Why Waterloo is not at risk of insolvency

In light of the devastating announcement about Laurentian University, members have been asking FAUW whether there is a need for concern about the University of Waterloo’s financial situation. We’ve asked Linda Robinson, fresh from a deep dive into UW’s finances as a member of our negotiating team, to answer this question. We hope this post from Linda will put your mind at ease by explaining that UW is in a healthy financial condition.

First, be aware that I have no inside knowledge about the University’s financial situation, but I did extensive analysis of the publicly available information as part of the recent salary negotiations. Unlike public corporations, who report their results quarterly, the University only reports annually through the release of their audited financial statements. With an April 30 year-end, we won’t see the full impact of the pandemic until the April 30, 2021 statements are released in the fall of 2021. What we do know is how the University fared as of April 30, 2020, and although this was only six weeks into the shutdown, it does reflect the impact of the ten percent tuition reduction for 2019/2020 and the provincial government’s funding freeze.

There are many financial metrics we could consider when analyzing the University’s finances, and I will comment on a few. Perhaps the most important consideration is that the University of Waterloo has no debt, nor have we since it was paid off in 2018.

Continue reading “Why Waterloo is not at risk of insolvency”

FAUW Board thankful for UW president’s support for faculty as fall term approaches

Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur held a Virtual Town Hall earlier this week, on May 20. It was well attended by the University of Waterloo community and the president fielded many important questions in addition to providing an update on the current state of the University.

One topic of particular importance to both faculty and students as we move into the Fall term is how courses will be delivered. The President stated that small courses will happen via on-campus delivery only if many considerations align, including whether instructors are willing to hold classes in person. 

There are a number of reasons a faculty member might not wish to hold in-person classes, including personal health concerns or health concerns of others in their household. The FAUW Board thanks President Hamdullahpur for showing such support for the wellbeing of our members and larger community during this trying time.    

How’s the Weather at UW? The Art and Duty of Accepting Limits

David Porreca, FAUW President

In this week’s blog post, I shall address the pros and cons of UW’s Weather Closing policy. Last week’s decision by the University not to close during the severe weather conditions provoked widespread befuddlement and outrage campus-wide.  Notes posted to UW’s main web page reassured students that they would not be penalized for not attending on account of the weather. This provision was particularly salient because of the importance of claiming seats in classes during the very first week of term.

Subsequently, a memo dated 9 January 2014 from the Provost was circulated to the campus community indicating that “snow and ice accumulation on local traffic routes is the central factor in the decision-making process” in determining whether to close our campus’ operations due to the weather.  This particular factor is mentioned nowhere in the university’s published guidelines, and is revealing in terms of its emphasis on infrastructure rather than people.  The same memo indicates that the Provost is assembling a group to “consider implementing a broader approach in future.”  Faculty representation on this working group is essential, and it is a key request that FAUW will be making when the matter is discussed at this week’s Faculty Relations Committee meeting.

There are three main concerns at work here:

“When half the students come and half don’t, when some colleagues cancel and some don’t, it’s actually worse than when the central administration makes a decision to close campus for a snow day.”
  1. The work-life balance issue of having local schools and childcare facilities close, including UW’s own daycare facility, no less – while our campus remains open.  All members of the campus community who have children – faculty, staff and students – either have to make special childcare arrangements (often expensive or difficult to find) or bring their kids to campus, which is not likely to boost productivity, nor is it much fun for anyone involved.
  2. There is also the safety issue unrelated to roads: is there a health warning associated with the weather?
  3. Finally, there are the logistical consequences of leaving the decision up to the good judgement of each individual (the guidelines linked above says that “faculty, staff and students are reminded that they are responsible for determining when weather conditions make their travel unsafe”: is everyone likely to be very late? When half the students come and half don’t, when some colleagues cancel and some don’t, it’s actually worse than when the central administration makes a decision to close campus for a snow day.

Now, I realise the expense and difficulties involved in declaring a closure when that teaching time must be made up elsewhere in the term.  Also, there is always the risk of declaring closure due to forecasts predicting imminent tempests that don’t manifest.  Considering the three main concerns mentioned above, would not a judicious application of the precautionary principle be advisable?  If work-life balance, the mental health and physical health of our campus community are true priorities at UW, human factors such as personal safety, the cancellation of school buses and the closure of local school boards should be part of the decision-making process, not just the measurable quantity of snow on the roads.  Here is yet another example of something that has value (mental & physical health), yet because it is more difficult to measure than the quantity of snow on the ground, only the latter gets attention and prioritization.

