Arts Instructor review outcome oblivious to workload realities

by Faculty Association | Filed under June 2012, President's Message.

– By Paul Rogers, Faculty Association President –

You may recall that one of the components of the June 2011 agreement between the Faculty Association and the Board of Governors was a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding the Association’s grievance against the Dean of Arts over his unilateral decision to increase the workload of academic staff in the instructor stream in Arts.  In the MOA the Association agreed to hold the grievance in abeyance provided that a number of conditions were met, one of which included the University administration completing a review of the Dean’s decision and the process followed in reaching it.

University administration provided the Association with the results of the review at the beginning of June and I am writing, with regret, to let you know that the MOA condition concerning the review, in our opinion, has not been adequately met because of the following fundamental flaw in the review itself:
•    The review did not consider the process followed by the Dean in reaching his decision, in particular whether or not this is in violation of Article 12 of the Collective Agreement (on Assignment of Duties).
In addition to the fundamental flaw above, the Association has identified a number of other significant concerns with the review, summarized as follows:
•    The review outcome, that an 8 half-course equivalent workload norm across the entire Faculty of Arts is considered to be reasonable, is based on what appears to be a rather dubious analysis of course load data.  Concerns here include: (i) how complete and accurate were the data; (ii) did the data show legitimate differences in instructor course loads across departments; and (iii) did the data analysis assume that the workload of instructors carrying course overloads should simply be considered as regular load?
•    Further, the review outcome appears to be based on a fundamental error of reasoning.  The argument for the faculty-wide norm appears to be that since over half of the academic staff in the instructor stream are already carrying a load of 8 half-course equivalents (including overload!), therefore the other instructors should be doing the same (without any overload compensation).  This reasoning completely ignores a key argument in our grievance, specifically that all courses across the diverse departments within Arts do not present the same workload.
•    The review appears to give no weight to comments provided to it by instructors in Arts concerning the negative impact on the quality of instruction (and the experience of students) if instructor workloads are raised in the manner that is being recommended.
•    The review outcome includes the statement that “… we expect that the Dean and the Department Heads will have further [note: emphasis added here] discussions about how a faculty-wide guideline for the assignment of course load will be applied …”.  This appears to be oblivious to another of the concerns in the original grievance, this being that the Dean imposed this workload increase unilaterally.

With the review “complete”, the Dean of Arts has written (by email) to all Department Heads informing them that “the course load for Instructors and Senior Instructors in the Faculty of Arts, beginning with this 2012-13 academic year, will be 8 HCE” and encouraging them “to review the duties that are being assigned to Instructors and Senior Instructors in teaching and service”.  Your Association views this as an entirely inappropriate action, given the significant flaws in the review as highlighted earlier.  Consequently, we will be reactivating the grievance on this matter at the earliest opportunity and, in addition, we will be filing a new grievance regarding the conduct of the administration’s review.

The actions of the Dean of Arts following the review, unilaterally increasing instructor workloads at a time when teaching assignments have already been made for 2012-13, have created significant turmoil in Arts.  The Faculty Association is being deluged by questions and comments from members from all ranks within the Faculty of Arts as to what this means for everything from sessional contracts to preparations for courses.  The new Dean of Arts, who starts work on the 1st of August, will be walking into a mess.  We will be inviting him to consult and work with his Department Heads as well as the Faculty Association in order to resolve these issues for the future.

Looking more broadly, you may also recall that the June 2011 agreement between the Association and the Governors included a Letter of Understanding  (LOU) regarding the creation of a committee to examine Article 12 of the Collective Agreement (Assignment of Duties), and to prepare recommendations on the process/procedure for implementing it across the institution.  The actions of university administration on the Arts Instructor Workload MOA raise significant concerns as to how interested administration is in making fair decisions through proper processes, how seriously it takes the agreements it signs with the Association, and to what extent the Association can trust the administration.  All of this suggests that the committee to examine Article 12 under this LOU will be starting its work in the fall under a dark and ominous cloud.  Furthermore, this does not bode well for the upcoming Collective Agreement negotiations that will take place during the 2012-13 academic year.

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