8 myths about UW lecturers

A post from the FAUW Lecturers Committee.

FAUW first started holding events specifically for Waterloo lecturers in 2014, but there have been lecturers on campus since at least the early ‘90s. With a distinct uptick in lecturer hiring over the last decade or two, there are now lecturers in every one of the University’s six faculties and they make up 18% of the FAUW membership. For many chairs, directors, deans—or just faculty colleagues—who are new to dealing with lecturer-rank faculty, there may be some uncertainty about who these people are and how they fit into their departments and schools. To help explain what lecturer faculty are—and aren’t—here are (in no particular order) eight myths about lecturers at Waterloo.

Myth #1: A lecturer is a lecturer is a lecturer

Fact: The term “lecturer” is often indiscriminately applied to everyone from sessional instructors hired by the course or term to permanent teaching faculty. At Waterloo, “lecturer” is one of the four faculty hiring ranks (the others are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor; see Policy 76 – Faculty Appointments). While sessional instructors are also hired at the rank of lecturer, they’re more correctly called adjunct or special lecturers and are administratively very different from the lecturer-rank regular faculty members (just “lecturers” from here on) that we’re talking about in this post.

Lecturers can have “definite term” or “continuing” appointments. Most lecturer-rank faculty are initially hired on definite-term contracts, which can be repeatedly renewed when they expire, although there is never any guarantee of renewal (see myth #7). Continuing lecturers have permanent, ongoing appointments that don’t have expiry dates. FAUW represents both definite-term and continuing lecturers (but not sessional instructors). About 40% of UW’s lecturers have continuing appointments.

Getting the terminology straight is just half the battle. The specifics of lecturer positions—how teaching loads are defined, what kinds of service and administrative tasks they do—can vary widely between faculties, and even between departments in the same faculty. According to our 2015 lecturers survey, about half of UW’s lecturers have an 80/20 teaching/service ratio; the other half reported a broad variety of teaching/research/service weightings.

Continue reading “8 myths about UW lecturers”

February at FAUW

Maybe it was the Valentine’s Day candy, or maybe it was the coming long weekend, but we got through the February 13 Board meeting in good time. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. We debriefed the recent Council of Representatives meeting. One topic at that meeting was the importance of Faculty Performance Evaluation Guidelines and departmental addenda. These documents are the place to look for information about what’s a “normal” workload in your department, how service is evaluated, or what counts as teaching. Right now is a good time to start working on updating those documents if they need it (new versions must be approved by October 15). Talk to your Council member for more information. Here are some suggestions for things to include:
    • An explicitly defined normal teaching load
    • The expected/normal supervision load
    • A statement acknowledging different types of teaching and teaching responsibilities
    • The ability to submit peer reviews of teaching and solicited comments or letters
    • That participation in CTE and other workshops counts toward teaching
    • The ability to use evidence not just from the classroom and qualitative evidence
    • Direction that student surveys should be considered with caution
  1. We noted some confusion among members about how benefits plan decisions are made. The Pension & Benefits Committee decides what’s covered in our health and dental plans, and that committee is made up of members from all the represented employee groups (FAUW, the Staff Association, and CUPE) and the Retirees Association, plus representatives from the University administration and Board of Governors. FAUW has three out of 13 votes on the committee.
  2. We heard updates from our rep on the Copyright Advisory Committee. If you have questions about copyright in your classes or your own work, read this interview with Lauren Byl, Copyright and Licensing Librarian, to find out how to get answers!
  3. We cleared up an issue about travel to Cuba. University Finance sent a memo last July stating that “international financial sanctions prevent the University from making or receiving payment for products or services related, either directly or indirectly” to certain countries including Cuba and Iran. We had serious concerns about how this might limit opportunities for research collaboration and questions about why the University was implementing American sanctions (Canada doesn’t have sanctions against Cuba). 
    We now have confirmation that the University can “reimburse an employee for travel expenses related to countries subject to sanctions, provided that the employee’s travel reimbursement is to a Canadian bank account and assuming that the travel to that particular country has not otherwise been prohibited under University of Waterloo Policy.” If you encounter any difficulties with claims for travel to countries subject to sanctions, let a FAUW Board or staff member so that we can follow up.”
  4. After hearing that definite term lecturers did not receive an email about nominations for University Senate, we reaffirmed, again, that, lecturers are regular faculty (and eligible to sit on Senate). “Regular faculty” almost exactly overlaps with “faculty represented by FAUW.” Here’s the short version: Regular faculty = lecturers and professors hired for at least one year, except research profs and adjuncts.
    • The slightly more complicated version, as defined in Policy 76 (Faculty Appointments) is that regular faculty means all lecturer and professorial rank faculty with appointments one year or longer, including clinical faculty (e.g. a clinical lecturer or clinical associate professor), but not including any faculty who have some other qualifier in their title to designate a non-regular appointment, such as “research,” “adjunct,” “visiting,” or “special.” (Sessional instructors are not regular faculty; they aren’t defined anywhere, but they all have special or adjunct appointments and are hired on contracts shorter than one year.) We’ll have more on this in a blog post from the Lecturers Committee soon.
  5. As we reported in the fall, the Media Resources office and preview room closed when the person staffing the office retired. The resources are now available through the IST Service Desk located in the Davis Centre Library. We brought concerns about this to the University, and have now heard that things are staying essentially the same. There is a new viewing room available at the DC library. To request new materials, email media.loans@uwaterloo.ca. The Associate Vice President, Academic has promised to keep an eye on this, and we will too. Let us know if the office closure creates problems for you.

