8 Lessons from our ‘Making the Most of your Mid-career Years’ workshop

Here are some of the key lessons shared by experienced faculty members at our recent workshop for newly tenured/continuing faculty. Workshop slides, notes, and background reading are available on our website.

  1. The post-tenure slump is real. You need to plan how you’ll avoid it. Set goals; have a vision of what you want your career to look like in the end, and do things that move you toward that.
  2. Service work is not the dark side. Participating in collegial governance is “superb but challenging,” and it can be extremely rewarding to make a difference in your colleagues’ work lives. It’s also necessary: If we want the University to continue being run by academics (versus giving control over to administrators), we all need to take a turn. 
  3. You can still learn new things about teaching. Don’t be afraid of new technologies. 
  4. A scholarship slump is common. Imposter syndrome often kicks in hard now. Do what you can to stay active in scholarship in any way. Do something small. Learn new methodologies that allow you to start a project you’re excited about. Make use of the resources available (talk to the Office of Research!) to figure out how to keep doing research, whatever your specific situation. 
  5. Take chances and try new things. Lecturers, remember that you’ve gotten to this point because your chair/director has confidence in you. Don’t worry about the new things you’re trying until your chair/director complains. 
  6. Lecturers: Ask for the things you need. Chairs and directors are still getting used to the different needs of lecturers. If you have a project you want to do, figure out how to make it count as a teaching task. Explain how it adds value and renews your skills. 
  7. Be a complete colleague. Contribute and participate in all areas of your professional life.
  8. If things don’t go well, get help from FAUW

Unveiling AccessAbility Services

—Jennifer Gillies, PhD | Manager, AccessAbility Services

AccessAbility Services (ASS) can be a bit of a mystery. The purpose of this post is to help break down the wall between AAS and rest of the campus and shed light on its purpose, function, and benefits.

Why does AccessAbility Services exist?

Offices that support academic accommodations for students with disabilities are present in every postsecondary institution in Ontario. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development provides financial support and oversight of these offices. At the University of Waterloo, AccessAbility Services fulfills its mandate by collaborating with the university community to support equitable access to post-secondary education by designing academic accommodation plans and facilitating the implementation of accommodations.

The office is accountable to the Ministry concerning documentation requirements and service offerings, but it is also accountable to the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), and the integrity and academic standards of the University.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission states that postsecondary instructors have a duty to accommodate students with disabilities. However, students’ medical information is private and needs to be reviewed and stored appropriately. Our office acts as a bridge: We receive and hold the sensitive medical documentation, and relay to you the ways you can fulfill your duty to accommodate. Essentially, our office is a faculty resource. We help you understand your duty to accommodate.
Continue reading “Unveiling AccessAbility Services”

Know Your Rights: Disability Accommodations for Waterloo Faculty

This month, FAUW’s Status of Women and Equity Committee hosted Margaret Price, an award-winning scholar of disability, to present findings from an international study examining the experiences of disabled faculty members. Professor Price will continue in an official role as a consultant to FAUW as we navigate accommodation processes at Waterloo. Unlike the clear and consistent accommodations process in place for students, faculty navigate a much more difficult terrain.

Know your rights: disability accommodations for waterloo faculty

Here’s what we know

Ontario Human Rights Commission

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) states that:

Costs of accommodation must be distributed as widely as possible within the organization responsible for accommodation so that no single department, employee, customer or subsidiary is burdened with the cost of an accommodation. The appropriate basis for evaluating the cost is based on the budget of the organization as a whole, not the branch or unit in which the person with a disability works or to which the person has made an application.[1]

Employees should be aware that necessary accommodations are not subject to budget limitations at the departmental or unit level. The University of Waterloo can and frequently does take financial responsibility for accommodation provisions at both the faculty and the central administrative levels.

Moreover, administration of accommodations must be central, and disclosure limited to protect the privacy and dignity of the individual.

Faculty should not feel compelled to disclose disability diagnoses to their chairs or deans, or anyone else in a position of power over their hiring, tenure and promotion, salary, teaching assignments, performance evaluation or other benefits and responsibilities. A chair or dean may need knowledge of an accommodation, but they won’t ever need to know a diagnosis. Your chair or dean might be the nicest, most accommodating person in the world, but, as the OHRC guidelines show, they have too much control over your career to be involved in the accommodation process without the danger of bias. Removing your superiors from the process protects them as well. And, as the OHRC tells us, this is your right.

The precedent set by almost all of our peer institutions across Ontario, Canada and North America also reinforces this message: accommodations must be paid for and administered centrally. The OHRC guidelines are common sense and common practice.

