Twitter Day of Action to Support Fairness for Contract Faculty

Friday March 3 is a Twitter Day of Action to Support Fairness for Contract Faculty organized by OCUFA (Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations). Please consider using the hashtags #OurUniversity or #OurCollege, and #Fairness4CF on that day to raise awareness concerning the need for fairness for contract faculty.

You can visit the OCUFA website for more information and ways to promote this social media action. It is organized to build on the momentum created during last fall’s Fair Employment Week.

All faculty members at Ontario universities and concerned citizens are invited to participate. Please share widely!

OCUFA’s Ontario Budget Recommendations Released

OCUFA’s 2017 pre-budget submission, which sets out OCUFA’s priorities for the Ontario Budget (PDF), is now available.

OCUFA’s recommendations include:

  • Increasing per-student funding for Ontario’s universities to match the average for the rest of Canada;
  • Making a commitment to supporting faculty renewal, including full-time faculty hiring that brings Ontario’s student-faculty ratio in line with the rest of Canada and replacing retiring faculty with tenure-stream positions;
  • Ensuring fairness for contract faculty by strengthening employment and labour laws;
  • Rejecting the use of punitive performance-based funding in the renewed university funding model; and
  • Establishing a new higher education data agency to collect, analyze, and disseminate key information on Ontario’s universities.
  • Providing greater clarity about criteria for solvency exemption to support the success of a multiemployer jointly sponsored pension plan (JSPP) for the university sector.

OCUFA President Judy Bates presented these recommendations to the Ministry of Finance on January 9 and to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs on January 19.

Source: OCUFA.

Friday: Solidarity Rally with CUPE 926 at Laurier

From the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA):

There will be a solidarity rally for Wilfrid Laurier University workers in CUPE 926 who are currently on strike this Friday, July 15, 2016 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The location of the rally is 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo.

CUPE 926 represents custodians, groundskeepers and tradespeople at the university. The dispute is centred on the employer’s attempts to remove contracting-out language from their agreement, and contract out custodial work, creating lower-paid, less-secure positions. The other key issue has been the claw back of post-retirement benefits. The administration’s very aggressive approach to bargaining has implications not only for CUPE 926 but for all faculty and staff at Wilfrid Laurier and across the province.

Read the letter from OCUFA president Judy Bates to Laurier president Max Blouw.
For more information about the rally from CUPE, you can phone 905.739.9739 or email:

Crisis and Radical Thought Experiments: Notes on OCUFA’s Future U Conference

Jasmin Habib, FAUW OCUFA Director

For two days in February, a group of academics, administrators, and students gathered in Toronto for OCUFA’s Future U: Creating the Universities We Want conference. It was among the better-attended conferences that the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has organized in recent years. The scope of the discussion was fairly narrow but the panelists and participants shared a diverse set of experiences and presented a fairly wide range of perspectives.

Crisis, what crisis?

How one experiences the crisis in education depends on where one is located:  students, professors, the public, government and business all have very different investments in the future of the university.

For many students, the crisis is related to the loans they have to repay after they graduate and an economic downturn that has a direct effect on the kinds of opportunities they will have once they enter the labour market.

For faculty, there are very real concerns, particularly for those working in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Just two or three years ago in the UK, for example, funding was lost in just one fell swoop.  Those working in those fields believe that this will limit the impact their knowledge will have on society; some worry that their colleagues will lose their jobs and, of course, that their students may not find secure employment in academia or in the areas in which they have been so highly trained. These changes also mean that identities shift as working conditions change: scholars become more concerned with fundraising and grants than teaching and research.

For government, there are a number of issues.  Over the last several decades, but particularly so since the 1990s, governments have promised their constituents access to post-secondary education.  But that accessibility comes at a cost that neither the constituents (in the form of higher tuition) nor governments (in the form of taxes) want to continue to pay.  

