News From Your Board: Meeting Summary for September 27

We had two visitors to start this meeting. First, Jasmin Habib provided an update on the Course Evaluation Project Team’s implementation phase (CEPT2), in light of the recent Ryerson decision on the use of student evaluations in tenure and promotion decisions. Given that there is another project team exploring other ways of measuring teaching quality and performance (e.g., peer evaluation), CEPT2’s position, as reported at Senate on September 17, is that Waterloo is ahead of the curve and is already working to ameliorate some of the concerns raised by the decision at Ryerson. The issue of addressing bias remains contentiousThe group has nearly completed a prototype and are preparing to test it. FAUW will keep an eye on the test process to ensure it doesn’t disadvantage any vulnerable faculty.

Sebastian Siebel-Achenbach then joined us to give an update from the OCUFA (Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations) Contract Faculty and Faculty Complement Committee. He wants to raise some awareness and support for CAUT’s upcoming Fair Employment Week and OCUFA’s Fairness for Contract Faculty campaign, in light of the growing informalization of teaching and other kinds of professorial work in Canada. So check those links out.

We had a short discussion about the timeline and communication around proposed changes to our dues structure. These changes, if adopted by the membership, will bring FAUW in line with the conventions of other faculty associations, and alleviate some of the existing inequalities in the existing structure. More information about the proposal is available on our website. Voting members will receive an email with the details next week and a link to the online ballot on October 15. Voting will be open from October 15 to 19.

We spent some time reviewing responses from our members to the Faith Goldy event that did not go ahead earlier this year, in light of the Ontario government’s recent mandate that universities issue a free speech policy. Most responses supported our position on the event, which was issued on April 23rd and emphasized the association’s support of immigrant and non-Canadian members.

The Board appointed Mathieu Doucet as the new FAUW representative on the University Advisory Committee on Traffic Violations and Parking. We would like to see the committee expand its mandate to include active transportation and are confident that Mathieu will be a passionate advocate for this.

We ended, as always, with a review of upcoming events, including the campus tour on Thursday, the Council of Representatives meeting on October 17,  a workshop on university governance November 9, and a talk by Mary Hardy on November 16 about the joint university pension plan being developed for University of Toronto, University of Guelph, and Queen’s University employees.

Missed the Waterloo Debate on Post-Secondary Education? Watch it Here

On Wednesday, May 16, a coalition of student and employee groups at Laurier, Waterloo, and Conestoga hosted a debate on post-secondary education issues with provincial candidates in the Waterloo riding. We’d like to thank Kimberly Ellis-Hale from the Laurier faculty association in particular for her leadership in organizing this event.

The participating candidates were:

  • Green Party: Zdravko Gunjevic
  • Liberal Party: Dorothy McCabe
  • New Democratic Party (NDP): Catherine Fife
  • Progressive Conservative (PC) Party: Dan Weber

You can watch a recording of the debate on the Laurier Students’ Union Facebook page (even without a Facebook account).

Don’t have time to watch? Here are a few highlights of what each candidate said about their party’s stance on key PSE issues. Note that this is hardly an exhaustive summary of the conversation.
Continue reading “Missed the Waterloo Debate on Post-Secondary Education? Watch it Here”

FAUW Execs Appeal to MPPs at OCUFA Queen’s Park Lobby Day

FAUW President Bryan Tolson (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Treasurer Dan Brown (Computer Science) lobbied at Queen’s Park on March 20, advocating for investment in the university sector, renewal of faculty ranks, and better working conditions for short-term and contract faculty.

Tolson and Brown were part of a team of 25 faculty members from across Ontario, brought together by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), which represents 17,000 faculty members and academic librarians at 28 universities across Ontario.

Tolson and Brown met with several MPPs from Waterloo Region and neighbouring Wellington County: Hon. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre), Hon. Kathryn McGarry (Cambridge), Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga), and Ted Arnott (Wellington-Halton Hills); they also met with legislative staff for Catherine Fife (Kitchener-Waterloo). Continue reading “FAUW Execs Appeal to MPPs at OCUFA Queen’s Park Lobby Day”

February 28 is OCUFA’s Bill 148 Social Media Day of Action

Adapted from a message from Ontario College and University Faculty Associations (OCUFA)

February 28 is OCUFA’s annual social media day of action. The day provides an opportunity for faculty, students, staff, and supporters across Ontario to get the issues of precarious work and fairness for contract faculty (sessionals and definite term lecturers, in Waterloo terms) trending on various social media platforms.

This year’s day of action will be use the momentum generated by Bill 148 to build more support for contract faculty in the lead-up to the provincial election in June.

