Copyright Act, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has created and is hosting a listerv called copy2017a.

The purpose of the list is to facilitate communication among individuals in the education community about the 2017 review.

If you would like to join the list, please contact Paul Jones (jones@caut.ca), CAUT’s Education officer.

By way of background, the purpose of copy2017a is to facilitate discussion of topics of interest to individuals in the education community about the 2017 Review of the Canadian Copyright Act. List members share information about what is happening at the local, provincial, national and international level, and participate in developing advocacy strategies to ensure copyright law respects and furthers the interests of the education community.

copy2017a is a bilingual discussion group and correspondence is encouraged in French or English. copy2017a is not to be used for the posting of job advertisements.

Postings to the list should be addressed to copy2017a@lists.caut.ca

All postings must include the identification of the sender (name, institution and email address).

Participation in this list is open to individuals. The list is not moderated. Any messages inappropriate for general distribution should not be posted. Participants should be aware that any messages posted or replies to messages posted are automatically distributed to all those on the list. Anyone wishing to communicate to individuals on the list is encouraged to send a private message, rather than utilizing copy2017a. Any participants who post material found to be defamatory or who violate any list rules will be removed from the list.

Did you know…that the activities of academic librarians align closely with academic staff?

Academic Status and Governance for Librarians at Canadian Universities and Colleges, a document of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), emphasizes how similar the terms and conditions of Librarians’ employment are to Faculty. Locally, this is reflected at the University of Waterloo where Academic Librarians contribute directly to the University’s mission “to advance learning and knowledge through teaching, research, and scholarship … in an environment of free expression and inquiry”.

For example, Academic Librarians teach information literacy, support academic integrity, manage research collections, serve on professional bodies, sit on University groups, conduct original research, participate on research teams, contribute knowledge to their field, present at conferences, publish in peer-reviewed journals, and instruct within library and information science graduate programs. Given the specialized and scholarly nature of Academic Librarianship, University of Waterloo Librarians have expert knowledge in the areas of pedagogy, metadata, copyright, digital initiatives, geospatial information, and bibliometrics.

The intellectual nature of Academic Librarianship is also reflected in the fact that Waterloo’s 30 Professional Librarians have American Library Association-accredited Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degrees, which provide the practical and theoretical foundation for their research, teaching, and service activities. Learn more about the activities and accomplishments of University of Waterloo Librarians.

The Corporate University

—David Porreca, FAUW President

This week’s blog post draws on some of the discussion that occurred at this past weekend’s Faculty Association Presidents’ Forum organized by the Canadian Association of University Teachers in Ottawa.

I have often been curious to what extent the predominance of corporations in our society and political culture has permeated the academic environment in general, and that at UW in particular. How far down the corporatization slope have we gone?

1) Privatization and diversification of funding sources

UW began its life as a public institution, receiving the vast majority of its operating monies from the public purse, and therefore assumed to be operating for the public good. In recent years, however, UW has diversified and privatized its sources of funding, with growing proportions coming from tuition fees and partnerships with industry, to the extent that much less than half of our operating expenditures is sourced from public funds – I recall 39% being mentioned at a Town Hall meeting a little while ago.

The consequences of this shift are both good and bad: on the one hand, the financial health of the institution is less dependent on the vagaries of provincial politics; on the other, our institution is forced to deploy special efforts to maintain academic integrity in the face of the increasing pressure to put ‘bums in seats’ in order to balance the bottom line. International students in particular are at risk of being treated as customers rather than learners.

In essence, we must be extremely wary to preserve the core academic function of our institution despite the trends observable in many of our peer institutions which are being run first and foremost as if they were money-generating enterprises.

2) Deprofessionalization

This trend has manifested most intensively among Ontario’s teaching profession at the elementary and high school levels, but is also creeping into higher education. The fact that so many programs rely so heavily on contract academic staff (contingent, short-term contracts; “sessionals”) is an unsettling symptom, since these positions are by definition “flexible”. By this I mean positions that are precarious and benefitting of either none or only limited guarantees of academic freedom and collegial governance that come with tenure-track jobs. Moreover, these jobs tend to be teaching-only, which compromises the link between research and teaching that is so crucial to what makes higher education a valuable enterprise.