Interestingly, one of the speakers presented us with facts and figures that showed that not only has funding for higher education been growing at a consistent rate in the last several decades but that through those same periods, the degree of bifurcation has also increased. That is, the more public funding is made available for higher education, the more differentiated are those institutions and the greater the likelihood that the rich (students and institutions) will get richer. I will come back to this point in my next post, as it seems so counterintuitive, until one considers the financial needs of research-intensive universities.

The business community wants a highly educated workforce that will innovate, but it does not want costs to offset their profits, or to pay higher premiums for maintaining or developing newer institutions of higher learning.

University presidents are also caught, sometimes between the interests of their board of governors and their senate; and sometimes between those bodies and the provincial or federal government.  But in all instances, they are forced to be politically strategic in order to best negotiate the interests of their institutions, staff, faculty and students.

I found it quite interesting to hear several presenters note that “the rise of the corporate university” and “the death of the university” are the names given for the same crisis and the same struggle, but that the economic crisis is not the same as the education crisis, even though oftentimes these are the links that are being made for us.  Note, for example, that a recent Statistics Canada report linked higher pay with higher education but made no mention of the economic crisis and its deleterious effects on graduate earnings.  And one would certainly be hard-pressed to find faculty or university administrators who would say that the university should be limited simply to training students for the labour market.

One faculty member noted that we may have swung from one extreme – the patriarchal and elitist system university in the pre-1970s era – to a more merit-based but far more managerial and hierarchical system, with its endless surveillance and top down style.  While we have a rise in the number of contingent faculty across the country (and throughout the US), we also heard criticisms linked to the emergence of a US-style “star system”, which crossed our border in the form of Canada Research Chairs (among other, similar strategies).  There is evidence that these positions are having a deleterious effect on departments and programs as these Chairs have tended to work in a kind of bubble, some entirely out of reach not only of fellow faculty members and students, but seemingly also out of touch with the kinds of pressures that their fellow faculty endure, especially when it comes to departmental and faculty service.

What are the effects of all of this?  One faculty member from BC reported that when they were organizing to unionize at the University of Victoria, a mathematician speaking in favour of certification noted with emphasis:  “When I was hired here, this was my institution, and now I feel it is their institution; and when I was hired here, I was hired for my intelligence; but now I feel that they insult my intelligence.”  The faculty overwhelmingly voted to unionize in January.

Thought experiments and the future U

That said, here is one meaningful exercise that a speaker suggested faculty could consider and which several people discussed over the course of the conference:

“Ask yourself if it still possible to do the work that I want to do here? Is it possible to sustain the kinds of research [and teaching, I would add] that I am interested in? How might I create new structures here (or elsewhere) so that I can do that work?”

These questions were not meant to lead us all to consider getting OUT of the university but rather to think about new possibilities, to be innovative, and as a thought experiment.  “The thought of going outside should allow us to consider what we can do on the inside.”

Several examples of new possibilities and responses to the current environment include the re-emergence of “free schools” and the development of the “enlivened learning” movement occurring around the world, and the rise of a new form, “the cooperative university”.  These institutions are intended to subvert the market and competition around such things as funding subsidies. They encourage us to put into practice interdisciplinary relationships not only between departments but also between universities. They suggest we should consider not only moving across departments and disciplines, but around the world, not simply to market ourselves or to compete with other universities for students but in order to find ways to work outside the nation-centred models of education and to link to other institutions, scholars and students in the global south.

All of these movements suggest to me that our formal institutions may not be meeting all of our educational or societal needs.

Such ideas may also be “quite liberating” as they could help us to clarify what it is that we like about our universities as well as what else may be possible. Several times faculty noted that administrators are ready to hear quite radical ideas but that we need to take the opportunity to share them.

Radical U?

Student representatives’ reports were among the most radical, offering visions of an entirely accessible univers
ity that offers all qualified students the entire range of course offerings, both in class as well as, when appropriate, online. Their panel noted that they placed a high value on teaching quality and they have consistently asked the government to invest in full-time rather than contingent faculty. As one student leader put it: “ Students want access to faculty who are long-term, who have offices on campus, who are supported for creating high quality lessons and exploring alternative pedagogical practices. Our future u has more teaching done by more full-time faculty who are on our campuses.”  The bottom line for these student representatives is that online education should not detract from in-class education. And, they want even MORE opportunity for discussions to take place in the classroom.  As one student representative put it, succinctly: “Faculty teaching conditions are our learning conditions.”