UW may wish to portray itself as invincible in the face of any and all adversity, but such an attitude betrays a lack of acknowledgement of the limits, human and logistical, experienced by the people directly involved.  FAUW looks forward to assisting in the drafting of a new, more humane closure policy.

For more on this topic, please see the blog entry by former FAUW Vice-President, Aimée Morrison at Hook & Eye.

Welcome Back!

David Porreca, FAUW President
Happy New Year to All!
This blog post marks the first anniversary of the FAUW Blog!  Two red-hot items for everyone’s consideration: the Strategic Mandate Agreement & Scheduling Feedback

Special Meeting of Senate re: Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA)

14:30 TODAY
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has requested that all Ontario universities update and re-submit their Strategic Mandate Agreement. For reference, the original 2012 draft (PDF) and the current draft (PDF).
The deadlines imposed by the MTCU have left only just enough time for consultation with faculty members, with the latest draft of UW’s SMA submission being discussed at a special meeting of UW’s Senate this afternoon. 
Although at times jargon-heavy – “intrapreneurship” left this francophone and latinist baffled and scurrying for an etymological dictionary – the draft does a good job of selling UW’s strengths, borrowing heavily from the recent Strategic Plan.   In this context, I note in particular the wording “including, but not limited to, quantum science, water and aging” (emphasis mine) in a crucial passage under the heading “Transformational Research”.  This welcome modification to the controversial original formulation brings the document closer to embracing the full variety of research that is done on our campus, but members in certain disciplines will still find themselves searching for their proper place within the vision of UW described in this SMA. 
Finally, the MTCU imposed strict length limits on these SMAs, which limits the depth of the proposals.  With one’s expectations adjusted accordingly, it represents a palatable and at times even eloquent expression of what makes UW different, clearly destined for a political audience.

Scheduling Feedback

Please send your feedback to the Registrar’s Office on the simulated schedule that was distributed via e-mail in the waning days of last term.  You may do this in three principal ways:

  1. Fill in the survey that was distributed along with the simulated schedule materials.
  2. Send an e-mail directly to the Registrar’s Office regarding the simulation: regstep@uwaterloo.ca
  3. Contact the scheduling representative of your department.
The new extended deadline for feedback is 13 January. 
That’s all for now!  In the upcoming weeks, we will feature more fulsome assessments of the new scheduling system, the results of the Digital Privacy Colloquium held on 4 December, and other news, as it always arises.
With best wishes for happiness and productivity for 2014!

See you next week!

Shining the Spotlight on Gender Equity at UW

Diana Parry, Associate Professor and Special Advisor to the President on Women’s and Gender Issues at UW

Professor Diana Parry, Special Advisor to the President on Women's and Gender Issues at UW
Credit: Mathew McCarthy, Record staff

Thank you to FAUW for inviting me to write a guest blog post about my new position as Special Advisor to the President on Women’s and Gender Issues at UW, which I started in July. The ultimate goal of my work is to engage our campus community to move gender equity forward for the benefit of everyone. In this post, I tell you a little bit about me and my research by way of answering a couple of questions: Why have I been asked to take on this role? And, what do I hope to do while in this position? I also want to provide you with more information about how you can take part in the process and have your voice heard.

Why have I been asked to take on this role?

I have been a faculty member at UW for ten years now and am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies. My research explores the personal and political links between women’s leisure and health, broadly defined. Using a feminist lens, my research privileges women’s standpoints and aims to advance social justice by challenging the medical model of scholarship. In addition to my research focus, I am an active member of the university community, previously as the chair of FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee (SWEC), and currently as a member of the Women’s Studies Board at UW, a member of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations’ Status of Women Committee and a contributor to Senate at UW. Taken together, my research and committee experiences place me in a good position to advance the goals of my current position.

What do I hope to achieve while in this role?

The mandate of the position calls on me to work collaboratively with senior administrators, faculty, and the new Director of Equity to advise on policy and structural level gender equity issues, which will help shape the development of a long-range plan for the university with clear and actionable goals. The purpose of the long-range plan is to foster a supportive and nurturing university environment in which female faculty can maximize their career opportunities.

To make these recommendations “actionable”, the faculty of the university at large must be involved in shaping the plan and strategies that follow. To this end, I have begun two initiatives. First, I am developing a case that considers why diversity matters at UW. The case aims to act as a catalyst that sparks conversations about gender equity issues on campus and promotes the development of strategies to address these issues. Second, I am creating a Women’s and Gender Issues Advisory Council, a group of various stakeholders (students, staff, and faculty) across campus committed to addressing gender equity issues that will provide input and guidance in the development of the long-range plan.