Here at UW, FAUW is currently investigating the status and conditions of lecturers on our campus, with a view to ensuring proper academic freedom and collegial governance for all limited-contract academics on our campus. Even if the Memorandum of Agreement governs regular faculty members whose contracts are one year or more, the contingency of these contracts de facto has an impact on the perceived academic freedom of the individuals involved.

Growing numbers of contract academic staff is the principal but not the only symptom of the deprofessionalization of academia.

Growing numbers of contract academic staff is the principal but not the only symptom of the deprofessionalization of academia. At this past weekend’s CAUT Forum, we heard that between 1990 and 2009, university operating expenses in Canada dedicated to professorial rank salaries have declined from 39% to 29% of total expenditures. This resource allocation trend is a concrete demonstration that tenured faculty positions are slowly being eroded, to the great detriment of the academic enterprise.

Where has the difference been spent? Largely on administrative expenses, i.e., “send in the managers”. In the abstract, managers are only necessary to make up for prior ill-advised hiring decisions. The increasing concentration of managerial authority in academic institutions has manifested in the adoption in many places (such as Brock, WLU, Guelph, and York – UW is mercifully excluded from this list) of such unproven management fads as the RobertDickeson “program prioritization” scheme. These do violence to the principle of collegial governance, and create divisive work environments that are not conducive to the primary functions of academia, namely teaching and research.

Deprofessionalization also manifests in a growing audit culture that emphasizes accountability metrics that may work well in a corporate environment, but which are woefully inadequate for the long-term view that the institution of tenured academia was designed to foster. Good teaching is not something that can be consistently measured, any more than anyone’s ‘soul’ can be measured. Research impact is trans-generational in some fields – my own department can claim a 2,300-year tradition – such that the number of citations in any given year is possibly the least relevant measure of an idea’s impact. How can the bean counting of research impact the way it is practiced today ever be effective in picking the winners of what will have been most significant in 10, or 25, or 100 years? Just because something is measurable doesn’t mean it has value, just as not everything that has value is measurable. Whatever is measured will be prioritized, at the opportunity cost of other things.

3) “Open for business”

Collaborative research with industry has been a growing trend that has squeezed out basic research. This trend has been a matter of government policy at the highest levels, and it is reflected in the relative changes in NSERC funding that has shifted significantly away from basic research toward “targeted” research that involves industry. The potential impact on academic integrity is substantial.

Expect to hear more about these issues as they relate specifically to UW in upcoming blog posts. For more on industry-academia interactions in Canada (including a section on UW’s own Balsillie School of International Affairs”), please see CAUT’s report, also entitled “Open for Business”.

Privacy Colloquium

After a lengthy period of looking at various possibilities by a broad group on campus, the University is currently considering adoption of online processing of expense claims using Concur, a US-based company with a US-hosted system. As part of the consultation process, we are organizing an information session on the privacy aspects if we were to go ahead with Concur for this purpose. There will be two speakers, Jim Turk, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), and Fred Carter, Senior Policy and Technology Advisor of the Ontario Privacy Commissioner’s Office. Following their presentations, there will be a question and answer session with a panel that includes the two speakers, together with other experts.

Prior to the Colloquium, Karen Jack, the University’s Privacy Officer, will send a list of questions to Fred Carter of the Ontario Privacy Commissioner’s Office, and Jim Turk of CAUT, asking that these be addressed as part of the presentations at the Colloquium. Your suggestions for questions of concern and interest would be much appreciated; please make them on the following web page by October 22.

https://uwaterloo.ca/online-expense-claims/privacy-colloquium-questions

The colloquium will be held on Wednesday, December 4th,  2 – 5 pm (followed by reception), in M3 1006. Please mark the date on your calendar for this important event.

