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.

Tenured Positions Under Threat at St. Paul University

On Saturday May 25, we received the following message from the Professors’ Association of St. Paul University in Ottawa.

“The administration of Saint Paul University is threatening to fire an unspecified number of tenured professors to make up a deficit in the budget for the coming year.   Last week they began by firing a professional librarian who holds a permanent appointment.  There is no financial exigency clause in our Collective Agreement that would allow this.”

David Porreca, President of FAUW, responded to Mme. Chantal Beauvais, the Rector of St. Paul’s with this letter.

Dear Mme Beauvais,

I am writing to you as the President of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo, as it has come to my attention that Saint Paul University is planning to cut a number of tenured faculty positions. I urge you to reconsider this decision, for a number of what I believe to be good reasons:

  1. The principle of tenure precludes the casual firing of faculty members. The basic premise of academic freedom is at stake, and your administration is setting a noxious example that, if adopted elsewhere, sounds the death knell of academia in Canada. In my view, selling physical infrastructure is preferable to firing people, especially people with tenure.
  2. As a result of your administration’s recent actions, Saint Paul University finds itself without a professional librarian at this point in time. Consequently, the academic activities of your institution no longer have the support they need, which can only have deleterious consequences on the work of all those concerned: both students and faculty members. Therefore, I urge you to reinstate the Librarian whose position was terminated last month.
  3. The collective agreement your administration has with faculty members does not have a “financial exigency” clause. Therefore, by actively terminating positions, your administration is in clear breach of the collective agreement.
  4. Saint Paul University is well-recognized for the strength of its Theology program, both in terms of the research conducted as well as the teaching and training of new generations of theologians. As a Medievalist myself, I have a keen appreciation for the work that, historically, Saint Paul has done in this field. It is truly a tragedy that your administration has seen fit to torpedo one of your institution’s greatest strengths in this manner. Do you really want to be remembered as the administrator who gutted one of the best Theology programs in the country?
  5. At the University of Waterloo, our budgeting exercise is transparent – not as much as we as a Faculty Association would like, but nevertheless enough to allow us to consider critically the manner in which our University is run. From my understanding, there is a lack of transparency in your operations, such that your Professors’ Association is unable to assess whether your administration’s chosen course of action is really necessary. Instead of firing people, it would behoove you to construct a well-argued case to your faculty members and staff in order to get their support in any restructuring that may indeed be necessary, rather than imposing it by diktat.

From a purely human perspective, I would also urge you to put yourself in the position of those people whom you are terminating: they have devoted their entire careers to making Saint Paul University the excellent institution that it is. Do they really deserve to be treated in such a heavy-handed way? Is there really not a more humane way to resolve your budgetary concerns?

Yours most sincerely,

– David.

For more background on the situation with faculty at St. Paul, you can read this fact sheet put out by the Professors’ Association of St. Paul University.

Opening Up the Multi-Logue

Greetings and Welcome to the FAUW Blog! 

A Happy New Year to all!  This is David Porreca, the Faculty Association President at the University of Waterloo since July 2012, when I took over the job from George Freeman, who is consequently now filling the still-significant role of Past-President. In this inaugural blog post (my first one ever), I aim to introduce myself to you as the new FAUW President, as well as to introduce our new plan to keep in touch with you. 

I am the medievalist in the Classical Studies Department, and have been at UW as a faculty member since 2003.  My involvement with the university goes farther back, as I was first a student (1993-6) as well as a staff member at four of our campus’ libraries (Conrad Grebel, Dana Porter, Davis and the erstwhile Map Library on-and-off 1994-2003).  In other words, I have experienced this campus wearing a number of hats, and I am familiar personally with a variety of perspectives. The FAUW presidency, however, is a brand-new frontier! 

Speaking of which, this blog is the spearhead of a new communication strategy that FAUW has been plotting for the past several months that will see us branching out beyond the traditional hard-copy FAUW Forum newsletter that was sent to faculty members periodically.  It includes a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, a Google+ page.  The aim is to have a forum for more effective and faster feedback between our members and their Faculty Association. 

Beginning today, Monday mornings will feature new posts here, the format of which will alternate bi-weekly: news updates written by yours truly on campus-related issues relevant to our membership resulting from discussions at the FAUW Board of Directors – this in essence will replace the “President’s Message” from the Forum; and a rotating roster of guest posts principally from FAUW Board members on issues of broader concern.  Guest posts are by no means restricted to FAUW Board members: submissions are welcome from any member of the University of Waterloo community, and will be considered for posting subject to availability.  This new format will allow for nigh-instant feedback on the posts in the form of comments to reach the right eyes in a fraction of the time and effort than the hard-copy Forum did previously.  

This does not mean that we will cease entirely the traditional hard-copy distribution of the Forum, since there are some – myself included – who really appreciate having something physical to leaf through.  Consequently, at the end of every term, a selection of the most impactful blog postings will be compiled and distributed in print to all FAUW members on campus.  This publication will remain faithful to the format of the earlier Forum I would like to close this inaugural posting with a non-exhaustive list of questions that FAUW is currently working on:

  • Can faculty members be compelled to work on satellite campuses?
  • How exactly do we define a satellite campus?
  • Should tenured faculty members have their performance evaluations be annual or biennial?
  • How can we arrange to have our UW Librarians recognized as academic staff?  (hint: the librarians are working on this).
  • How can we ensure that academics govern the academic lives of academics? (hint: this principle needs to be enshrined in the governance documents of all campus centres and institutes)
  • How can we support the principle of collective bargaining when it is under siege in so many jurisdictions, including in Ontario?
  • Does the University of Waterloo’s idiosyncratic practice of having an “Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisors” list represent a net benefit or an unnecessary burden to our faculty members?
  • Will the new scheduling software package currently being tested by the Registrar’s Office actually produce better results for all stakeholders than the system currently in place?
  • Can a less onerous system of expense claims be put in place, and what would it look like?
 Finally, here’s a selection of other matters in our ‘ongoing issues’ pile: 
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Information gathering/storage relating to Short-Term Disability and Long-Term Disability applications
  • Modifications to the pension plan
As you can see, even though there may have been an uncanny silence from FAUW over the past several months, we have been far from idle.  It is my personal hope that this new format of communication will go beyond being a one-way transfer of information, or even a simple dialogue (the word implies only two participants); rather, I see this new FAUW Blog as a multi-nodal conversation, or more succinctly, a “multi-logue.”  Let the interchange begin! 

With best wishes for a productive and prosperous term, 

-David P.