News From Your Board: May 24 Meeting Recap

Returning from the Victoria Day long weekend, a rowdy and energized board assembled to review many in-progress issues. We began with the implementation of the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) report, specifically how FAUW can support the recommendations on training for faculty. The Board expressed support for these recommendations, and suggests that faculty voluntarily engage in additional mental health training as provided on campus. We’ll have more on this in another post soon.

The second issue brought to us directly from members is the lack of secure bicycle parking on campus. The Board wants to support improved bike parking and hopes to see Parking Services commit more resources to this in the future. Discussions will continue on this topic.

Next, everyone’s favourite topic—the Fall Break pilot—made a reappearance, specifically preferred semester start dates after Labour day, and how changes would affect faculty who teach in the spring term and sessional or contract faculty who are only paid as of the first day of class.

On a related note: We recently sent a reminder to our members that the Registrar’s Office will schedule exams earlier in the spring block for faculty who teach in both the spring and fall terms, in order to provide adequate time between terms. The response was positive (mostly), and we hope that those of you teaching in both of these terms take advantage of this scheduling flexibility in the future.

We have been hearing from members whose professional expense (FPER) claims have been rejected despite meeting the April 30 submission deadline. From FAUW’s perspective, these claims should be reimbursed to our members as soon as possible. This position has been brought to the administration and more information is coming!

Members in Applied Health Sciences will be happy to hear that they now have a representative on the Board for the 2018–19 year. While the position was vacant following our elections in March, Clark Dickerson from Kinesiology has since stepped up to the plate and was appointed by the Board for a one-year term (as per the FAUW constitution).

Lastly, the Board passed terms of reference for the newly renamed Equity Committee. Information about all of our committees is available on our website.

—Peter Johnson, director for the Faculty of Environment

News From Your Board: February 1 Meeting Recap

—Peter Johnson, director for the Faculty of Environment

This mid-winter Board meeting kicked off with a discussion with the negotiating team about the details of the memorandum of salary settlement. As you have no doubt seen, this settlement shows evidence of the strong productive and collegial relationship between FAUW and the administration, and sets a positive foundation for future salary settlements. A well-deserved note of appreciation to the entire negotiating team for their tireless work on our collective behalf.

In addition to concluding salary negotiations, we are now entering a busy FAUW events season, with many exciting workshops, panels, and meetings over the remainder of the winter term. Of particular note are the upcoming Hagey Lecture, workshops on Navigating University Governance and Writing University Policy, the President’s Luncheon on Academic Freedom, and, looking further ahead, the Spring General Meeting and Tenure & Promotion workshops in April.

Ongoing topics included exam scheduling, specifically discussions with the Registrar’s Office to better understand the current timing of the release of the exam schedule, and the possibility of moving it earlier in the term. We feel that early release of this schedule will be a positive support for both student and instructor mental health.

The recently revealed ‘bug’ in Evaluate, the online course evaluation software used by the University to collect student course perceptions (which are in turn used to evaluate faculty for merit pay), caused much discussion. Though we applaud how the discovery of the bug was handled, there is much work to be done to develop a system of governance to guide the Evaluate project. We look forward to discussing how Evaluate will be used and its governance structure with the University and IST in the future.

News From Your Board: January 4 Meeting Recap

Peter Johnson, director for the Faculty of Environment

The boardroom was full of post-holiday/return-to-campus energy as the FAUW board sat down for the first meeting of 2018. A brief update on negotiations noted that a number of January dates have been set for the bargaining teams to meet.

We discussed the issue of equity among Canada Research Chair appointments across campus, with numerous comments on the Equity Action Plan released in December. If you have feedback, please comment below or email Bryan Tolson.

We also discussed the perpetual question of whether there is an optimal way to schedule final exams that better supports student mental health, and to have final exam schedules prepared earlier in the term. Discussions with the Registrar’s Office is ongoing and we hope to have an update in the spring term.

Additional conversations focused on the extent to which individuals on health leave are able to access on-campus resources and activities, for example faculty members continuing to supervise students while on health leave, or access to the Physical Activities Complex for graduate students on leave. This has been an issue in the past and has become relevant yet again. If you have feedback on this topic, please contact Paul Ward or Brent Matheson.