Next week, I will share what I learned about differentiation and why some of our panelists thought it was a very good thing.

Future U: The Future of Academic Labour

Kate Lawson (English Language & Literature), OCUFA President

On 27-28 February, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) sponsored a conference entitled “Future U: Creating the Universities We Want.” I was part of a panel addressing the topic “Faculty in Future U: Current challenges to ‘traditional’ faculty work and re-imagining this work in the future.” I was asked to share my notes from that event for this post.

Like the other speakers on this panel I was asked to consider the challenges facing traditional academic labour today and ways in which we can re-imagine that labour for the future.

Associate Professor Kate Lawson, University of Waterloo
Kate Lawson

As I planned this talk, I confess that the “challenges” part of the topic seemed overwhelming.  The pervasive and continuing underfunding of higher education in Ontario and shifts in academic policy over the last decade have worked together to create deleterious effects on academic labour. We may think of ourselves as scholars engaged in the pursuit and transmission of knowledge—in the classroom, the laboratory, and the library—but increasingly we are viewed as knowledge workers to be “managed,” our labour measured in “metrics,” our “efficiency” and “productivity” quantified.

Efficiency and productivity are not, of course, dirty words. All faculty members and librarians whom I know work not only hard, but work diligently. They work to balance excellence in the classroom and in helping students with research productivity, grant writing, service to the profession, and so on. But in the managerial institution, this kind of efficiency and productivity is not enough.

The challenges to academic labour arising out of context are numerous, but I will list only two.

First is the casualisation of academic labour, a devastating and unwarranted devaluing of the highly trained individuals who work, almost literally, for pennies; it is a devaluing of the students who are taught by professors who often have no offices, no permanent email addresses, and only the loosest affiliation to the institutions where they teach; and it is a devaluing of the eager and talented graduate students whom we teach, many of whom are being set up for these underpaid and undervalued jobs.

Second, I would name on-line education as a challenge to academic labour, not because such education is second rate, but because—done well—it costs as much or more than classroom education. But for government, for those who want to “manage” our labour, “on-line” is frequently taken to be the quick-fix, the cheap alternative, to face-to-face instruction.

I could go on.

However, rather than dwelling on “challenges” I would like to address possible futures for academic labour that rest more in our hands, in our choices, than in the hands of government and academic managers.

First, can we as faculty members re-imagine our relationship with the community?

A brief story. My first tenure-track job was at the University of Northern BC in Prince George, a small city 800 km north of Vancouver.  Prince George had relentlessly lobbied the provincial government for a university for many years. When the university opened in 1994, the community felt that it was their university. They felt that the existence of a real university with teaching and research at its heart was their accomplishment. When I arrived, people would stop me and my family in restaurants and on the street and tell us how welcome we were in their community. And the university, as universities do, made Prince George its community as well. My colleagues worked with First Nations, with doctors, with social workers, with forestry companies—and of course, with students—and made it clear how a university could transform that small city.

Universities in Ontario are generally of an older vintage and I think are frequently taken for granted. But equally we may take our communities for granted. Do we undervalue community-based research in tenure and promotion? Do we participate in our communities as specialists in our fields, as informed observers, or simply as good citizens? Can we find ways to make the community feel more connected to us? Can we advocate for our fellow citizens and perhaps make them our advocates in return?

Second, can we as faculty members re-imagine our relationship with our students?

Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own describes walking on the grass at “Oxbridge,” only to be told by a beadle that she must get off the lawn since only Fellows and Scholars are allowed to walk there. Ditto when she tries to enter the library. The great democratisation of university education in Ontario and the wider world would leave Woolf, I think, breathless. My classroom at the University of Waterloo is as diverse as Canada itself—and that can only be a good thing.