Come back next week for a post breaking down what’s going on with the new scheduling system!

More FAUW Burning Issue Updates

David Porreca, FAUW President

In this week’s blog post, I provide an update on some of the principal issues raised in last week’s post, with a particular emphasis on scheduling.

Reminders

2013 Hagey Lecture Poster

First, a reminder to attend CAUT’s “Get Science Right” inaugural town hall meeting at the Waterloo Public Library on Tuesday 17 September, 15:00-17:00.  Our own Melanie Campbell (Physics) and David DeVidi (Philosophy) are among the contributors to the discussion panel.  The main theme of the event – the first among many that will happen across the country – is the Federal Government’s excessive and ideologically-driven involvement in how science is funded, conducted and published in Canada.  Any faculty member who applies for federal funding for her or his research is affected by the changes that have been imposed upon the Tri-Council agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC), so this event is a crucial one for the future of primary research in our country.  Come join the discussion.

Second, a reminder to attend this Thursday’s Hagey Lecture, where Professor Margaret MacMillan (History, Oxford) will deliver a lecture entitled “Choice or Accident? The Outbreak of World War One”.  This free event is held in the Humanities Theatre in Hagey Hall20:00 on 19 September.

Online Expense Claims Colloquium

Planning is afoot for the fact-finding colloquium on financial data security in non-Canadian cloud-based servers.  The intent of this event – to be co-sponsored by FAUW, the Secretariat and the Dean of Mathematics – is to inform the University’s decision in purchasing an online expense claims system to replace the now bygone policy on per diems.  The target dates for this event will be 4 or 5 December.

Changeover in Administration & more general thoughts

In addition to the list of administrative positions that UW is seeking to fill that were mentioned in last week’s blog post, the Director of the Office of Student Success is also an important position that remains empty.  FAUW is alert to the impact that new people in positions of authority can have, and we are making sure that faculty interests are protected by having proper representation on all of the relevant hiring committees.

In fact, from the reports I hear at various OCUFA and CAUT meetings, it becomes clear that having good people on hiring committees is one of the most effective means faculty members have at their disposal to ensure that university operations function as they should.  By this I mean that the function of the university is to promote scholarship broadly construed, i.e., the dynamic interplay between research and teaching, faculty and students.  Basic job competency notwithstanding, those candidates for upper-level positions who can stand by that vision of a university are generally less likely to make decisions that are harmful to the academe.

New Scheduling System

As a result of discussions over the past week, I am pleased to report that the Registrar’s Office is planning to follow FAUW’s suggestion and supply faculty members with two alternative schedules using real-time data: one as the schedule currently exists using the old methodology, and a second one using the new Infosilem scheduling software.  The gathering of faculty members’ preferences between these two options will be coordinated through departmental scheduling representatives and funneled upward to the Registrar’s Office from there.  FAUW plans to make sure that the rationale behind faculty members’ expressed preferences also be taken into account.

The above good news notwithstanding, FAUW still faces a problem of perception when dealing with the implementation of this scheduling system.  Indeed, in our efforts to make sure that the old scheduling system does not get replaced with one that is worse than the system we currently have, FAUW has been perceived as being an obstructionist force.  FAUW’s consistent message has been that we want the new system to be better than what we currently have for all stakeholders and interests (students, administrative staff, faculty members and room allocation), and that it should not be allowed to go ahead until such time as it is demonstrated to all stakeholders’ satisfaction that it is in fact better.

Time allocation is every faculty member’s most critical zero-sum game, so this new scheduling system has the potential to be very disruptive to our work environment if it is not done right.  Having a scheduling system that is known to be disadvantageous to faculty members is a very effective anti-recruitment and anti-retention tool for top professorial talent (as was the lack of adequate daycare facilities, an issue that is about to be resolved in no small part thanks to FAUW’s intervention).  If UW is to live up to its claimed reputation as a top-notch research institution, it would behoove it to make sure it has a scheduling system to match.