The Scheduling Memo – 2016 Reboot

By Bryan Tolson, FAUW Vice President

By now, you should have heard about – and hopefully read – the memo regarding the Fall 2016 changes to the scheduling system. With these substantial changes now officially announced, it seems an appropriate time for another blog post about scheduling.

The point of this post is to give you my thoughts, as FAUW’s representative on PACT (the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Timetabling), on the scheduling system and in particular the most recent memo from PACT addressing the system of constraints. I will close with some essential facts and recommendations about how you can get what you need under the revised system.

If you have not read the memo (PDF), I suggest you do so before continuing below. FAUW has posted scheduling system-related blog posts in the past few years. For a refresher on the ongoing debate around scheduling, read:

It is both my and the Board’s basic premise that the new scheduling system is here to stay and that our goal is to work with it and the Administration to get the best for FAUW members. That said, we must also realize that it is a centralized scheduling system in which every unit and every faculty member must share finite space and, thus, lecture times. Equity and fairness are a big concern for all on PACT (including me), as well as for FAUW. Any accommodation made for one faculty member will impact another so these cannot be made lightly.

Let me provide a concrete example. If you attempt to “game” the system so that you avoid teaching Friday afternoons, you are effectively sentencing a colleague to teach in that time slot. (So please keep your colleagues in mind as you attempt to define a teaching schedule that works for you.) Negotiating this balancing act is not a simple exercise and this newest memo is another attempt to strike that balance.

What I like in the memo

There is much to like about this latest iteration of PACT’s attempt to identify acceptable constraints on timetabling. First of all, many people are working very hard to try and make real improvements to the scheduling system. The changes in the memo are a “net positive” in terms of achieving equity and fairness across the campus.

Second, like it or not, it appears that future provincial funding for new teaching space on campus will require a clear demonstration that we are utilizing our current teaching space at something approaching full capacity. Hence, setting targets for the ratio of 3×1-hr courses to 2×1.5-hr courses to maximize room use efficiency is sensible from this perspective.

Third, the idea of giving every faculty member on campus—our childless, parentless, or partnerless colleagues included—the opportunity to specify a seven-hour teaching block in which all their teaching will occur is also a good one. Lastly, the changes to the system introduce more predictability for instructors, something many of us appreciate.

What I do not like in the memo

The devil is really in the details and I am concerned about certain aspects of the new definition of constraints, concerns I have raised on the faculty members’ behalf at least once, sometimes multiple times, in PACT discussions, with little impact. Chief among those are:

  • Regular research commitments such as remote field-work or off-campus meetings with research partners (these can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reschedule) are not explicitly listed as a Level 2 constraint. To be clear, they potentially are allowable Level 2 constraints, but only at the discretion of the Chair. So ask for these if they are needed.
  • All faculty who teach a 1×3-hr lecture to more than 80 students are now forced to either teach in the 2:30-5:30 p.m. time slot or in the evening (there are no other options). This is not fair. Unless the campus is ready to decide that no class should be delivered in one 3-hour block during the daytime, our colleagues who, for pedagogical reasons, choose to teach this way deserve more flexibility in potential teaching times during the day. (If you teach a course like this and share my concern, please email me: btolson@uwaterloo.ca.)
  • In this first iteration of the “teaching window” model, Chairs are being asked to ensure that their unit has “spread their teaching window requests evenly over the three start times (8:30am, 9:30am and 10:30am).” I firmly believe that the natural distribution of requested start times across the available options will be such that the resulting schedule’s integrity will not be compromised.
  • There are scheduling software defaults that are not yet known to all instructors. It is unclear in the current documentation, for example, how early a faculty member can be scheduled to teach the day after delivering a night class that ends at 10:00 pm.

The memo is a living document and so I believe the above concerns can be easily dealt with in the next revision or even earlier when supporting documentation is posted on the new scheduling website.

What you need to know when submitting teaching availability constraints

The list below highlights things you need to know that are not clear from the scheduling memo, or things I think need to be emphasized. The memo contains many other things you also need to know so please do also read the memo (PDF) if you haven’t yet!