Yet some of us bemoan the ways and degrees to which students “these days” are not like students in the “good old days.” I would argue that we should embrace our integral role in the democratization of higher education. We must teach the students who are in front of us and not yearn for a different cohort of students whom we might prefer.

One of the challenges of this more diverse participation is that none of us can take for granted anymore that we know what “a university education” means.

One of the challenges of this more diverse participation is that none of us can take for granted anymore that we know what “a university education” means. Are we here to confer professional credentials or skills training? Should we inculcate specialised kinds of knowledge or confer cultural capital? It’s useful to ask these questions and to debate the answers. It reminds us of our purpose, and how much that purpose matters to all of us.

Third, can we as faculty members re-imagine our relationship with each other?

I would like to suggest that faculty members should embrace collegiality on a small and on a large scale.
On a small scale, I can say that my notes today are in fact dotted with mental footnotes to my colleagues in the English department at UW whom I asked: how do you imagine the future of academic labour? In writing these notes, I borrowed liberally from them; on occasion, I’ve disagreed with them.

What is true on this very small scale is a self-evident truth for all academic work; we rely on the hypotheses, the arguments, the evidence put forward by those who work in our fields. We also participate with colleagues in interdisciplinary research, joint research projects, etc.

On a large scale, universities are built on a system of collegial self-governance, the belief that academic decisions are best made collectively by those with academic experience and knowledge. This means Senates, of course, but it also means the myriad committees that make universities work. “Committee work” may sometimes be tiresome, but it is vitally important that we play our role in governance. And if we refuse that role, we cannot object when managers take over the running of our institutions.

ut I also want to stress that collegiality can and must mean being good “colleagues.” Etymologically, a colleague is “one chosen along with another, a partner in office.” We don’t necessarily choose our colleagues, then, but they are chosen along with us and become partners. We may disagree with our colleagues—that is built in to the academic venture—but as colleagues we should do our best to keep these disagreements as respectful as possible. I am as guilty as any in saying something hasty that I later regretted, but the more time I spend in the university the more grateful I am to my colleagues who are both gracious and thoughtful.

Being colleagues must also mean that workers in the professoriate see adjunct and sessional workers as scholars engaged in the same pursuit of knowledge and its transmission. But there is a key difference: tenure gives the professoriate the freedom to speak out on difficult issues. Part of our academic work then must be to speak out for fairness for those who lack tenure, lack academic freedom, and lack fair salaries.

In closing, I would like to take inspiration from my students and colleagues who are interested in “sustainability” as a model for decision-making on both the global and the local level. How, I want to ask, can sustainability help us in making decisions, be they related to budgets, pedagogy, programs, or governance?

In ecology, sustainability is defined as that which allows biological systems to endure and to remain diverse and productive. Sustainability thus embraces the idea of diversity, now being promulgated in Ontario under the rubric of “differentiation”; and it embraces the idea of productivity. But underlying diversity and productivity is the requirement that a system endure.

Can a high-quality university system endure if it is built on exploitation, low-cost labour, or cheap on-line delivery? Can a high-quality university system endure if scholarship—as research, teaching, or learning—is undervalued or devalued? I’m not sure what a sustainable university system will look like, but I do think we need to think seriously about this if we are to imagine a bright future for academic labor.

Future U: Creating the Universities WE WANT: Crisis in UK Universities

David Porreca, FAUW President

This week’s post is the first in a series of reports resulting from this past weekend’s conference, “Future U: Creating the Universities WE WANT”, organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA).
At this conference, academics, journalists, union leaders, university administrators and researchers on higher education came together to discuss not just the problems with our current system of higher education, but also what ideals we ought to strive for in terms of creating the universities of the future.

Crisis in UK Universities

Sarah Amsler, a higher education researcher at the University of Lincoln was interviewed, and the following represent highlights from the ensuing discussion.

