UPDATED Q&A (30-May-14)
David Porreca, FAUW President
On Monday, the Faculty Association circulated an e-mail that lays out the changes in wording to the Memorandum of Agreement we have discussed both at the FAUW Board of Directors and at the Faculty Relations Committee over the past few months. This blog post is intended to a) explain more fully the reasoning behind the changes, and b) to respond to some of the questions and feedback that we have received since the message went out.
Why the changes?
Concerns had been expressed to the Faculty Association that the Outstanding Performance Awards (OPAs) in some faculties were being given to reward individuals who hold higher-level administrative positions (e.g., chairs of large departments, associate deans) rather than for their originally intended purpose to reward outstanding researchers and teachers.
Since service is one of the components of our job as faculty members, it made sense to us that rewarding truly exceptional service should still happen, while avoiding the potential for a systemic over-rewarding of administrators who are already well-compensated for their job. That is why the new wording of Article 13.3.3(e) carefully ascribes a maximum of 20% of the OPAs granted in any given faculty and year be granted for service.
Moreover, outstanding service in non-administrative capacities can now be adequately rewarded under this new wording, which was not possible before.
The choice of 20% corresponds to the usual proportion of our duties dedicated to service.
Q. So how exactly will these stars be identified?
A. This is a question that is more properly directed to each individual Dean. The MoA article specifies that “Members in each Faculty unit (department or school) whose annual performance rating for the current year is within the top twenty percent of ratings within the unit may be considered for a special permanent salary increase.” Departmental merit evaluation committees are responsible for assigning merit ratings, and from there the process is in the Dean’s hands. By specifying a maximum of 20% of awards going toward ‘Service’, we minimize the potential for a buddy-administrator reward system, and allocate the large majority of the OPA funds to their intended purpose: to reward excellent teaching and research.
Q. Will there be a clear distinction as to what type of award is being given (i.e., whether it’s teaching/research or whether it’s service)?
A. At the moment, there is no provision for specifying the reason for each award, but it is certainly something that we can quite reasonably request for the sake of transparency.
Q. Does anyone receive this award for outstanding teaching?
A. There is no provision for separating teaching from research in the determination of the OPAs, and the original intent was to reward those who do both outstandingly well. The only specification we have now added is that up to 20% of the awards can now be for service. It was never really clear in the past why each individual received an OPA. By scanning the list of OPA recipients from 2013, you can form your own opinion as to the rationale behind those names chosen. As was mentioned above, it will be important for the transparency of the process that those receiving an OPA in the future be identified as receiving it for outstanding service or research + teaching.
Q. Aren’t OPAs based on overall performance?
A. No, they were originally intended to reward outstanding teaching and research, with no mention of service at all. Over the years, however, it became clear that at least some of the recipients had been primarily involved in administrative tasks. In order both restore the original intent of the OPAs and to create a mechanism whereby outstanding service can be recognized, the proposed changes are being put forward.
Q. How does this change to the MoA intersect with FAUW’s concerns over the document defining the standards for a 1.25 merit rating in the Faculty of Arts?
A. The two issues are only tangentially related, since the document defining the standards for 1.25 in service has as its intended audience individual departments’ merit evaluation committees, while the MoA article is meant to govern how deans handle the distribution of OPAs after the departmental evaluation committees have completed their work.
Q. If Deans have not followed the existing rules such that these changes to the MoA are needed (i.e., giving OPAs for service when they’ve not been meant for service at all), then what guarantee do we have that they will follow the rules limiting 20% of these awards for service?
A. Alas, there is no perfect system, and there are no 100% guarantees. It’s our hope that the added transparency of having the reasons for each award published along with the recipients’ names will generate enough potential for opprobrium that abuse of the system will become rarer or, ideally, be eliminated altogether.