Highlights from the January 30 FAUW Board meeting

Every two weeks or so, we give you a run-down of the major non-confidential topics discussed at our Board of Directors meetings. Here are the latest items:

  1. A new Board member. Patrick Lam (Electrical and Computer Engineering/Computer Science, Director-at-large elected in 2019) has stepped down and gone on sabbatical. Alfred Yu (also ECE) is stepping in until June 30. Nominations for this seat and the six Faculty-specific seats on the Board are open now and due in March.
  2. Climate Justice Working Group. The Board approved a proposal from members to form a FAUW Climate Justice Working Group. Its objectives include building climate justice awareness on campus, creating a community of practice for faculty, and sharing climate justice research with the regional community. You’ll hear more about this new group soon!
  3. Graduate Students Association unionization vote. The GSA Council (similar to our Council of Reps) has voted in favour of “the formation of a union of graduate TAs, RAs, and sessional instructors.” This is a green light for the GSA to explore the option of unionization. There is a detailed explanation on the GSA website. The Imprint has also published a statement from GSA VP David Billedeau.
  4. Our teaching workload project. We’ve collected some information about teaching workload norms and practices from our Council of Representatives. Unsurprisingly, we found wide variation across campus. This is back on the agenda at the Council of Reps meeting on February 5 as we work on narrowing our focus and filling in gaps in the data.
  5. Departmental addenda. Every Faculty has guidelines for performance reviews. Every department has (or is supposed to have) departmental addenda to those guidelines with department-specific criteria (teaching workload norms, for example). These are mandated by the Memorandum of Agreement and they’re important because they set out what the expectations are for your evaluation. We’ll be talking about what to include in these addenda—and why now is the time to update them—at the Council meeting on Wednesday.
  6. Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour. A subcommittee of the Faculty Relations and Staff Relations committees is reviewing the feedback from the Policy 33 consultations.

The Twelve Days of Performance Review

It’s that time of year—the time when faculty members at Waterloo start thinking about writing their annual performance review documents and putting together their files. In this spirit, the FAUW Equity Committee offers twelve tips to help you think about equity as an essential part of this process.

A title card with mildly festive graphics: holly, mistletoe, etc.