  • The broader public’s perception of higher education in the UK is driven by personal experience (inevitably anecdotal and idiosyncratic), higher education journalism and the blogosphere (each with its own agendas), with little structural analysis of the whole system. 
  • The UK does not have a distributed system of faculty associations in each university. Instead, they have a single nationwide union (à la CAUT) without its individual member groups.  This situation leads to there being fewer critical eyes examining the university system at the grassroots level, and enables a heavily managerial system where administrators have all the decision-making power.  Individual faculty members – all without our concept of tenure – get to endure the consequences of management’s vision with nary a say in the matter.

It is under such conditions that a crisis was created and solved, leading to a wholesale reform of the higher education system was imposed in 2009-10, during which

  • Universities were removed from the remit of the Department of Education and transferred to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.
  • Government transfer payments were systematically cut, leaving universities to cope with a market-based funding model that favours the already-prominent universities (e.g., Oxford, Cambridge) at the expense of other, less elite institutions
  • Students were forced to pay what we would call “full cost-recovery” tuition fees, enabled by a system of student loans. 
“The only redeeming quality of the fees-and-loans scheme in the UK is that it is run by government rather than commercial banks…”

The only redeeming quality of the fees-and-loans scheme in the UK is that it is run by government rather than commercial banks, such that the repayment schedule is automatically deducted from earnings, proportional to income, and subject to time limits.

In other words, students who graduate and happen to get low-income jobs pay back a small proportion of their loans over a defined period and are subsequently released from the debt. This would appear to be a much more humane system than the one prevalent in North America (including Ontario), where bankruptcy laws have been modified to prevent individuals from discharging their student debt by way of bankruptcy.

There are three broad-scale questions or problems that those thinking about higher education need to consider:

  1. The purpose of higher education and/or the university (i.e., in what proportions are we imparting skill sets? Conducting research? Providing credentials? Shaping a critically thinking citizenry? Imparting knowledge? Preserving cultural memory?)
  2. The relations between universities and other power groups in society (governments at all levels, corporations, unions, NGOs)
  3. The ownership of governance (i.e., who gets to decide how academia and academics are governed?)

Take-home point for FAUW and its Membership

Although it may seem that the higher education sector is in deep crisis in Canada, the system of collegial governance we enjoy is of great value in terms of enabling some measure of control over our working conditions. It may not be as efficient as a UK-style manager-driven system, but efficiency is only a virtue if the decisions made under its banner are the right ones. UW-style collegial governance – when it is working well – gives each of us a voice in the major decisions relating to our working lives.

This conference was a potent reminder that other systems exist – the UK model discussed above was also juxtaposed with the state-controlled model prevalent in most of Asia. Our system, for all its flaws and on-the-surface inefficiencies, actually serves curiosity-driven academia reasonably well and therefore is worth defending. The latter is one of the principal purposes for FAUW’s existence.

Updates from your OCUFA Director

Jasmin Habib, FAUW OCUFA Director

Early in February, I attended the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Board of Directors meeting.  Several issues remain high on the agenda, particularly as there is every reason to believe an election will be called in coming months.  I thought I might share some of what I learned at the meeting, below:

OCUFA Pre-Budget Proposal

OCUFA submitted a pre-budget proposal to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.  Among other things, the submission called for a) increased funding to the universities, highlighting the extent to which universities have begun to rely heavily on contractually limited academic staff; b) a collaborative approach to resolving the university sector’s pension crisis; and c) a restoration of cuts to the faculties of education across the province.

Program Prioritization

Reports from OCUFA directors from Trent, Brock, Laurier, York, Nipissing and Guelph all noted the challenges posed by the Program Prioritization Processes (PPP) initiated by their administrations.  Note that several of the OCUFA directors where PPP is in progress reported low morale and serious polarization among faculty resulting from these processes. Our own Provost, Geoff McBoyle, has indicated that we will not be engaging in this process, something we can celebrate, by all accounts!