Research-based guidelines

During her presentation, Professor Price, along with her research partners, laid out a similar set of guidelines for faculty accommodations, in even greater detail.

These included the following clear guidance:

Neither upper-level administrators nor chairs/directors should require faculty members to arrange accommodations with the same person who makes salary, scheduling, evaluation, or promotion decisions about their work. [Universities should:]

  • Ensure there is a central office or system to arrange faculty accommodations, so that faculty do not have to negotiate disability issues with their chair, dean, or provost.
  • Ensure that accommodations are funded centrally, so that a faculty member’s accommodation needs are not charged to their department or program. Access is an institutional responsibility, not a departmental or programmatic responsibility. Involving departments or programs in paying for faculty members’ accommodations leads to discriminatory outcomes such as avoiding hiring disabled personnel, and/or resentment from colleagues or supervisors.
  • Ensure that all accommodation requests and negotiations can be carried out confidentially. Contact information for the central office/person who handles faculty accommodation should be easily findable via every department’s or program’s web page, so that faculty seeking accommodations do not have to “ask around,” which may involve making unwanted disclosures. In addition, this information should be included in all orientations and relevant faculty trainings.

Seeking accommodations at Waterloo

As we work with Waterloo’s administration to ensure that these guidelines are followed, we encourage faculty members to do three simple things:

  1. Feel empowered to disclose disabilities and ask for help and accommodation. Far too few faculty seek and obtain the accommodations to which they have a right. We are a more productive, inclusive, and effective workplace if we all seek the accommodations we need, when we need them. FAUW will support all faculty members who need assistance.
  2. Do not disclose disability to superiors. Instead, contact Linda Brogden or Karen Parkinson at Occupational Health to begin the accommodation process. If you would like to discuss any questions, concerns, or if you encounter barriers in the accommodations process, contact Katie Damphouse or Christopher Small from FAUW’s Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee.
  3. Share this blog post, and these procedures, with all of your colleagues. We are all likely to need accommodations at some point in our careers. More than this, we need to be prepared to help our disabled colleagues. Currently, many of your friends and neighbors are afraid to seek accommodations, or confused or frustrated by the system. Conveying these guidelines to one another, to make them common knowledge, helps us all.

Waterloo aims to be one of the top employers in Canada, and these guidelines will help us to achieve this goal.

Update, June 12, 2017: Price and co-authors have just released an article on the same study, “Disclosure of Mental Disability by College and University Faculty: The Negotiation of Accommodations, Supports, and Barriers,” published in Disability Studies Quarterly (DSQ), which explores their findings and recommendations in more detail.


1. Ontario Human Rights Commission (2016).  Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability.  ISBN/ISSN: Print: 978-1-4606-8602-7 | HTML: 978-1-4606-8607-2 |PDF: 978-1-4606-8612-6. [This document is intended to provide clear, user-friendly guidance on how to assess, handle and resolve human rights matters related to disability.]

So Why UW, Part 2

Happy first day of Spring term! Today, FAUW President David Porreca continues his list of the ways that UW operates far differently from other institutions, and how those ways contribute to our success.

6) An astute Board of Governors

UW has been blessed with a financial situation that has been much more favourable than other places. It is the responsibility of the Board of Governors to tend to such matters, and on this front, the Governors have been very successful in fulfilling their mandate.

7) A faculty-friendly working environment

Daffodils near the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo. Credit: George Freeman
Credit: George Freeman
  1. There are few (if any) other institutions that offer a 6-month sabbatical leave for tenure-track faculty members after their first contract.
  2. UW offers 100% ownership to the creators of the intellectual property generated on our campus.
  3. UW offers an automatic one-year delay on the tenure clock for those taking parental leave.
  4. The consolidated daycare, with 160 spots, opened in early 2014, is a potent recruitment device for prospective faculty members with young families.

8) UW prosperity ⇔ local prosperity feedback loop

UW has both contributed to and benefited immensely from the prosperity of local business.

9) Distinctive programs

UW shines in many ways, but the following are particularly potent recruitment tools for top student talent at all levels:

  1. We all know it already, but UW’s Cooperative Education is distinctive and valuable. 
  2. UW has a full-on Faculty of Mathematics, which is a rarity in the academic world (as compared to Math being merely a department that is part of a larger faculty).  This creates a high-profile entry point whose benefits are not limited to the Faculty of Mathematics. Indeed, I know a good many extremely talented students who entered UW in Math, finished their degrees, and carried on at UW for second degrees in other faculties where they’ve become extremely successful.