The goal of the day will be to get as many people as possible to tweet and post Facebook messages to their provincial election candidates. The messages will highlight priorities for contract faculty at our institutions, the need to close gaps in Bill 148, how precarity for contract faculty can affect the quality of education, and where we go from here. Continue reading “February 28 is OCUFA’s Bill 148 Social Media Day of Action”

Join OCUFA at the $15 & Fairness Campus Assembly on September 15 and 16

Reposted from OCUFA, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, of which FAUW is a member.

OCUFA is part of the Fight for $15 & Fairness, a broad group that is advocating for better labour laws and a $15 minimum wage across Ontario. On September 15 and 16, the first ever $15 & Fairness Provincial Campus Assembly will take place at the University of Toronto. Faculty from universities across the province are invited to attend, and you can register here.

The assembly comes at a crucial time because Bill 148 will be considered in the legislature this fall. There will be discussions and workshops about how to win the strongest possible labour legislation, as well as how to advance the $15 and Fairness agenda on campus through collective bargaining and by uniting students, staff, and faculty. Achieving fairness for contract faculty will be a key focus throughout the agenda.

We hope you can join us! Register today. If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact Brynne at bsinclair-waters@ocufa.on.ca or 647.226.7184.

FAUW Weighs in on Bill 148 – Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act

Faculty association representatives from more than ten Ontario universities recently presented at hearings on Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, including FAUW’s president, Sally Gunz. Her full presentation is below.

Presentation: Sally Gunz, President Faculty Association, University of Waterloo to Committee, Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, Kitchener, 18 July, 2017

My name is Sally Gunz. I am president of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW). FAUW represents all faculty members at the university except those who are hired to teach by course only. I am a professor of business law and professional ethics in the School of Accounting and Finance, and have worked at the university since 1981. I speak in my capacity as president of FAUW.

Members of the public often think of university professors as well paid, privileged employees. And indeed many are. But few are aware of the prevalence of precarious work on university campuses. My focus is on Bill 148 as it affects the many faculty teaching at the University of Waterloo who are employed solely on the basis of limited term contracts. I note that the university is presently revising its faculty hiring policies and issues around precarious employment are the subject of formal examination.

As background: it is important to understand that there is wide variance in terms and conditions of employment for contract faculty. For example, at the University of Waterloo:

  • Lecturers are mostly hired on one to five-year contracts, but a limited number are hired on an ongoing basis. I focus here on the former.
  • Sessional Instructors are hired by individual course. A distinction here is between those who teach in order to complement another, often professional, career, or to provide post-retirement part time work; and those for whom it is their full-time employment. The goal for many is to become full-time professors. In the meantime, they piece together contracts at Waterloo and often elsewhere, in some cases over very extended lengths of time.

While unstable employment may be used to meet legitimate short term university needs, increasingly such positions are created and sustained in response to real or perceived funding constraints. As university costing models become more sophisticated and transparent, the pressure to maintain flexibility by using temporary positions for high-level teaching tasks appears to be increasing. Let me give you two examples from Waterloo.

  • Case 1: a lecturer hired on one-year contracts for approximately 10 years teaches a range of courses in one discipline. He has received a high-level teaching award and provides strong service to his department, yet his employment remains year-to-year and dominated by no security. 
  • Case 2: in a professional program, instructors are hired to teach multiple sections of courses, sometimes far exceeding a full-time load, but without the benefit of full-time contracts. This denies them a reasonable income, pension, or benefits. The university is reluctant to commit to full-time appointments despite the obvious teaching need in a program in which students pay significantly enhanced fees. 

The use of exploitive hiring exists across universities. The case examples I cite are common. Highly qualified instructors have no employment security, comparatively low pay, and in many cases no pension or benefits. Where educational institutions face funding pressures, the increased use of ‘flexible’ hiring options is virtually inevitable. And while Bill 148 says that no employee shall be paid a rate lower than a comparable full-time employee of the same employer, there are broad exemptions to this rule.[1] What Bill 148 can do, and what I, on behalf of FAUW urge you to do, is to make exploitive hiring options economically unattractive at universities.

To summarize: FAUW is pleased by much of what is in Bill 148. It strongly supports the recommendations OCUFA has made for improvements. In particular it would ask this committee to consider:

  1. Extending the equal pay for equal work provisions to include access to benefits.
  2. Amending Bill 148 to prevent the use of discontinuous contracts as a means of avoiding stable employment. 
  3. Extending the notice period for scheduling of employment to at least two weeks in recognition of the extensive prior preparation needed for assuming a teaching position. 

[1] This rule would not apply where there is a difference in treatment between employees on the basis of: (a) a seniority system; (b) a merit system; (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (d) another factor justifying the difference on objective grounds.

Twitter Day of Action to Support Fairness for Contract Faculty

Friday March 3 is a Twitter Day of Action to Support Fairness for Contract Faculty organized by OCUFA (Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations). Please consider using the hashtags #OurUniversity or #OurCollege, and #Fairness4CF on that day to raise awareness concerning the need for fairness for contract faculty.