University Differentiation Policy in Ontario

OCUFA completed a research discussion paper entitled “University Differentiation Policy in Ontario” in response to the release of the Ontario government’s “Differentiation Policy Framework” in December 2013. According to OCUFA Executive Director Mark Rosenfeld “The document outlines the principles and components that comprise its differentiation strategy as well as the metrics that [can] be used to assess and promote their vision of differentiation.”  He notes, as well, that with each iteration of “transformational change” (that is the language used by the government to describe this process), the government seems to be backing away from actually directing universities to incorporate its vision.  That said, there is serious “[concern] that the government’s plan will discourage real, organic institutional diversity in favour of a limited, top-down vision of differentiation.”

Strategic Mandate Agreements

Negotiations over the Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) continue, with the Minister expected to visit every campus across the province.  There is concern that we are increasingly seeing a shift in the degree of control taken by universities’ administrations and out of the purview of their senates.  Unlike many other universities, our own SMA passed through the UW Senate last month.  What we still do not know is what effect these agreements will have on future funding. That is, we are not sure what “levers” the government will or can use. It is not at all clear that program approvals will be linked to funding, but of course we need funding to mount new programs.

Satellite Campuses

The Ontario government released its “Major Capacity Expansion Policy Framework” in December.  Many think of this as the “satellite campus policy” because it was

If new campuses are supposed to offer students the full range of undergraduate education, then this guideline runs against a differentiation policy which is meant to encourage universities to build distinct programs.

developed to guide those universities that have proposed or are considering proposals for expanding their existing campuses or building satellite campuses. In the main, these campuses are supposed to offer undergraduate education to underserved geographical areas.  Several people noted that there are contradictions embedded in this policy when one compares it to the “differentiation” policy (as above).  If new campuses are supposed to offer students the full range of undergraduate education, then this guideline runs against a differentiation policy, which is meant to encourage universities to build distinct programs. A key consideration for OCUFA in all this is to ensure that faculty members at these campuses enjoy the same rights and privileges as their colleagues do at the centre or main campuses.

Online Ontario

In January, the Ontario government announced that it would launch “Online Ontario” in the 2015-16 academic year.  The plan is to offer students access to online courses that will be transferable across the province, and to “optimize enrollments” across the province.  Of special note: there is no faculty representation on the governing board of this new institution.  Kate Lawson, President of OCUFA (and a faculty member from the Department of English Language & Literature at the University of Waterloo!) outlined a series of issues and concerns that have been raised by the range of proposals, including but not limited to:

  1. The question of intellectual property rights (that is, who owns these online courses?);
  2. The revenue sharing model is yet to be determined (that is, would a dean want to cover costs for a professor to mount a course for Online Ontario?  What would be his/her incentive for doing so?);
  3. Ever-present workload issues (especially as several reports indicate that online courses may be far more labour-intensive than campus courses with, for example, many students requiring one on one responses to their inquiries);
  4. Academic freedom regarding course content and design;
  5. Problems that may arise for students.

The above serves to highlight that the government does not have a clear vision for this entity. There appears to be a lack of any meaningful discussion about the governance structure of Online Ontario, as well as questions of scale, though we know that it is not likely to be a degree-granting institution. We understand that there

“How can one represent just 20% of a painting?!”

is funding for start-up but what thereafter? The government may see this as a money-saving venture but there is evidence to show it can be more expensive to run these courses well, when compared to campus-based university instruction.  Those who teach using images (for example, courses in art history, visual culture and film, digital media) also noted that the rights to publicly display such images are inordinately expensive. Best line:  “How can one represent just 20% of a painting?!”


Pensions, pensions, pensions. This was the topic of very long and complex discussions and I am sorry to say that I did not understand some of the technical discussions at all.  Of interest is that OCUFA, along with the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), is engaged in the development of a straw model for a joint sector pension plan (JSPP).  This collaboration will enable the university sector’s stakeholders to respond to the Ministry of Finance’s technical working group, which is advising the Ministry on pensions in the public sector.  On a related front, in January the government appointed Paul Martin to advise on retirem
ent income sustainability. OCUFA supports the government’s “leadership on CPP reform”.

