Busy semester in review

by Faculty Association | Filed under December 2011, President's Message.

– By Paul Rogers, Faculty Association President –

We are almost half way through the academic year and I’m confident that the prediction at the end of my September Academic Views article that this would be a busy year for all of us is valid.  Of course, this prediction took no great clairvoyance on my part, as anyone who’s been at the University of Calgary for a few years is cognizant of the increasingly unsustainable workload academic staff members are facing.  I say almost half way as I know that at the time of writing this article, most of you still have final exams to invigilate and then grade, so you still have much to do before the end of semester.  I too am not quite done with the first quarter of my two-year term as President of the Association as one major task stands between me and the holiday break, this being serving as a member (non-voting) of the General Promotions Committee during its December sessions.

The staff and officers of the Association are also facing extremely heavy workloads this year in a number of areas: (i) cases in the general area of grievances; (ii) bargaining activities on a number of topics, stemming from the recently ratified collective agreement; (iii) dealing with process problems at a number of this year’s Faculty Promotion Committees.  Please bear this office staff workload in mind if the Association does not respond to your enquiries as quickly as you would like.

There have been many developments of significance to the Faculty Association over the past months, only a few of which I have space to highlight in this article.  Some of the more salient are summarized below:

1)  The University launched “Eyes High” in late September, following the approval by both GFC and the Board of Governors of the Strategy Summary Document in June 2011.  This document is intended to provide a broad statement of direction for the institution and guidance for the development of planning documents.  While the specific measures on which the University is aiming to be top five are as yet undefined, the document has significant implications for resource reallocation, and acquisition of new resources.  E.g. if the intent is to be top five in sponsored research income, this would need to increase by 66 per cent (assuming that the current top five stay still), based on the latest information from ResearchInfoSource (released November 2011).

2)  Two of the University’s Vice-Presidents, Dru Marshall and Ed McCauley, are leading the development of an academic plan, building upon “Eyes High” (this will form one chapter of the University’s 2012 Comprehensive Institutional Plan, a requirement of the Alberta Government).  An early step in the consultation process on the academic plan was asking the Deans to submit faculty responses to a number of questions.  Deans were asked to be consultative in developing responses, but it is not clear to the Faculty Association which Deans have sought input from the academic staff in their units.  I’d be interested to hear from you concerning whether or not you were given a chance to have some input into developing the responses from your faculty as there are a number of interesting questions in the list given to the Deans (e.g. two where I am sure you would be interested were “What programs will you delete?  Why?”).

3) After a six-month delay, selected results from the University’s engagement survey of salaried faculty and staff were released in mid-November.  While we do not know what the response rate to the survey was for academic staff (the overall response rate was 47%), some of the areas of concern highlighted in the survey results come as no surprise given previously documented issues such as lack of collegial governance.  I am sure that many will be pleased to see that the number one priority of the executive leadership team of the University is to regain the trust of the academy.

4) The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), to which the U of C belongs, has approved a revised version of its Statement on Academic Freedom.   The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has been very critical of the revisions as they “undo many of the advances that have been achieved in the understanding of academic freedom over the past 100 years”.

If you have any thoughts that you wish to share with me on the above topics, or on any others that you think ought to be concerns of the Faculty Association, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Finally, on behalf of the Association, I wish you peace and joy for the imminent holiday season and the new year.

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