You can visit the OCUFA website for more information and ways to promote this social media action. It is organized to build on the momentum created during last fall’s Fair Employment Week.

All faculty members at Ontario universities and concerned citizens are invited to participate. Please share widely!

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.

New Report on Sessional Faculty in Ontario

Researchers at OISE have prepared a report on sessional faculty for the Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development. Sessional faculty are defined in this report as faculty members who are either hired course by course or on short-term contracts. The report studies sessional faculty at 12 Ontario universities.

The report is available on the Centre for the Study of Canadian and International Higher Education (CIHE) blog.

The Casualization of the Academic Workforce

Principal Threats to Academic Freedom

David Porreca, FAUW President

The Canadian Association of University Teachers – the umbrella organization representing 68,000 university faculty members and librarians nationwide – held its 74th Council April 25-28th, in Ottawa. I attended representing FAUW.  Among the many issues and concerns that were discussed from Thursday to Sunday, threats to academic freedom in Canada loom large.  The ten items below were identified as the principal threats to academic freedom currently prevalent in Canada.

  1. Casualization of the academic workforce
  2. Redefining the scope of academic freedom
  3. Undermining the concept of tenure through permissive contracts
  4. Discrimination and harassment of members of marginalized language groups
  5. Loss of custody and control of faculty members’ records
  6. New donor agreements and collaborations
  7. Contracting out of academic work
  8. Policies on “respectful workplace” / “civil discourse”
  9. Diminution of civil liberties
  10. Restriction of trade union rights

Over the next several months, but interspersed with items of immediate interest, a post about each of these threats will appear on this blog, beginning today.

Although other jurisdictions have advanced far more along the path of casualization than we have – over 70% of university and college teaching in the US is done by contract academic staff – UW finds itself particularly vulnerable to this trend. The research-intensive focus on our campus leads full-time faculty to want to reduce their teaching loads to leave more time for research.  In fact, in the ten years I have been a faculty member at UW, my own department has gone from a 3-3 to a 2-2 teaching load to accommodate more time for research. I know of many other departments where the regular teaching load is even less.

From my perspective, the idea of a university is encapsulated by the dynamic interplay between teaching and research, between faculty members and students at all levels.  Favouring one to the detriment of the other does a disservice to the idea and ideal of what activities a university should undertake and emphasize.  Students deprived of being taught by researching faculty are not getting what they are paying for.  Faculty members who limit their interaction with students whenever possible in favour of their research are at risk of missing out on the stimulating effect that transmitting their expertise viva voce can have: explaining complex concepts to a new audience often leads to clarification in one’s own mind, not to mention the useful feedback once can get from clever, critically-minded individuals from a younger generation.

The above observations lead me to ask: Who is doing all the teaching that used to get done when full-time faculty members taught more courses?  Part of the answer resides in regular curriculum revisions that, in many cases, aim to reduce the full-time staffing necessary to deliver academic programs.  These revisions, unless undertaken with the utmost care to avoid such an outcome, will tend to adversely affect the students’ experience compared to programs delivered, let’s say, a generation ago.

If teaching loads are being reduced and curricula remain viable and strong, inevitably the other part of the answer to the question posed above is ‘sessionals’, also known as ‘contract academic staff’ (or, at UW, as ‘adjuncts’) These people are practically by definition a casualized category of individuals who in many cases are parachuted in to cover gaps in what departments promise to teach in the course listings of the academic calendar.  This trend toward casualization is particularly threatening to academic freedom and the quality of teaching students receive because those sessionals whom increasingly we entrust with the teaching of our students do not have tenure.  Therefore, they are much, much more vulnerable than tenured faculty members to threats and pressures to modify what they teach for the sake of conforming to whatever ideological or personal flavour du jour that happens to prevail in their academic unit or institution.

One of the more pernicious knock-on effects of this casualization is a reduction in the professional consideration accorded to professors in their workplace and in society at large.  On a local level, attempts to exert more control over the working lives of academics (e.g., through changes in practice over scheduling, or increasingly onerous accountability measures ranging from travel expenses to teaching curricula) are being resisted by FAUW on behalf of its members whenever possible. On a provincial level, we can see the end result of the process of de-professionalization in the treatment accorded to Ontario’s primary and secondary school teachers by our province’s government.

Essentially, our students deserve better than to see their university education be casualized and therefore become more conformist and less questioning of corporate or political agendas.  Above all, we owe it to ourselves to resist casualization by emphasizing publicly and forcefully that we are purveyors of an essential public good: an educated citizenry that has witnessed the exercise of academic freedom, so that everyone’s civil liberties can be defended effectively when they come under threat, as they increasingly have been over the past 12+ years.

In related news, the contract academic staff at SJU have recently voted to join the SJU Academic Staff Association as a separate bargaining unit.  How long will it be before their UW counterparts feel compelled by circumstance to do the same?