Trends in Higher Education

Several Directors reported on trends that should raise some concern:

  1. An overall loss in the number of full time faculty (10% and more with no plans to replace retirees at some institutions);
  2. An increasing number of tenure denials;
  3. Budget cutting processes that put small programs at risk of disappearing;
  4. An increase in the number of teaching stream positions, and with them inordinately high teaching loads (5/5 teaching was just one example from a settlement is expected to be ratified);
  5. 2-tiered bargaining strategies so that new hires may get different workloads and fewer benefits. One can imagine how this sort of splitting can have a deleterious effect across campus;
  6. Online teaching evaluations have been adopted by several universities and all of the Directors who reported on this process have given it a big FAIL.  It is so problematic that at some institutions the administration has conceded and allowed tenure stream faculty to have paper and in class versions of evaluations because the submission rates have been so low (20 to 30% max) for the online versions. This has placed vulnerable faculty at increased risk.  Several faculty – including a member of the OCUFA Status of Women Committee – noted that there is growing evidence that teaching evaluations – whether online or not — can have a disproportionately negative effect on members of marginalized communities. All in all, it appears the move to online evaluations can lead to unanticipated and disastrous consequences;
  7. Last but not least: there is an erosion of collegial relationships across some campuses as budget cuts take their toll and administrations take a more managerial approach to running universities and pay less attention to the needs and voices of both faculty and students.


A random survey of faculty on other campuses who were asked to indicate how they would like to receive information from their faculty association indicated that they prefer electronic and email newsletters and email updates by a very wide margin (76.2% and 68.3% respectively) over Facebook (2.5%), Twitter (2.4%) or blogs (18.6%).

OCUFA is working with all faculty associations to develop a campaign website should an election be called. Watch for analyses on their site.

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

News from the OCUFA Director

—Jasmin Habib, FAUW Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) Director

The OCUFA Board of Directors meeting that FAUW President David Porreca and I attended at the end of September was intense. While FAUW is engaged in important discussions about, for example, scheduling and the balance between work and home lives, both David and I were struck with the very serious threats that appear to be facing some of our colleagues across the province.

For example:

Major reforms to pension and benefits packages are likely. Some of the richer benefits packages, for example, those that offer post-retirement research allowances (Professional Expense Reimbursements), are likely to be hardest hit.

Program Prioritisation and Planning processes are underway at several universities and it appears they will lead to deep cuts to programs and academic staff.  Reports across the province are that these cost-cutting measures will be made at the expense of pedagogical excellence.

Serious concerns were also raised about a leaked document that sets out the Province’s “Differentiation Policy Framework”. Since we can all agree that our universities are already “differentiated,” at least to some extent, we do not have any clear sense as to why this particular policy has been introduced or exactly how it will be implemented.  As one Director put it: it seems that the Province is finding all sorts of bottom-drawer policies that may not make any programmatic sense (they may even contradict one another) but they just haven’t been tried out yet. What is most worrisome is that it appears – on the face of it – that smaller universities and their programs will be at highest risk.  To date, OCUFA has not been invited to comment on the matter, which is troubling. Nonetheless, they have made a public statement, as follows: “OCUFA will oppose any policy framework that allows government to interfere in academic decision making, properly the responsibility of university senates.”

For those who would like to learn a little more about what OCUFA does, I would encourage you to visit their website at or the OCUFA Facebook page. There, you will find reports and policy statements and a link to Academic Matters.

There are several events that the OCUFA Executive, Directors and Committee members will be engaged with throughout this academic year, including:

  • In October, OCUFA arranges to have its Directors and Faculty Association Presidents meet with local MPPs. These meetings allow for a kind of face-to-face interaction that is quite rare but certainly incredibly important, especially as there is every possibility we will be moving into a critical election sometime early in 2014. David will be attending these meetings on behalf of the FAUW.
  • In November, the OCUFA University Finance Committee will be organising a workshop where they hope “to de-mystify budgets and the budget process.” David and I plan to attend these meetings on behalf of FAUW.
  • And, early next year, OCUFA, together with its standing committees (Collective Bargaining, Grievance, and Status of Women), is planning to organise a workshop “After Bill 168: Occupational Health and Safety in the Academy.” I plan to attend this workshop and it is likely that a member of the FAUW Status of Women and Equity Committee and/or the Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee will be joining me.

