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Academic Views

Updates and Changes to the USRI

You may recall that the Faculty Association filed a grievance regarding the use of USRI in tenure, promotion, merit assessment and hiring with the Provost last June. The grievance has moved through the grievance process of the Collective Agreement and the Faculty Association Board of Directors has decided to proceed to arbitration. The Association’s position is, the Administration should not be using USRI scores as a summative assessment tool or as evidence of teaching effectiveness in hiring, tenure, promotion, and merit processes.

An expert panel established by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) firmly established that such student ratings are intrinsically discriminatory based on a variety of legally prohibited grounds, as well as on several other inappropriate bases (e.g. general attractiveness). [See Report of the OCUFA Student Questionnaires on Courses and Teaching Working Group]

The Association, like others before us, argues that given the intrinsically discriminatory nature of student ratings, any decisions related to tenure, promotion, and salary increases (merit pay) that have been partly based on these ratings, has been affected by this intrinsic discrimination and has resulted in irreparable harm to those affected.

The Provost has recently announced some changes to the USRI questionnaire. These changes are the result of work being done by the USRI Working Group which reports to the GFC, and they appear to be addressing some of the obvious shortcomings of USRI in attempting to limit some of the intrinsic bias. However, the recent changes do not address the grievance that the Association filed, and therefore, do not change the position of the Faculty Association regarding how USRI scores are used in evaluating members for merit or tenure and promotion. While the USRI Working Group continues to work on modifying the questionnaire, consultations with stakeholders may prove to be ineffective if the purpose or perceived purpose of the USRI is affected by the outcome of the upcoming arbitration. For this reason, the Faculty Association is not participating in these changes until the arbitration is complete.

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