  • You cannot be required to teach after 5:30 pm. 
  • Chairs have been instructed in the memo to ensure that instructors have spread their teaching window requests evenly over the three start times. While some of us may be able to be flexible, others may not. My recommendation is that those who cannot change their teaching window for personal or professional reasons should simply refuse to do so.
  • Due to time constraints, PACT was unable to completely standardize the way instructor availability constraints are collected. As far as I can tell, your department will collect these in one of the following ways:
  1. A slick web-based collection form. I have seen the test website for this form but if you wish to learn more, you will have to ask for details from your Faculty-level PACT Representative. Make sure your scheduling representative is aware of this option.
  2. A more clunky Word-based option using the template file provided by the RO to scheduling reps (see form here).
  3. Some sort of variation to what your department has done in past terms to collect instructor constraints.

For anyone in category #3, you should check that your departmental approach is essentially consistent with the instructions you see in the link in #2 above. If you have concerns about inconsistencies which may lead to inequities, please share them with your scheduling rep, your Faculty PACT Representative and me (btolson@uwaterloo.ca).

  • You are not limited to submitting only two teaching availability constraints even though collection methods #1 and #2 in the above bullet imply this. If you have valid constraint requests, you are allowed to submit more. Simply add the additional required constraints in your submission to your scheduling representative (include them in an email if necessary). However, please do not attempt to craft a complex and numerous set of constraints that precisely defines your perfect/ideal lecture schedule. This will be counter-productive.
  • You are not required to submit ANY documentation to either your Chair or to your departmental scheduling representative to support medical- or human rights-related constraints (these are Level 1 constraints). For a constraint based on medical reasons, you should communicate directly with the university’s Occupational Health Nurse, Linda Brogden (lbrogden@uwaterloo.ca). For a constraint based on human rights issues, contact the Equity Office. If they approve the constraint, they will provide confirmation to your Chair without releasing details.
  • The memo makes clear that, if it is necessary for a department to reduce the number of 2×1.5-hr course offerings, achieving the required reduction is the responsibility of the Chair and instructors within the department. It is also clear from the memo that PACT recognizes that all the necessary reductions of 2×1.5-hr course offerings will be gradual and will certainly not be completely achieved in Fall 2016. My hope is that departmental members will be able to work together collegially to determine how best to meet the target ratios specified in the memo (e.g., 9 classes of 3×1-hr MWF : 6 classes of 2×1.5-hr TR). Thus, it is important to realize that you should not be forced to switch multiple courses in one term from one meet time pattern to another, or to switch all your courses in the 2016 academic year to a completely new meet time pattern (e.g., from all 1.5-hr meets to all 1-hr meets).
  • Your Chair has been instructed to inform you in a timely manner of any teaching availability selection or constraint that s/he has chosen not to approve.
  • Several early-March “Question and Answer” sessions have already been arranged with chairs/directors and their scheduling representatives to discuss how to set department/school goals. You should pass questions/concerns through these channels initially.

Please feel free to bring concerns to me through your department’s representative on the FAUW Council of Representatives, as scheduling is a topic of discussion at the March 23rd Council meeting this term. You can also email me directly at btolson@uwaterloo.ca.

The Scheduling Office has a new website with news and resources.

 

FAUW Scheduling Survey Results

by: Bryan Tolson, FAUW Vice President 

The Provost’s Advisory Committee on Timetabling is considering a list of principles that will govern the functioning of the new scheduling system going forward. FAUW recently conducted a survey on timetabling and more than 200 members responded!  Here are the overall results: 

Question 1:
















Question 2:
  • For Q2, we had 57 responses suggesting concerns missing in the principles.


Question 3:
















Note: PACT Principle 2 wording is currently as follows:
“Foster an environment where faculty members can harmonize their teaching, research, service, and non-university activities”. 