Finally, to keep the campus community informed, I have begun work on a communications strategy to disseminate information and knowledge gained as I move forward in my role as Special Advisor. To build this knowledge base, I am reaching out to stakeholders across campus to collect their questions, concerns, thoughts, and ideas related to gender issues on campus. If you have something to share, please get in touch with me. I can be reached by phone at 519-888-4567 ext. 33468, email at dcparry@uwaterloo.ca, or if you prefer, drop by my office to chat (BMH 2114). I would love to hear from you. Working together, we can shine the spotlight on gender issues at UW and enact change to better our campus community for all faculty members.

Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor (ADDS) Status: An Obstacle or An Impediment?

David Porreca, FAUW President
Over the past few months, concerns about the impact of the university’s regulations surrounding ADDS status (known as the LIARS list in Engineering) have come to the Faculty Association’s attention.  Below the fold, you will find 1) a summary of the principal concerns surrounding this issue 2) what has been done about it so far, and 3) an open letter from a colleague wanting to share his strong concerns about this issue.

The Problem(s)
ADDS status is what a faculty member achieves when they are granted the privilege of supervising a PhD student solo, i.e., without a more senior co-supervisor. 
Concerns surrounding the way ADDS status is handled at UW are numerous:
1) The “regulations” relating to ADDS status are not part of any official university policy, guideline or procedure.  It has not appeared on any faculty member’s official employment contract or offer letter, as far as the Faculty Association is aware.
2) Their official home appears to be on the Graduate Studies Office webpage, and the specific implementation is left up to each of the individual faculties.  As of this writing, only two of the six faculties (AHS and Environment) had their version of the ADDS status regulations posted online in an easy-to-find location.  The Faculty of Environment has two different versions posted in two different spots.
3) Junior faculty members have not been adequately informed about the requirement for co-supervision until their first opportunity to supervise a PhD student arose.
4) In certain disciplines, especially those that fall under the umbrella of NSERC funding, faculty members applying for funding without having had the responsibility of the sole supervision of a PhD student find themselves at a disadvantage in the application rankings.
5) The intent of this regulation is not clearly articulated anywhere.

6) There are no checks and balances to ensure that junior faculty who are forced to co-supervise receive a fair treatment from their senior colleagues.

7) There is a large variability across departments, even within a Faculty, with regards to the criteria junior faculty must satisfy before they are granted ADDS status.

A number of other problems are raised in the open letter appended below.
What Is Being Done
The Faculty Association has brought forward the concerns raised by several faculty members around this issue to the Faculty Relations Committee. 
Some fact finding has revealed that UW is exceptional among the U15 universities in imposing co-supervision on junior faculty members.  Each institution has its own set of regulations governing the capacity to supervise PhD students – often involving faculty members qualifying to join a Faculty of Graduate Studies, which UW doesn’t have – but none other than UW require junior faculty members to solicit co-supervision services from senior colleagues.
Consultation is underway with various stakeholders (e.g., GSO, Graduate Student Association) to determine the precise intent of the regulation as it stands, and how that aim can be achieved without imposing co-supervisory status upon junior colleagues. 
Your feedback
Have you been adversely affected by the University’s current practice surrounding ADDS?  Do you have any feedback that would help the Faculty Association to argue the case on behalf of our junior colleagues?  Please post your comments in the “Comments” section below. If you wish for only FAUW to see your comments, please send them to the FAUW president, David Porreca.
Here is how one of our colleagues feels about ADDS status (courtesy of Bryan Tolson, Civil Engineering):
An Open Letter to the UW Community:  Concerns With the ADDS Regulation
Dr. Bryan Tolson, University of Waterloo
Dr. Bryan Tolson
I am an ADDS (Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor) faculty member at the University of Waterloo.  I can solely supervise PhD students.  However, I haven’t always had this right, because the ADDS regulation prohibits new faculty members from acting as sole supervisors.
Before reading further, please take about 5 minutes and examine the ADDS regulation at the official GSO link: https://uwaterloo.ca/graduate-studies/about-graduate-studies/organization-graduate-studies#6Please note that as of March 10, 2013, the regulation as it reads online is not the most recent version approved by Senate in June, 2010.  I’m not sure where to tell you to find the ‘real’ regulation in practice today at UW.  Neither does Google: I encourage you to perform a search of the UW website for “Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor”.
Now that you’ve read the regulation as it appears online, let me give some background.  The ADDS regulation was initially created in 1968, 11 years after UW started offering graduate degrees.  At that time, Graduate Studies wanted to address a common problem: that many faculty at UW were pulled from industry with a Master’s as their terminal degree.  The intentions were reasonable: a faculty member without a PhD supervising PhD students can lead to a host of problems.  It was argued (correctly in 1968) that the ADDS regulation was needed to uphold the reputation of our graduate program.  However, it is now 2013 and conditions are different at UW.  The existence of the ADDS regulation today actually hurts our reputation for Graduate Studies – it suggests we hire new faculty who are implicitly incompetent at supervision of advanced research (even for topics directly related to their own PhD research).
We don’t require new faculty to co-teach their first course, so why do we require new faculty to co-supervise PhD students?  Another question to ponder:  How do we attract the best and brightest new faculty to Waterloo with this regulation, which does not have a counterpart at most other Canadian universities?  Until now, UW quite honestly has often misled them, unintentionally of course, by not telling them about the ADDS regulation before they sign their contract.

