News From Your Board: February 15 Meeting Recap

—Sally Gunz, past president

There were two key items on the agenda at our February 15 meeting.

First, the Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC), a committee of FAUW, presented a recommendation to change its name to the Equity Committee. The Board supported this recommendation and the change will be put to our Spring General Meeting for approval as it involves a change to our constitution.

Second, the Board was advised that, on February 12, Renison University College faculty members voted to create a new faculty association and constitution, the Renison Association of Academic Staff. This is the first new faculty association in Canada in many years and we passed a unanimous motion congratulating our Renison colleagues. More details of how the relationship between the two associations will play out will be available in due course.

Members of the brand-new Renison Association of Academic Staff

The balance of the meeting was spent addressing more routine matters, reviewing recent events, and planning future ones. The Board congratulated the Hagey Lectures Committee for a very successful event. We are planning a follow-up to the recent Council of Representatives meeting designed to hear more about matters of concern to members. Stay tuned for more on that soon. Finally, we continued a discussion on how we can enhance our role in advising potential faculty members in their decision to join the University.

News From Your Board: January 18 Meeting Recap

Peter Johnson, director for the Faculty of Environment
As winter term gets fully underway, the FAUW board met to share updates and discuss a number of important files.

First up was an update from lead negotiator Benoit Charbonneau. Meetings continue with the administration to find suitable common ground. If we don’t reach a settlement by February 1, we move on to mediation.

Next, Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC) member Nancy Worth brought forward terms of reference for the committee that refine and formalize its operating procedures and relationship with FAUW.

FAUW President Bryan Tolson and staff member Laura McDonald briefed the board on an academic freedom event that FAUW is planning with the administration. We are pleased with President Hamdullahpur’s plan to hold a campus-focused discussion to celebrate and bring clarity to the issue of academic freedom. You will receive an invitation to this event shortly.

Next we discussed what data the Office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA) collects about graduate student completion times, and to whom this data is provided. The GSPA wants to know if faculty members would find it helpful to receive this data, for self-reflection and so we can identify errors. Discussions are ongoing.

We had an extended discussion about FAUW’s participation in the University-wide Excellence Canada exercise. So far, we have not seen a clear role for us to play, but discussion will continue at the Council of Representatives meeting on February 13.

In a moment of reflection, the Board assessed our progress on the goals we generated at our September retreat. While some key goals have seen substantial progress, there are still tasks ahead for the Board and broader FAUW community, including a survey of our membership.

As always, we finished with a reminder of upcoming events, which you can find on our website.

And, as always, we welcome your feedback on any of the above issues. Leave a comment below, or get in touch with a Board or Council member!

It Goes Without Saying

A message from the Status of Women & Equity Committee

In the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, and in response to the initial executive orders (including the executive order which denies U.S. entry to all refugees for 120 days, citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen face a 90 day visa suspension, and Syrian refugees are denied entry indefinitely) many institutions, organizations and individuals have made statements condemning discriminatory and divisive statements, and supporting equity and diversity. January 21, Women’s Marches in Washington and world wide organized in protest of the proposed legislative changes. This week, University of Waterloo community members gathered to express sorrow, support, and join in prayers in response to the shooting at the Grande Mosquée de Québec.

It goes without saying that the Status of Women and Equity Committee supports equity and inclusivity.

Except it doesn’t go without saying. It shouldn’t. We should say it, clearly and repeatedly.

We won’t always say it in a timely manner, and we won’t always say it perfectly. We won’t always use the best words, or speak with great eloquence. But we should and will say it.

We support equity and inclusivity. We value and celebrate diversity, across all measures and intersections of identity. We will fight against discrimination in all its forms. We stand in solidarity with our fellow community members. And we are not alone.

Le Comité du statut de la femme et de l’équité de l’Université de Waterloo tient à adresser ses sincères condoléances aux familles des victimes et exprime son soutien et son entière solidarité aux blessés touchés par cette tragédie. The Status of Women and Equity Committee of the University of Waterloo send our sincerest condolences to the families of the victims and express our support and wholehearted solidarity to the wounded touched by this tragedy.

Tips for Writing Better Reference Letters

Some seasons seem to come around more often than others: many of us are presently writing reference letters—again. It is important to acknowledge the significant impact that this routine exercise has on our students and colleagues.