Scheduling Systems: Same Old Tune

by: David Porreca, FAUW President
This blog post represents a synthesis of my own experience with scheduling systems over my 22 years of involvement with the University of Waterloo, along with the sharp observations of a more senior colleague. (h/t to BC)
Over my time at Waterloo, I reckon I’ve been through at least three (if not four) changes in timetabling systems, and all have followed a recognizable and consistent pattern in their deployment:
1- Disaster is widely predicted.
2- Disaster does not occur but there are numerous problems.
3- People responsible for the new system deny that any problems are real: they will disappear when the system is fully implemented.
4- Departmental administrators gradually discover the levers that control the system and devise workarounds and local optimizations that mitigate the problems.
5- Four or five years later the system has returned to what it was before the change, in terms of functionality.
6- The Registrar discovers that they still have the same problems they had before the change.
7- Acquiring a new system commences.
The current iteration of the scheduling cycle is sitting somewhere between points 2 and 4, with some units working with the system, and others working the system to their advantage – and it’s unclear whether the latter represents a disadvantage to other units.  Any complex system can be gamed to the advantage of certain participants, but not all such systems are zero-sum games. 
The extent to which the InfoSilem system and its attendant procedures amount to zero-sum is still unclear to me.  The number of potentially competing factors is substantial: does one prioritize student completion times, student conflict-free schedules, room usage, professors’ optimal performance in the classroom, efficiency of the process of timetabling itself, pedagogical considerations for individual courses and for programs, or any number of other factors that one could devise?

The issue is as confounding as it is important to our working lives as faculty members.  According to the scheme outlined above, we still have a couple of years to go before the current system is made to work well.  Will it work well enough to (gasp!) break the cycle?  
To include your input on the issue, take part in the FAUW scheduling survey before Friday, March 13. 

FAUW Updates – Part 1 of 2

David Porreca, FAUW President


Geese watch the science construction crane
Photo by George Freeman

Welcome back! Although this blog went dormant over the summer months, this does not mean that FAUW has been idle. In fact, so many things have kept us busy of the past couple of months that this inaugural 2014-15 update blog post needs to be divided in two. The first five of the following topics are posted today, while the rest will be posted on Monday.

The topics:

  1. Continuity in UW administration
  2. Meeting with lecturers
  3. Negotiations
  4. Scheduling
  5. Electronic expense claims
  6. Pharmacy Building
  7. Fall Break?
  8. FAUW Staffing
  9. Re-vamped Course Evaluations
  10. FAUW Retreat and Priorities for 2014-15

1. Continuity in UW administration

This topic practically deserves its own blog post. The concerns arise from the following observations:

  • UW has had no fewer than six Vice-Presidents Academic & Provost since 2009: Chakma, Hamdullahpur, McBoyle, Keller, McBoyle, Orchard.
  • UW’s Executive Council can be considered a good proxy list for the main decision-makers on our campus. Of the 27 people on the list, only 6 or 7 have been in their positions more than 5 years.
  • We are witnessing a change in 4 of the 6 deans within a 12-month period. By July 2015, Doug Peers will be the senior dean on our campus, with 3 years of experience under his belt by that point.

Consequently, UW runs the risk of losing a lot of institutional cultural memory. Precisely those things that make UW work better than most other places hang in the balance: informal networks of people who have developed relationships over time and therefore can be relied upon to get things done.
FAUW suggests that the decanal hiring committees give serious consideration to internal candidates for these open positions. In order to tackle this problem from another direction, FAUW is aware that the new provost plans to arrange for more robust onboarding of new senior administrators so as to share UW’s culture and practices more effectively, especially with those hired externally.

2. Meeting with lecturers

In July, FAUW called a special 3-hour meeting specifically inviting our Lecturer and Continuing Lecturer colleagues to voice their concerns. The meeting was very well attended (~1/3 of lecturers attended!), and the bulk of the problems fall into one of the following categories:

    Words: Assistant Teaching Professor, Associate Teaching Professor

  • Compensation: Dave Tompkins (Computer Science) gave an enlightening presentation comparing the lifetime incomes of lecturers vs. tenure-track faculty with an eye to the effects of their (very different) salary thresholds. Dave will summarize his findings for a future blog post that will appear in this space. Stay tuned!
  • Nomenclature: A broad consensus emerged at the meeting suggesting that FAUW push for the revision the designations “Lecturer” and “Continuing Lecturer” to “Assistant Teaching Professor” and “Associate Teaching Professor,” respectively.
  • Lecturers’ leaves: According to the current reading of Policy 76, “lecturers shall have the option to have at least one term in six be a non-teaching term.” This wording has not been interpreted consistently across campus, with some units granting this leave without question, while others insist that any lecturer availing themselves of this leave must ‘make up’ for the teaching not done during the term of leave during the other teaching terms s/he is on campus.
  • Clarity of promotion: One of the principal complaints raised at the meeting was the lack of clarity and transparency involved in attaining the status of Continuing Lecturer. Ideally, revisions to Policy 76 will create a parallel and equally transparent process for Lecturers as there is for the progression along the tenure track.
  • Departmental contributions: There also appears to be unevenness across campus in the extent to which Lecturers and Continuing Lecturers are allowed to contribute fully to departmental activities such as hiring committees, curriculum development, performance evaluation, student advising etc.

