FAUW Celebrates Three Campus Champions and Six Decades of Collegial Governance

On October 26, FAUW held a 60th anniversary discussion exploring the unique relationship between faculty and the administration at Waterloo, and presented our first Awards of Appreciation to honour members of the University community who have made real differences in the lives of faculty members.

Panelists Roman Dubinski (FAUW president 1970–71), David DeVidi (FAUW president 2007–09), Lynne Taylor (chief negotiator and board member 2014–16), and Ian Goulden (dean of mathematics 2010–15) described the evolution of faculty representation at Waterloo, from the early relationship characterized by the University’s “benign paternalism” (in Dubinski’s words), through three attempts to unionize in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, to the “honest conversation” of the current arrangement.

The panelists discussed how this relationship works in practice, and how it differs from a union. The main difference is that, in our case, salary is negotiated separately from all other terms of employment. Rather than putting everything on the table (and at risk) in large-scale negotiations every few years, working conditions are continually negotiated —largely through biweekly meetings of FAUW and the administration at the Faculty Relations Committee (FRC).

This system allows us to “accomplish things you couldn’t in a full negotiation,” according to DeVidi. As audience member and 2004–07 FAUW president Roydon Fraser put it, “through honest conversation, you build understanding, and through understanding, you build, generally, good compromises.” Without the pressure of a looming deadline, Taylor explained, things move slowly, and both sides have time to give everything a “sober second thought.”

FAUW President Bryan Tolson and panelists
Left to right: David DeVidi, Roman Dubinski, Lynne Taylor, Ian Goulden, Bryan Tolson (FAUW president).

Surely there’s a catch

This system is not without its risks. Panelists highlighted the importance of having the right people on both sides. Goulden, our panelist representing an administrator’s perspective, pointed out that the provost has a great deal of influence over whether FRC is effective or just “a happy chat.” But overall, the system we have in place seems to be working.

And if it ever fails, we have the ability to seek recognition as a union. While the past union drives Dubinski recounted failed to result in unionization of faculty at Waterloo, they succeeded in encouraging the administration to make concessions and improve faculty working conditions. In fact, we have a near-unionization event to thank for the Memorandum of Agreement that governs working conditions today and which gives us a lot of the same powers as a union.

So, why aren’t we a union?

We promised that this event would answer the question “Why isn’t FAUW a union?” DeVidi offered this answer: “Most universities that unionize, there’s a galvanizing event, usually a massive clunker by some particular administration. So, I think a big part of the story is that the University [of Waterloo], compared to a lot of universities in Canada, has just been fairly well administered.”

Not all about FAUW

Following the panel, we shifted focus away from the Association and presented awards to Al Binns, director of Police Services for compassionately and discreetly helping faculty to navigate confidential emergency situations; Lynne Taylor, past chief negotiator for FAUW, for negotiating and co-chairing the 2015 salary anomalies review, and securing regular anomaly reviews into the future; and Linda Brogden, occupational health nurse, for supporting faculty members through some of the most difficult times of their careers and for her role in changing the conversation about faculty illness and mental health on campus.

FAUW Board members presenting awards to Lynne Taylor, Randy Jardin (for Alan Binns) and Linda Brogden
Left to right: Lynne Taylor, Bryan Tolson (FAUW president), Randy Jardin (accepting for Al Binns), Dan Brown (FAUW treasurer), Linda Brogden, Sally Gunz (past FAUW president).

Side note

Ian Goulden gave a great plug for another important mechanism at play in our relationship with the administration: FAUW’s Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T), which he called “a really strong thread that runs through the University.” If you’re not familiar with AF&T and its confidential services to assist faculty with difficulties impacting their terms and conditions of employment, we encourage you to learn about it.

Quote of the day

“We’ll call them the administration. They like to call themselves the University, but so do we.” –David DeVidi

So Why UW, Part 2

Happy first day of Spring term! Today, FAUW President David Porreca continues his list of the ways that UW operates far differently from other institutions, and how those ways contribute to our success.

6) An astute Board of Governors

UW has been blessed with a financial situation that has been much more favourable than other places. It is the responsibility of the Board of Governors to tend to such matters, and on this front, the Governors have been very successful in fulfilling their mandate.

7) A faculty-friendly working environment

Daffodils near the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo. Credit: George Freeman
Credit: George Freeman
  1. There are few (if any) other institutions that offer a 6-month sabbatical leave for tenure-track faculty members after their first contract.
  2. UW offers 100% ownership to the creators of the intellectual property generated on our campus.
  3. UW offers an automatic one-year delay on the tenure clock for those taking parental leave.
  4. The consolidated daycare, with 160 spots, opened in early 2014, is a potent recruitment device for prospective faculty members with young families.

8) UW prosperity ⇔ local prosperity feedback loop

UW has both contributed to and benefited immensely from the prosperity of local business.