10) Sheer dumb luck

If luck, like many other natural things, is likely distributed along a bell curve, then UW would appear to occupy a spot somewhere on the thin, right-hand end of the graph.  This may be the result of the concatenation of the nine reasons listed above, but sometimes, both people and institutions just are lucky. At the very least, it is a factor that cannot be excluded!

The observations above are not meant to paint an exclusively rosy picture of our institution. It has its fair share of wrinkles like any other. In a perfect world, for example, FAUW wouldn’t need an Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee.

I write the above from my own observations and involvement with FAUW, but this platform is not a panopticon. I’m certain to be missing things, both good and bad. It remains our responsibility as faculty members – especially those with tenure – to stand up and defend the good elements of our institution as well as fix any problems we see.

Principles of academic freedom, collegial governance and equity must be actively lived to have any real meaning, and if a university cannot embody in its operations the ideals of a society, we will no longer have a civil society worth defending.

Follow FAUW’s blog to keep up with what’s going on, and feel free to be in touch with any concerns or, better yet, become involved in FAUW’s activities. We need all the critically-minded help we can get to keep UW the outstanding place that it is!

Why UW? Reflections on How UW Operates

David Porreca, FAUW President

In my 22 months’ experience as FAUW President, I have had the opportunity to attend a number of meetings with my counterpart colleagues from other institutions at the provincial level under the auspices of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA – of which our own Kate Lawson is President) and at the federal level under the Canadian Association of University Teachers(CAUT). At these meetings one thing inevitably stands out to me in the starkest possible terms: how differently UW operates as compared to other institutions.

Ring Road at the University of Waterloo
Credit: George Freeman

Generally speaking, the tone of interaction between faculty representatives elsewhere and their institutions is one of chronic mistrust and by-default antagonism. By contrast, UW manages to operate smoothly, with open and constructive dialogue on issues and concerns happening through well-recognized, well-respected and effective channels (e.g., Faculty Relations Committee (FRC), FAUW’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee (AF&T)).

In my experience observing other large organizations both academic and non-academic, institutions end up with the unions they deserve, initially as a result of poor management. UW somehow has avoided such pitfalls.

So, what makes UW operate so differently? I’ve been puzzling over this question and have the following speculations to offer, most at the intersection of faculty working conditions and financial considerations:

1) UW’s decentralized structure

There are few if any other universities where both Chairs and Deans hold so much power as compared to central administrators. There are a number of problems that result from this situation but, on the whole, these problems tend to be relatively easily ring-fenced and solved – in no small part thanks to FAUW’s AF&T Committee. By contrast, bad decisions at other more centralized institutions tend to have a much broader impact and be that much more difficult to overturn and/or solve.

2) Role of FAUW

As much as UW’s decentralized structure helps to keep problems manageable, FAUW’s role as I see it is to identify, highlight and help spread the good ideas that appear organically within the relatively siloed units on our campus.

3) Importance of hiring committees

Despite the theme of point 1, upper-level administrators do have an outsized importance on our lives as academics. UW – with FAUW’s input – has been wise in whom it has chosen to sit on the hiring committees of upper-level administrators. Having right-minded people [on this, see point 4 below] on hiring committees has meant that, by and large, we have ended up with right-minded people running our institution.

4) Right-mindedness & problem-solving

There is a functional recognition of the importance of scholarship as the main purpose of our institution, i.e., the dynamic interplay between teaching and research, faculty and students. This common cause of scholarship is underpinned by a shared vision of the importance of academic freedom, collegial governance and principles of equity. This has led to a collaborative atmosphere in which the vast majority of the problems that arise get resolved without the intervention of expensive lawyers or arbitrators (see point 5 below).

Flowers outside the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) at the University of Waterloo
Credit: George Freeman

5) Grievance resolution by peers

As a non-unionized faculty association, we do not rely on expensive external arbitrators to resolve internal academic disputes involving faculty members. Instead, we have a process of appointing as-needed tribunals of peers whose membership is a) mutually agreeable to all parties; b) expert in the local culture of our institution; c) much cheaper than externally hired arbitrators. These tribunals are used for all tenure and promotion appeals and are an option for most forms of formal grievances, and they typically resolve disputes in a matter of 3-4 months, as opposed to elsewhere where the turnaround time can be counted in years. The upside is that the cost of operations is much, much lower both for the administration of the university and for the faculty association. Indeed, the mil rate used to calculate FAUW dues is the third lowest in Canada, and is one-half to one-third the rate used at the majority of other universities. The downside is that the task of defending faculty interests involves voluminous volunteer service work for FAUW and its subcommittees, AF&T in particular.

Come back next week as David lays out five more reasons that contribute to the University of Waterloo’s success!