SWEC, FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee, would like to remind each faculty member how easy it is for unconscious gender bias to slip into our reference letters. They have provided some resources to help us all write professional reference letters that reflect on women’s capacities in an equitable way.

The University of Arizona’s Commission on the Status of Women has a very handy one-pager on “common traps based on unconscious gender bias (PDF) ,” including:

  • Letters for reference for men are more likely to emphasize accomplishments while letters for women are 50% more likely to include adjectives that describe effort. 
  • On average, letters for men are 16% longer than letters for women. 
  • Letters of reference for women are 7x more likely to mention personal life—something that is almost always irrelevant for the application. 

The federal government’s Canada Research Chairs online resources include background research as well as tips for limiting unconscious bias, such as:

  • Use the nominee’s formal title and surname instead of their first name. 
  • Consider whether your letter unintentionally includes doubt-raising, negative or unexplained statements (e.g., ‘might make an excellent leader’ versus ‘is an established leader’).

    FAUW Highlights: Meet SWEC, the Status of Women & Equity Committee

    Greetings FAUWers,

    Earlier this month, this blog explored the value of balanced and inclusive representation on the FAUW Board. With that theme in mind, we would now like to introduce you to the University’s Status of Women & Equity Committee, known across campus as ‘SWEC.’ The mandate of SWEC is to educate, advise, and advocate on matters related to the status of women, and broader equity issues such as those arising from gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, or gender identity.

    SWEC is one of three major equity-promoting initiatives on campus, including the Office of Equity as an administrative body, and the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign (which many of you are likely aware of!). Each one plays a distinct role in improving the equity climate at Waterloo.

    SWEC, a standing committee of FAUW, is composed of a diverse group of individuals with strong interests and experience in equity issues. With members from each of the six faculties, as well as one librarian, SWEC follows a community-based approach. In addition to liaising with related University committees, SWEC has a working relationship with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). SWEC Chair, Dr. Kathleen Rybczynski, also sits on FAUW Board of Directors as an Ex-officio/non-voting member of the Board.

    To better serve as a proponent of equity, SWEC is in the process of broadening their community outreach. With the aim to create a locus of communication for equity initiatives, SWEC is currently redesigning their website content and would love your feedback (email Laura McDonald or Kathleen Rybczynski). If you are looking to connect on equity across campus, please contact us.

    Each year, SWEC recognizes exceptional commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity at UW with the annual Equity and Inclusivity Award. This month, SWEC is celebrating the achievements of FemPhys and its co-founders Sarah Kaiser, Emma McKay, and Jennifer Reid. Their leadership, and their organization of public lectures, mentoring nights, and community-building social gatherings, have improved the equity environment at UW, particularly for women in Physics and Astronomy as well as within the broader STEM community.

    FAUW Highlights is a series of regular updates from the FAUW Board, written by Elise Lepage and Shannon Gordon.

    Take Back the Night: Point & Rebuttal

    Take Back the Night: Point

     by: Sheila Ager, Department of Classical Studies

    I have always had very strong objections to the Take Back The Night policy that bars men from participating in the march.

    I would consider myself quite a committed feminist, and I am familiar with all the reasons that have been put forth in support of this policy. Nevertheless, I find it both short-sighted and inconsistent with the premises of human rights. The latter objection should be pretty clear: men should not be excluded from the opportunity to participate in an activity on the basis of their sex, when that activity is not such as to necessitate a gender division. The implicit message is that all men are sexually abusive or otherwise violent (and conversely, that all women and all trans* people are not). The policy also sends a message that men who have themselves been victims of sexual violence and abuse do not rate the same consideration as women, children, and trans* people.

    On a more pragmatic front, I think this policy is seriously short-sighted. It once again implies that this is a “women’s issue”, instead of a grave social issue that concerns society as a whole. Men should be encouraged to adopt values and take actions that are conventionally labeled as “feminist” but this policy does the reverse, in spite of the invitation that men line the route of the march and so on. In my view, society will move forward more quickly and effectively towards desirable social goals of the type that Take Back the Night stands for if men are encouraged to partner with women in achieving those goals. Activities and rhetoric that discourage men from doing so are counter-productive, however well-meaning they may be. If anything, I think our society needs to take a much stronger stance, through education and other means, in getting men to actively espouse such goals.