Last but certainly not least: OCUFA will be hosting its annual conference in February. This year’s theme is “Future View”. The focus of panel discussions and keynote speakers will be on how we might re-imagine research, teaching and service in the future. A big concern: how might our practices have to change as governments shift their funding priorities away from our post-secondary institutions? Stay tuned!

Highlights: OCUFA 141st Board of Directors Meeting

David Porreca, FAUW President

The OCUFA Board of Directors, with representation from 27 member faculty associations, meets three times a year in September, February, and May. The September meeting includes association presidents, as well as OCUFA directors. FAUW’s OCUFA director, Jasmin Habib, attended the meeting with David Porreca.

This blog post will provide the main headlines from this past weekend’s OCUFA Board meeting, with more ample elaborations to follow later in the week.

  • University of Ottawa has recently concluded their collective bargaining session to obtain a new contract spanning the period from 1 May 2012 to 30 April 2016 with a 2% across-the-board increase in each year of the agreement. In addition, in years three and four, there is a 1.5% catch-up increase. Increases to pension contributions will also occur in years three and four, with a blended increase rate of 0.8%.  New vision exam and care coverage was also negotiated.
  • [Corrected] Our colleagues at St. Jerome’s University are currently in conciliation in relation to their contract negotiations and have filed for a no-board report. The next meeting with the Employer is scheduled for October 18th. The Association hopes to reach a negotiated settlement at that time. Stay tuned!!
  • In related news, two faculty associations currently are negotiating their first contracts with their administrations (Brescia and UOIT Teaching faculty), while 17 other Ontario associations will be negotiating over the course of this academic year. This means there will be lots of recent, local precedent to follow when FAUW enters negotiations in 2014-15.
  • 22 October is Ontario MPP Lobby Day for Ontario Faculty Associations. I will be attending.
  • The Ontario government has established a technical working group to advise on the design, governance and transition issues associated with the implementation of a new pooled asset management entity for Ontario’s broader public-sector pension funds, as recommended in the Morneau report. This group is still only in the preliminary deliberations stage of its activities, which both OCUFA and FAUW will be monitoring with all due care.
  • The “draft discussion paper” of Ontario’s Proposed Differentiation Policy Framework was discussed. More on this soon.
  • A motion was passed at the instigation of the Waterloo delegation to have OCUFA send a message opposing the attempts to curtail the civil liberties of people involved in the broader public sector in Québec in relation to the freedom of religious expression. Consultation with stakeholders in that province to assess the state of the matter will be done before any formal message is sent.
  • A motion was also passed unanimously to have the OCUFA Executive send a strong message to PM Stephen Harper asking him to secure the release of two Canadian academics arbitrarily arrested in Egypt: Tarek Loubani (Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Western University) and John Greyson (Professor, Film Studies, York University). They are on an ongoing hunger strike. There’s more information on this at View their latest statement here, or this update on their situation from the Toronto Star.
    [As of this morning Prime Minister Harper has called for the release of Tarek Loubani and John Greyson.]
  • Re: Bill C-377: The principal concern about this private member’s bill is that the financial disclosure provisions contained in it would allow any forensic accountant to deduce the strike fund of any/all collective bargaining units in Canada, a self-evidently punitive union-busting measure that would not serve the Canadian citizenry well.  This bill was sent back to Parliament from Senate with major revisions that would have enabled the transparency the bill seeks while excising its most egregiously harmful portions. OCUFA Directors heard that the Harper government is now sending the bill back to Senate in its original form, without any changes, to be voted upon. Faculty members are encouraged to write to Canadian Senators to urge that they not support this bill.  Even the Conservative government of New Brunswick has expressed its explicit support of unions’ efforts in that province to oppose this piece of legislation.