Over the course of the 2014-15 academic year, FAUW will be working with the Secretariat and Office of General Counsel to give Policy 76 a full revision, which will provide an excellent opportunity for resolving points b. through e. above. Such major revisions must receive the assent of the Faculty Association at the Faculty Relations Committee before being considered at Senate.

3. Negotiations

Math building distorted reflection in windows of EIT building
Photo by George Freeman

FAUW is coming to the bargaining table this fall to begin work on our new compensation agreement with the university. FAUW’s negotiating team is made up of Lynne Taylor (History, Chief Negotiator), Lori Curtis (Economics) and Shelley Hulan (English). The university, for its part, has put together the following team: Ian Goulden (Dean of Mathematics, Chief Negotiator), Jean Andrey (Acting Dean of Environment) and Doug Peers (Dean of Arts). On account of the precedents being set by other recently concluded collective bargaining sessions within our sector in the province and across the country, we have reason to be both extremely vigilant (witness the example of the University of Windsor) and cautiously optimistic (see recent settlements at Carleton University, Brock University and the University of Saskatchewan).
As a reminder, at UW, our negotiators onl
y deal with issues of compensation
. The rest of our terms and conditions of employment are set out in the Memorandum of Agreement (major changes to which require a full membership vote) and assorted Class F and FS numbered university policies (changes to these are subject to Faculty Association vetting and approval through the Faculty Relations Committee). Pensions and benefits are governed by the Pension & Benefits Committee, which has representation from all employee groups on campus. Currently, the faculty representatives are Lori Curtis (Economics), Peter Forsyth (Computer Science) and Mary Hardy (Statistics and Actuarial Science).

4. Scheduling

The build for the winter schedule is being done as I write, while we are experiencing the effects of the first on-the-ground run of the scheduling system this fall. How is it working out for you? Please send comments to the Faculty Association President or leave a comment on this blog post.
FAUW is aware that the problem we had foreseen of a deluge of scheduling constraint requests is overwhelming the coping capacities in the Registrar’s Office. We’ve been recommending since last winter term that the successor of the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Timetabling be formed in order to address some of the problems that have come to light in the meantime. Our aim is to have clearer guidelines for chairs to assign levels of priority to scheduling constraint requests, as well as establishing appropriate appeals mechanisms for when scheduling goes seriously awry for a colleague.

5. Electronic expense claims

Pilot testing of the new Concur expense claims system has been going ahead in a number of units within the Faculty of Mathematics. As of this writing, approximately 20 claims have been successfully shepherded through the system without any major glitches. The pilot testing and training of administrative staff on the new system is ongoing (~150 have been trained so far), and will include the undergraduate recruitment team in the Registrar’s Office as well as ~60 co-op coordinators from CECA. Based on the result of these extensive trials, the Steering Committee will be meeting in November to determine the final go-ahead (or not) for this system. The consultation process for the implementation of this system has been exemplary, especially when compared to other large-scale electronic systems that have been deployed on campus over the past several years.

One of the key advantages of the new system will be that it will allow for the processing of per diem expense claims for those accounts that do not involve provincial monies (e.g., Tri-Council grants). Faculty members have been clamoring for the return of per diems ever since UW was forced to do away with them as a result of the tightening of broader public-sector expense regulations at the provincial level.

One lacuna from FAUW’s perspective is that the privacy and security assessment that was made on the system by IST has not yet been made public. We are working to make that happen such that is will be accessible on the university’s website.

A Final, Important Note

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Faculty Association, I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to the family of the student who died tragically on the last day of Orientation Week during a powerful lightning storm. No words can make up for the tragedy.

Come back on Monday to read about the next five topics in David’s FAUW update.