    Barring men from the actual march may be a “tradition”, as the message states, but I really think it is a tradition that needs to change.

    Take Back the Night: Rebuttal

     by: Diana Parry, Recreation and Leisure Studies

    Take Back the Night (TBTN) is an annual event that sparks critical public discourse and action to stop violence against women, children, and trans* people. Historically, TBTN marches are rooted in 1970’s England, when, in response to murders by the “Yorkshire Ripper,” police put women under informal curfew, urging them not to be out on streets after 10 PM without male accompaniment. Outraged women took to the streets and marched to reclaim their right to walk in public without male accompaniment.

    Waterloo TBTN consciously honours both this history and its core symbolic gesture: women, children and trans* people walking at night unescorted by men. This symbolism powerfully conveys that women, children and trans* people should not have to be escorted by men to exercise their right to move about in public space without fear of violence (sexual, physical or otherwise). Indeed, for many who march, violence has intimately touched their lives, and the act of uniting in solidarity with others offers the opportunity to reclaim some of the power, and potentially the voice, that such violence may have eroded. 

    Far from being excluded, men help to organize TBTN, they volunteer at the event, and they attend the opening rally and the post-march reception. Organizers also ask men who wish to show their support for women’s, children’s and trans* people’s right to walk at night unescorted to do so by flanking the streets and shouting words of encouragement.  This year, as the marchers filed into City Hall after the march, we were greeted by a sizeable group of men smiling and clapping. Many of my fellow marchers voiced their appreciation for the support they felt from these male allies.

    TBTN events have certainly never endeavoured to suggest that all men are perpetrators of violence, nor that men are incapable of being victims of sexual or intimate partner violence themselves.   Organizers are well aware of research such as a 2005 Statistics Canada study that suggested nearly 7% of men in intimate relationships have reported being slapped, kicked, bitten, or hit by their female partners ( 

    This same study, however, demonstrated that when women are victimized, the level of violence is often much more severe than that experienced by men.  Women were found to more likely to be beaten, choked, sexually assaulted, and threatened with a weapon by their partner than men were.  Women were also more likely to be injured through such violence and were three times more likely to fear for their lives than male victims. Within the Waterloo region alone, 14 women experience some form of sexual assault every single day ( Clearly, sexual and intimate partner violence represents a major social problem in Canadian society and one that can affect anyone, regardless of gender. TBTN draws attention to these social issues and serve as a call to action to end gendered violence.

    The Quebec Charter of Values

    Dan Brown, Status of Women & Equity Committee

    It is a bit dismaying how little discussion there has been of the academic freedom implications of the proposed Quebec Charter of Values. Neither the Canadian Association of University Teachers nor the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada has been willing to go on the record publicly about concerns with the Charter, and inside Quebec, the only university to publicly state its opposition has been McGill, whose new Principal, Suzanne Fortier, did publicly oppose the Charter.
    In October, SWEC approved this letter.

    The Status of Women and Equity Committee of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo disagrees strongly with the proposed Charter of Québec Values.

    These proposals forbid civil servants from wearing “conspicuous” religious symbols, such as hijabs, turbans, and kippot, while allowing for “non-ostentatious” small jewellery. 

    “This proposed charter would unacceptably enshrine religious discrimination and restrict the academic freedom of faculty and staff at universities across Québec.”

    This proposed charter would unacceptably enshrine religious discrimination and restrict the academic freedom of faculty and staff at universities across Québec.  A pluralistic society will include members who express their personal beliefs by diverse choices of attire, and this diversity does not reduce the religious neutrality of the state.  We reject the claim that leaders of public institutions will proselytize by their choice of dress.

    We strongly support the rights of women and equity for all members of society.  The proposed Charter does not enable women’s equality, and, by forcing some women to choose between their profession and their religion, violates their freedom of religion and freedom to practice their profession.

    Finally, the Charter will reduce the quality of research and education in Québec.  Leaders at universities in Québec are already expressing concern about recruiting excellent faculty if the Charter were to be enacted.  At the University of Waterloo, we know that a diverse faculty is essential to educate our students and spark innovation, and we will regret the unnecessary loss to the research community that will come from silencing so many scholars.

    We call on the Québec government to cancel the introduction of this unnecessary and divisive Charter.

    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.


    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

    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

    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.


    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