On the first day of performance review season, collaborate with members of your own department to demystify the review process, especially for new faculty members. All APRs are local; what someone does in another department is probably not the same in yours. Consider starting a sharing circle: pool APR reports, with or without the numbers attached, so that you can get a feel for the genre. Pay it forward. Mentor those junior to you.

On the second day of performance review season, focus on your teaching effectiveness in the full knowledge that student questionnaires correlate principally with non-instructional factors (scheduling, student interest in the topic, grade expectations, and the like).

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) states unequivocally:

“Using SQCTs [student questionnaires on courses and teaching] for performance evaluation penalizes women, racialized and LGBTQ2S+ faculty, and faculty with disabilities. These faculty are also more likely to be the target of harassment in the anonymous comments sections of the questionnaires. Further, using SQCTs for performance evaluation risks undermining effective teaching and intellectual diversity.”

To cite this report in your own performance review documentation:
Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “Report of the OCUFA Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching Working Group.” February 2019. https://ocufa.on.ca/assets/OCUFA-SQCT-Report.pdf

On the third day of performance review season, start a broader discussion at the department level. Every department has guiding documents that outline how to evaluate performance. Share the recent arbitration ruling at Ryerson University (Ryerson University v. The Ryerson Faculty Association, 2018) that student evaluations of teaching via course questionnaires are valuable instruments for “captur[ing] student experience” but cannot be “used to measure teaching effectiveness for promotion or tenure.”

Or talk about how the Department of Psychology at Waterloo decided not to use student evaluations of teaching in their review process, citing the bias inherent in these evaluations. This effort was rejected at the decanal level, but maybe we just need more departments to take a principled stand. Consider citing the OCUFA document (see: day two) in your department’s review documentation. Ask what other sources of bias might exist in your department’s process.

On the fourth day of performance review season, your department gets a special gift: a junior faculty member on the performance review committee! Rotating junior members of the department onto the committee is important because it will pull back the curtain for these colleagues, but also because it can be unfair to junior faculty members to be evaluated only by senior colleagues. The Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) between FAUW and the University delineates that there must be five members to assist the Chair on this committee (see section 13.5.6), but does not specify rank or other details about these members.

Continue reading “The Twelve Days of Performance Review”

FAUW’s Priorities for 2018-19

—FAUW President Bryan Tolson with an update on what we’re working on right now and what’s coming up this year.

Welcome to a new academic year! I hope you all took some time off this summer. FAUW is gearing up for a new academic year and I want to quickly fill you in on the array of things we are working on—and to highlight two items that are timely for you to consider putting some thought into.

Performance evaluation addenda

First off, we are quickly approaching the deadline (October 15) for each department and school to update its Addendum to their Faculty Performance Evaluation Guidelines. One quick example of why this might be useful: FAUW thinks this is a reasonable place for departments to specify how teaching tasks are counted and/or what the normal teaching loads are for both tenured/ tenure-track faculty and lecturers in your department.

While you’re at it, make sure to change any reference to “course/teaching evaluations” to read “student course perception surveys” as per the decision of University Senate. Continue reading “FAUW’s Priorities for 2018-19”

Faculty Performance Evaluations To Get an Overhaul

The University of Waterloo is presently considering amending the Memorandum of Agreement to change the way in which faculty members are evaluated. While discussion of student evaluation of teaching abounds in the academic community, faculty performance evaluation has so far received little attention in comparison.
In this context, UW brings a substantive but positive proposal to cut performance evaluations for tenured and continuing faculty back to only every other year, and increases the transparency of the review process. Pre-tenure and definite term faculty members will still submit activity reports and receive feedback every year.
Evaluating each Faculty member is a very time-consuming exercise; spacing it out to every two years will free up time for both administrators and faculty members to address other pressing issues.
The full text of the proposed changes and answers to questions you might have are provided on FAUW’s website. The FAUW board of directors endorses these changes and believes that they are in the best interests of our members.
If you’d like to learn more or discuss the proposal with board members, we invite you to a town hall meeting on October 5, so you can make an informed decision before voting. The poll will be open from October 3 to October 14.
–Élise Lepage

Ratings for Service

From Sally Gunz, FAUW President

There have been rumours swirling around various places on campus for a year or more that FAUW is finally able to address. These relate to possible instructions from at least one dean to chairs to have the average for service in the annual performance evaluations in any particular department to be no more than 1.25 or ‘good’ (MoA, 13.5.3).