9) Distinctive programs

UW shines in many ways, but the following are particularly potent recruitment tools for top student talent at all levels:

  1. We all know it already, but UW’s Cooperative Education is distinctive and valuable. 
  2. UW has a full-on Faculty of Mathematics, which is a rarity in the academic world (as compared to Math being merely a department that is part of a larger faculty).  This creates a high-profile entry point whose benefits are not limited to the Faculty of Mathematics. Indeed, I know a good many extremely talented students who entered UW in Math, finished their degrees, and carried on at UW for second degrees in other faculties where they’ve become extremely successful.

10) Sheer dumb luck

If luck, like many other natural things, is likely distributed along a bell curve, then UW would appear to occupy a spot somewhere on the thin, right-hand end of the graph.  This may be the result of the concatenation of the nine reasons listed above, but sometimes, both people and institutions just are lucky. At the very least, it is a factor that cannot be excluded!

The observations above are not meant to paint an exclusively rosy picture of our institution. It has its fair share of wrinkles like any other. In a perfect world, for example, FAUW wouldn’t need an Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.

I write the above from my own observations and involvement with FAUW, but this platform is not a panopticon. I’m certain to be missing things, both good and bad. It remains our responsibility as faculty members – especially those with tenure – to stand up and defend the good elements of our institution as well as fix any problems we see.

Principles of academic freedom, collegial governance and equity must be actively lived to have any real meaning, and if a university cannot embody in its operations the ideals of a society, we will no longer have a civil society worth defending.

Follow FAUW’s blog to keep up with what’s going on, and feel free to be in touch with any concerns or, better yet, become involved in FAUW’s activities. We need all the critically-minded help we can get to keep UW the outstanding place that it is!

Why UW? Reflections on How UW Operates

David Porreca, FAUW President

In my 22 months’ experience as FAUW President, I have had the opportunity to attend a number of meetings with my counterpart colleagues from other institutions at the provincial level under the auspices of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA – of which our own Kate Lawson is President) and at the federal level under the Canadian Association of University Teachers(CAUT). At these meetings one thing inevitably stands out to me in the starkest possible terms: how differently UW operates as compared to other institutions.

Ring Road at the University of Waterloo
Credit: George Freeman

Generally speaking, the tone of interaction between faculty representatives elsewhere and their institutions is one of chronic mistrust and by-default antagonism. By contrast, UW manages to operate smoothly, with open and constructive dialogue on issues and concerns happening through well-recognized, well-respected and effective channels (e.g., Faculty Relations Committee (FRC), FAUW’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee (AF&T)).

In my experience observing other large organizations both academic and non-academic, institutions end up with the unions they deserve, initially as a result of poor management. UW somehow has avoided such pitfalls.

So, what makes UW operate so differently? I’ve been puzzling over this question and have the following speculations to offer, most at the intersection of faculty working conditions and financial considerations:

1) UW’s decentralized structure

There are few if any other universities where both Chairs and Deans hold so much power as compared to central administrators. There are a number of problems that result from this situation but, on the whole, these problems tend to be relatively easily ring-fenced and solved – in no small part thanks to FAUW’s AF&T Committee. By contrast, bad decisions at other more centralized institutions tend to have a much broader impact and be that much more difficult to overturn and/or solve.

2) Role of FAUW

As much as UW’s decentralized structure helps to keep problems manageable, FAUW’s role as I see it is to identify, highlight and help spread the good ideas that appear organically within the relatively siloed units on our campus.

3) Importance of hiring committees

Despite the theme of point 1, upper-level administrators do have an outsized importance on our lives as academics. UW – with FAUW’s input – has been wise in whom it has chosen to sit on the hiring committees of upper-level administrators. Having right-minded people [on this, see point 4 below] on hiring committees has meant that, by and large, we have ended up with right-minded people running our institution.

4) Right-mindedness & problem-solving

There is a functional recognition of the importance of scholarship as the main purpose of our institution, i.e., the dynamic interplay between teaching and research, faculty and students. This common cause of scholarship is underpinned by a shared vision of the importance of academic freedom, collegial governance and principles of equity. This has led to a collaborative atmosphere in which the vast majority of the problems that arise get resolved without the intervention of expensive lawyers or arbitrators (see point 5 below).

Flowers outside the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) at the University of Waterloo
Credit: George Freeman

5) Grievance resolution by peers

As a non-unionized faculty association, we do not rely on expensive external arbitrators to resolve internal academic disputes involving faculty members. Instead, we have a process of appointing as-needed tribunals of peers whose membership is a) mutually agreeable to all parties; b) expert in the local culture of our institution; c) much cheaper than externally hired arbitrators. These tribunals are used for all tenure and promotion appeals and are an option for most forms of formal grievances, and they typically resolve disputes in a matter of 3-4 months, as opposed to elsewhere where the turnaround time can be counted in years. The upside is that the cost of operations is much, much lower both for the administration of the university and for the faculty association. Indeed, the mil rate used to calculate FAUW dues is the third lowest in Canada, and is one-half to one-third the rate used at the majority of other universities. The downside is that the task of defending faculty interests involves voluminous volunteer service work for FAUW and its subcommittees, AF&T in particular.

Come back next week as David lays out five more reasons that contribute to the University of Waterloo’s success!