The Dubai Campus Re-Re-Visited and Memorandum of Agreement Changes

David Porreca, FAUW President

This week’s post provides a two-for-one deal: First, a response to Peter Douglas’ letter appended to the bottom of the previous posting entitled “The Dubai Campus and Transparency”; and second, a brief announcement about upcoming faculty-wide votes relating to changes to the Memorandum of Agreement.

The Dubai Campus Re-Re-Visited

In his letter addressed to the FAUW Board, dated to 10 February 2013, and added in the comments of the “The Dubai Campus and Transparency,” Peter Douglas, Director of UW’s Dubai campus, responds to one of the bullet points relating to the Dubai campus that had been included in our post about the resignation of the Vice President Academic and Provost. In this letter, he expresses his disapproval of FAUW’s position on the Dubai campus in no uncertain terms.


Here, I would like to respond by reiterating some of the main concerns that the Faculty Association has had with UW’s operations in Dubai from the beginning.

Firstly, by the very nature of the legal environment in the United Arab Emirates, there is no way that anyone could claim that all UW policies and procedures could be applied equally on our main campus in Waterloo as well as to the Dubai campus. In particular, the provisions we have that protect the rights of our LGBTQ community – students, staff and faculty – do not and cannot apply in the UAE. Being openly gay is a serious crime there, punishable with jail time and, for foreigners, deportation following jail time. Also, having sexual relations with anyone but one’s spouse (marriage is an essential component) is a similarly punishable offense.

Consequently, and by definition, the opportunities offered by the Dubai campus, in terms both of teaching and of learning, have not been open to the entire UW community of participating departments. It is therefore not a campus where principles of equity as we understand them here could be properly enforced, and hence FAUW’s opposition to its opening years ago, and also hence our gratitude at its closure.

The other main concern that the Faculty Association has had relates to the transparency of the operations in Dubai. These have been expressed in the previous posting and need not be reiterated here. If long-term financial planning had been shared openly with the UW community from the beginning, perhaps a more charitable eye may have been turned upon the several money-losing years of the operations in Dubai. As things stand, however, UW has spent seven figures learning an expensive lesson. What could UW have done otherwise with that money?

Finally, the word “debacle” has never appeared anywhere on the FAUW blog and is a mis-characterization of the postings that have appeared.

MoA Changes

There are two main changes to the Memorandum of Agreement that are currently in the works, and that UW faculty members will be called to vote upon before the end of April.

  1. Article 12.10: A paragraph will be added to the MoA allowing housekeeping changes to the MoA that both UW Administration and the FAUW Board agree upon to be enacted without re-opening the entire agreement. This is strictly a provision that will allow wording clarifications and small changes without going to a full formal vote each time. This has been common practice, but has never been accepted formally as a procedure. The full wording of the article clarifies that nothing to do with compensation can be affected by any changes enacted under the new 12.10.
  2. b. Article 14: A new framework for Integrity in Scholarly Research is being issued by the Tri-Agencies and is to be adopted by all institutions that receive Tri-Agency funding. A full description of the framework can be found here: http://www.rcr.ethics.gc.ca/eng/policy-politique/framework-cadre/. Each institution must develop its own policies and procedures that abide by the regulations outlined by the Tri-Agencies. The changes implied by this new framework enable the formalization and systematization of certain disciplinary procedures relating to academic integrity that will, I believe, improve both the transparency and the muscle of UW’s regulations on this front. Of main concern to FAUW is that adequate provisions be included to prevent the misuse of these new rules (e.g., we don’t want to enable ‘witch-hunts’: frivolous accusations must be discouraged as much as possible, and any allegations that turn out to be false must be handled in a way as to minimize or eliminate negative repercussions on the accused).

So, stay tuned and, if you are a member of the Faculty Association, expect to be called upon to vote on these matters within a few weeks. Any faculty members who are not Faculty Association members should join formally so as to have a voice in these important upcoming changes.

The Dubai Campus and Transparency

David Porreca, FAUW President

This blog follows up on correspondence received by FAUW’s Board of Directors regarding a bullet point in the 29 January blog posting entitled “To Provost or Not to Provost,” that related to the closure of UW’s Dubai campus.


Thanks to discussions undertaken with interested parties, I can clarify what I have identified as the key unifying concern relating to UW’s involvement in the Dubai satellite campus.

In essence, at the time of its opening, the Dubai campus was presented to the campus community generally, and to the bodies of collegial governance in particular, as a fait accompli, with little possibility for any feedback to have any material impact on whether UW should get involved.  Moreover, the satellite campus was presented without a publically released, clear business plan that could be used to weigh properly the potential benefits and opportunity costs of getting involved in such an enterprise.
In other words, there was a drastic lack of transparencythat shrouded the initial opening of the Dubai campus from the critical scrutiny that may (or may not) have revealed the concerns that eventually led to its closure.
Speaking of which, the closure of the Dubai campus came as a surprise to many, even though some cheered for understandable reasons – ones I raised in the aforementioned bullet point from the earlier blog post. As of May 2012, UW’s President was announcing publicly that “it’s not a question of whether Dubai is sinking, but how fast it can swim!”  Not six months later, it was closed.  Rationales for the closure were made public, but apparently without consultation with all of the immediately concerned parties, nor with the broader campus community whose operations will be affected substantially.  Again, a lack of transparencyreigned over the decision-making that led to the closure, leading to negative consequences for several interested parties. 

The University of Waterloo must be willing to stand by its commitment to transparency in deed, not just in word. Consequently, proper consultation must happen in the future to ensure that large-scale initiatives (e.g., satellite campuses in overseas locations) that have a significant impact on the university’s operations will not be undertaken without all stakeholders providing public agreement to a publicly released plan.

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.