The position of FAUW has been consistently that this violates terms and conditions of employment as described in the MoA. Specifically, if the average of only one element of the three most faculty are evaluated upon (i.e., Research, Teaching, Service) is reduced, the consequence is to lower the weighting of that element (to below the 20 percent weighting for service for most faculty members). 

We have now had confirmed that in fact there is no such directive to lower averages for service. Obviously if anyone still hears from their own chair that service weightings must be lowered overall, please let us know. It often takes time for these kinds of rumours to be dispelled.

FAUW Updates – Part 2 of 2

David Porreca, FAUW President

This is a continuation from Part 1 posted last week.

6. Pharmacy building

East side of the pharmacy building showing flower garden

Photo by George Freeman

FAUW has received reports that certain peculiarities of the newish Pharmacy building on the corner of King & Victoria in Kitchener have been generating substantial environmental problems for the users of the building.  In particular, large teaching laboratories on the King Street side of the building have been experiencing high temperature and humidity levels on hot summer days.

Their large windows face roughly north east and would get direct sun in the early morning, especially around the summer solstice.  Users of the lab need the full protective gear of safety glasses, long-sleeved lab coats, etc., along with giant fume hoods to whisk away any hazardous vapours. It is possible the HVAC equipment in that part of the building is not sufficient to its task or needs adjustment in view of the exhaust force of the fume hoods.  FAUW and colleagues working in the Pharmacy building are working with Plant Ops to find a solution.

7. Fall break?

Sign post labelled October pointing to the right

© Filipe Frazao / Dollar Photo Club

The Federation of Students has expressed an interest in running a referendum on whether or not to call upon the university to establish a Fall Break, similar to the winter-term Reading Week.  Currently, 14 Ontario universities have such a break, leaving only 8 without one (UW included).  A Task Force has just produced a report for the Provost detailing the various trade-offs that would be needed for such a break to be established (e.g., some combination of shortening Orientation, allowing exams on December 23, Sunday exams, and other options).

The mandate of the task force was simply to gather information about these trade-offs, and to comment on their relative feasibility, rather to make any decisions or formal recommendations about whether or not to go ahead with this idea. The Task Force had good representation from all relevant stakeholder groups, and any moves toward a Fall Break would certainly involve much more extensive consultation of all the relevant parties. Any changes would require formal approval by Senate.

8. FAUW staffing

Just as the university itself is facing a crisis of continuity, the Faculty Association is also in a similar bind with respect to our staff. We have already bid farewell in early July to Jim Tigwell, our Communications Coordinator and Administrative Assistant, as well as to Carrie Hunting in mid-August, who was our Academic Freedom and Tenure and Policy Officer. Job postings forthcoming.

Geese graxing on the lawn beside the ENV3 building

Photo by George Freeman

9. Revamped course evaluations

Another Task Force, chaired by Mark Seasons (School of Planning) has been working on revising how UW conducts its in-class instructor evaluations by students. The faculty of mathematics and the faculty of science have been doing some pilot testing of all-electronic course evaluations using a very promising in-house electronic system. FAUW will be paying close attention to who has access to the completed evaluations, their format and content as well as to how they end up being used.

