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Academic Views

President’s Report

Dear Colleagues,

I know that the fall term is not beginning the way we hoped and that many remain anxious and uncertain about how it will unfold. I appreciate that many of you reached out to TUCFA over the summer with your concerns and although we tried to respond to each of you, there may have been some we missed and for that, I apologize. We do read every email and have raised the concerns voiced to us on numerous occasions with the University Administration. It is apparent from the emails we receive that not all agree with the tactics or positions we have advocated during the summer.

I know that in an organization of our size there will be many disagreements over these matters and want to assure you that we do not take our positions lightly and that we carefully consider and reflect on the criticism we receive. We have done our best over the summer to protect the health and safety of our members and, indeed, the entire university community. My focus and efforts have been on getting the best possible results for our membership but at times I know that many of you were frustrated by the way in which I pursued this goal. Again, like many of you, I was disappointed in the reaction of the Students’ Union to the modality shift opportunity afforded to our members in August. We have attempted to engage with the other unions on campus as fully as possible, but there are times when we simply disagree. The attempts to foster common positions are difficult, time-consuming, and not always successful, but I think it is important to continue to explore avenues on which we can agree. For instance, just over a week ago, the President of the Graduate Students’ Association, the President of the Students’ Union and I wrote a common letter to the Chief Medical Officer of Health urging her to extend the policies on testing, reporting and isolation at least until the end of December. The Government has announced that the September 27 date for revising those policies is no longer operative. We will continue our efforts to work productively with our counterparts in other campus unions.

We continue to press the University Administration on the protocols and procedures they are putting in place for the fall term and it is helpful when we are copied on the concerns you voice to them on these issues. I think they have made important steps in advancing the health and safety of the University community and I want to be supportive of these efforts. I also understand that the situation relating to COVID-19 continues to evolve, and we will be meeting with the Administration on these matters as the fall term progresses. As recent events indicate, the University positions can change quickly. The input of academic staff can make a difference and I encourage you to continue to voice your concerns and opinions. We will be exploring issues relating to the winter term with the Administration and hopefully, decisions on this will be reached in a timely manner.

As I know you all understand, health is a provincial matter, and the Alberta Government has taken positions on several occasions that place it out of step with most other provinces. The actions taken by a number of universities in other provinces have been based on public health advice, but unfortunately, that is more difficult in this province. I note that in one of her recent communications the Provost refers specifically to our “unique context” and this context obviously affects the responses put in place at the University of Calgary. I do however note that the Alberta Government has clearly stated that “getting vaccinated is the best way to protect your family and loved ones from COVID-19 … The more of us who get vaccinated, the safer all of us will be”.

This week the University announced that proof of vaccination will be a requirement for Winter 2022. This is a major shift from the plans that had been announced in the summer. I recognize that the positions of the provincial government have complicated the responses and policies of the University of Calgary and made decisions like this very difficult. There is more work to be done as the details of these policies are worked out, but it is critical that we continue to push and support the Administration in putting in place measures that protect our community regardless of the political implications.

I want to once again express my appreciation to all of you for the hard work you have demonstrated in preparing and delivering quality courses to students, keeping your research programs moving and carrying out the service activities that keep the university functioning. All of this has been done in an environment where government support is diminishing, where more and more work is being downloaded and where we have seen devastating job losses for our AUPE and MaPS colleagues.

I hope that we have a successful and safe fall term and hope to improve our communication efforts this year. Please be assured that we will continue to present the concerns we hear to the Administration. As always, please reach out to us if you are uncertain about how to proceed or need advice. I want to conclude by letting you know that the events this summer resulted in many altered, interrupted, and postponed vacations for our office staff. On your behalf, I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work.

Best wishes,

David Stewart, President
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