I could not find reference to the ADDS regulation in any of the following sources:

  • Employment contract for new faculty members (to my knowledge)
  • UW Policy documents (Class F pertaining to faculty only)
  • The Memorandum of Agreement between the Faculty Association and the Administration
  • An 18 page document produced by Graduate Studies called “A Guide for Graduate Research and Supervision at the University of Waterloo. 2011”  
  • Watport website entitled “UW New Faculty Survival Guide” 

In the last few weeks UW administrators and the Faculty Association have begun discussing how to address a few of the problems associated with the ADDS regulations and that is a good thing.  I am however concerned that most administrators and the UW Community in general are not aware of all the problems and arguments against the ADDS regulation.  Hence, one goal of this letter is to put this issue on everyone’s radar so that all the problems associated with this regulation will come to light.  It seems potential changes to the ADDS regulations and the way it is implemented have also been discussed.  Given that solutions to the issue appear to be surfacing, another goal of this letter is to ask that administrators put another option on the table and give it real consideration – the abolishment of the ADDS regulation.  Ask yourself, “Why not?”  In my opinion, abolishment seems to be the only real option considering the following summary of key regulation issues:

After arriving at UW, new faculty are blindsided by a restriction on their Academic Freedom by a regulation that is inaccessible, can be administered based on unwritten rules at the Faculty level,  is not currently the norm in Canada, and is known to reduce Tri-council grant amounts for UW professors.

Each of these statements can be backed up by facts and testimonials.

UW needs a clean slate in order to truly address, to all stakeholder satisfaction, the issues surrounding PhD supervision in 2013.  The norm at the University of Waterloo should be that new Assistant Professors that are tenure-track and hold a PhD are allowed to solely supervise a PhD student. While it is important for the university to promote faculty success at graduate supervision, as well as protect graduate students, the ADDS regulation is not the correct mechanism for doing so.
So now I ask something of you all to keep this discussion moving forward:
  • FAUW Board Members: this blog is a great start but also consider advocating for ADDS abolishment. 
  • Assistant Professors:  if you agree with my position, post your comments in the “Comments” section below and note if you, like so many others, were misled by UW.
  • ADDS and LIARS card-holding members, chairs and Deans: ask an Assistant Professor in your department/faculty what they really think of ADDS (LIARS is the Engineering equivalent).
  • PhD students at UW and the Graduate Student Association: as you render judgment on my position, think about two things.  First, put on your Assistant Professor hat for a second (some of you will join us in a few years) and think hard if ADDS is a regulation you would like to be subject to as you start your academic career.  Second, remember that there are superior alternatives to ADDS that can meet the needs of graduate students and new faculty. A good start might be a FUSS (Faculty Unfit to Supervise Students) list, which can provide a mechanism for protecting graduate students, both Master’s and PhD, from faculty from those with a track record of poor supervision without unduly constraining new faculty.
  • Senate members: if your vote is needed on the ADDS issue, please base your decision on demonstrable facts and testimonials.  Task forces can be initiated to deal with any concerns arising from ADDS abolishment (for example, Graduate student protection and new faculty supervisory mentoring mechanisms).  
  • To our President:  see the above request to Senate.  Please tell the UW community what you think about the issue.  Please also see that UW form task forces to address issues surrounding PhD supervision that are relevant in 2013. If the ADDS regulation disappears, I will be the first to volunteer for one of these task forces.

Patchwork fixes to the current ADDS regulation will not serve new faculty or UW in general. In my opinion, ADDS has got to go.
ryan Tolson & Contributors