10. FAUW retreat and priorities for 2014-15

In July, the FAUW Board of Directors held its first-in-a-long-time strategic retreat to discuss large-scale issues facing us over the next year. During this retreat, we established a list of items that we hope to devote time and effort to over the course of the year. Some have already been discussed above, others are listed briefly here:

a – Surveys: the FAUW Communications Sub-Committee intends to do more intensive polling of our membership on assorted questions of concern during this year.

b – Revisions to Policy 33 (Ethical Behaviour)

c – ADDS status: the revised ADDS regulations are winding their way through various Faculty Councils before going for approval at Senate. Revisions to the draft FAUW negotiated with grad students and the administration last year is likely to undergo revisions as a result of this process. More as it arises.

d – Performance evaluations: The idea of shifting tenured faculty members to a biennial performance evaluation scheme will be considered once again over the course of the year.

e – Arts 1.25 for service: This refers to the manner in which standards were set and communicated for assessments on the faculty annual performance (merit) evaluation.  It remains unresolved from last year.

f – Best practices in graduate supervision: In collaboration with FAUW and the GSO, the Graduate Students’ Association is planning to develop a document setting out best practices in graduate supervision.

g – Athletics: We will continue to explore ways of improving our health and wellness facilities on campus in collaboration with the student and staff associations.

What is the Merit of Merit?

David Porreca, FAUW President
This post owes its origin to a discussion we had both at the last FAUW Board meeting and a subsequent e-mail conversation among Board members. Essentially, the question boils down to asking whether all of the effort expended on the annual assessment of merit for faculty members provides a net benefit of productivity for all the relevant stakeholders: individual faculty members, our university as an institution, and academia writ large? 
In other words, what purpose does our current scheme of merit evaluations serve?

Just a few years ago, FAUW and the university’s administration undertook a review of the faculty evaluation process, and decided to maintain the broad structure of our current scheme of performance evaluations while encouraging department chairs to use “the full dynamic range” of designations from 0 to 2, in 0.25 increments.  Data regarding the distribution of merit scores is provided in the appendices to the Work-Life Balance Report that was released earlier this year.  Salary increments based on merit are drawn from a different pool of money than the scale increase that FAUW negotiates on its members’ behalf. 
As we all know, this process of annual merit evaluations involves a substantial amount of effort from faculty members filling in forms and templates every January.  As anyone who has been department chair or who has contributed to a departmental evaluation committee knows all too well, those templates and CVs are only the beginning.  An unquantified number of very expensive hours gets invested annually in the evaluating, assessing, comparing and ranking of these materials once submitted, and the resulting evaluation rankings get yet another round of assessment and vetting at the various Deans’ offices across campus. 
As one might expect under circumstances where professionals are judged against each other, considerations of fairness on the one hand, and of inevitable professional jealousy on the other, create fertile ground for the questioning of the resulting evaluations.  A member must determine whether s/he has the wherewithal to challenge the chair’s decision, perhaps as far as an appeal to the Dean, and such an appeal would involve an investment of working hours for all concerned, faculty, academic administrators and staff. 
In addition to these resource-consuming mechanisms mandated by policy and the Memorandum of Agreement, there is also the human angle of productivity loss due to the mental anguish that fretting over this forest of procedures causes.
Considering all of the above, does the net difference between an evaluation score of 1.5 vs. 1.75 on a professor’s salary justify the investment of human capital into all the mechanisms described above?  In a nutshell, it would seem that never has so much time been invested for the sake of so small a net difference. 

ON THE OTHER HAND…

If one compounds that difference over a professor’s whole career, the differences do add up.  Annual performance evaluations are essential for a university with high aspirations.
They serve the role of both carrot and stick.
In principle, they reward those faculty members who, by virtue of having more talent or working harder, accomplish more as teachers, researchers and administrative colleagues. These people expect and deserve better raises in recognition of their accomplishments.
At the same time, evaluations serve as a reminder to the lazier side of our nature that we
should be making strong contributions as researchers, teachers and administrative colleagues.  Despite what we like to believe about ourselves, we are not solely driven from within to be good professors. We need help from knowing that some sort of annual accounting has to be provided.
No system of performance evaluation can be perfect.  Given our human nature, a perfect system for doing such business is not possible.  All that an institution can do is try its best, and continue to seek improvements towards fair outcomes.  But “fair” is a tough target to hit in this endeavor, and there is no getting around it. 

To Provost or Not to Provost?

David Porreca, FAUW President

Well, as many of you already know, our institution had a heart attack last week. Dr. Sallie Ann Keller resigned from the position of Vice-President Academic and Provost (VPAP) after nine months on the job.

Quite understandably, this topic dominated the discussion at the Faculty Association Board of Directors’ meeting this past Thursday. This sort of development tends to lead to speculation about what might have gone wrong. In this post, however, I would like to highlight some of the significantly positive developments – from the Faculty Association’s perspective – that have occurred under Dr. Keller’s leadership:

  • UW did the right thing in not signing on to Access Copyright’s framework. Instead, we have developed our own set of copyright guidelines that are described in full in the UW Copyright FAQ.
UW Dubai Campus
UW Dubai Campus
  • UW’s satellite campus in Dubai is closing. The opening of this campus was actively opposed by the Faculty Association from the get-go for a variety of good reasons, including the lack of a credible business plan for the project, and the impossibility for all UW policies to apply on that campus (e.g., an openly gay faculty member would be committing a capital offence the moment they set foot off the plane in the United Arab Emirates).

Although the manner in which the closure has proceeded has generated no small amount of controversy, the facts that a) enrolment never met expectations; b) resources were deployed whose opportunity cost for main campus operations were recognized to be deleterious; and c) concerns over equity for participants in activities at the Dubai campus were never adequately addressed, have all made the Faculty Association cheer its closure. In fact, it has been difficult to resist loud shouts of “We told you so!!”

  • Inequities surrounding benefits for couples who are both UW employees have been resolved.
  • The railroading of a new scheduling system with inadequate communication and inadequate consultation with key stakeholders had been slowed, such that all interested parties can get their concerns integrated into the deployment of the new system over the next year or so.
  • After unconscionable delays and consequent mushrooming of costs, the construction of a consolidated daycare facility for the university community is finally going ahead.
There are other files around which we have seen significant progress:
  • The approaching resolution of issues around the collection and retention of confidential medical information from those applying for Short-Term and/or Long-Term Disability benefits.
  • Implementing regular, systematic checks for faculty salary anomalies and their adequate resolution.
  • The oversight and governance of Senate-approved centres and institutes, so as to avoid in the future the controversy surrounding the governance of the Balsillie School of International Affairs

All of the above being said, we recognize that there are still some issues that are the source of significant concern for our membership that we still need to push forward:

  • Per diems. Reports keep coming in that other institutions (e.g., the University of Toronto and McMaster University) have managed to retain their per diem systems for expense claims despite the apparent imposition of provincial regulations. Investigations are ongoing on the applicability of the systems deployed at those institutions to UW.
  • Senate Long-Range Planning Committee oversight of satellite campuses. We are aiming to set in place regulations that will prevent the occurrence of future debacles such as our Dubai campus. Defining satellite campuses is a key component of this issue.
  • Pensions: Not everyone is happy with the changes to our pension plan that were put forward last year for implementation in 2014. Efforts are ongoing to improve the situation through broader consultation.
  • The Work-Life Balance Report authored by DeVidi, Parry, Collington, Clapp and Brown contains a number of sensible recommendations to improve our working conditions. The exact mechanisms for the implementation of the Report’s recommendations are still under discussion.
  • Concerns over the inadequacy of UW’s provisions for compassionate care and bereavement leave have been raised and distilled into a report for FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee. The implementation of this report’s recommendations is also under discussion.
  • Having biennial evaluations for tenured faculty members is an issue that has been raised many times over the years which we will be looking into more closely.

Well, there you have it: the good, the “in progress” and the “yet-to-do” lists. The length and significance of the first two are a testimony to the good working relationship the Faculty Association had with Dr. Keller. We look forward to having an equally productive relationship with Dr. Geoff McBoyle who will be returning as the interim VPAP, as well as with his eventual permanent successor.