‘October 2018’

National survey on contract academic staff reflects local experience

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on National survey on contract academic staff reflects local experience | Filed in Fair Employment Week, October 2018

Fair Employment Week (October 22 to 26, 2018)

The working conditions of contract academic staff (sessionals) are of both local and national concern, which is why the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) annually promotes and plays a coordinating role in Fair Employment Week (FEW). This year, FEW runs from October 22 to 26 and is a national event that raises awareness of the difficulties inherent in being a member of the contract academic staff. These academics are often on the front lines of attacks on academic freedom, quality, fair treatment, and the value of research.

Normally, sessional instructors at the University of Calgary are contract academics who are hired to teach individual courses; they are not expected to do research and they are not offered long- or short-term commitments beyond the individual courses. These academics often work for lower pay, and with the uncertainty of whether or not another short-term contract will be extended to them.

The CAUT has published the first national survey on contract academic staff in universities and colleges. A copy of the survey entitled “Out of the Shadows: Experiences of Contract Academic Staff” can be found online here. Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Between 2005 and 2015, there was a 79% increase in university teachers working part-time.
  • 53% of respondents want a tenure-track university or full-time, permanent college job.
  • 69% of survey respondents feel their working conditions need to change.
  • 45% of respondents reported that if they did not get their contract instructor pay, they wouldn’t be able to pay their monthly bills.
  • Two-thirds of respondents said their mental health has been negatively impacted by the contingent nature of their employment, and just 19% think the institutions where they work are model employers and supporters of good jobs.

The Faculty Association at the U of C was not surprised by these results and many of the responses to the survey reflect the anecdotal experiences of sessionals we have been privy to year after year. In March 2018 the Association took a snapshot of academic staff at the U of C which revealed that 22.4% of academic staff at that time held sessional positions. The number of sessional academic appointments are almost equal to the number of Associate Professors. In addition, over half of sessionals are female which is in contrast to statistics for ongoing academics. Sessionals are employed in every corner of the University and some Faculties employ more sessionals than others. In some cases the number of sessional instructors make up a third to over a half of academic staff in a Faculty.

Click on the .pdf documents below to view statistical information specific to the U of C:

Academic Staff by Faculty (Chart)
Academic Staff by Rank (Chart)
Gender of Academic Staff (Chart)

It is important to emphasize the incredible dedication of sessional academics to their jobs since they are highly-qualified individuals who care deeply for the University and their students. The Association has always recognized that the concerns of contract academic staff should be the concerns of us all. Please let your colleagues and administrators know that the unfair treatment of sessionals at the U of C needs to be resolved.

Ryerson arbitration award on student evaluations significant for Associations nationally

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Ryerson arbitration award on student evaluations significant for Associations nationally | Filed in October 2018

A recent arbitration award on the use of student questionnaires for teaching evaluations of Ryerson Faculty Association members may have impacts on how these instruments are handled at other institutions for measuring teaching effectiveness. More information is available in an article by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) available online here entitled “Significant arbitration decision on the use of student questionnaires for teaching evaluations”. It includes a summary of the award and links to the expert reports commissioned by the Ryerson Faculty Association and OCUFA.

The article outlines the recent arbitration award between the Ryerson Faculty Association and Ryerson University which “has established an important precedent for faculty associations, and lends support to others who have been arguing that student questionnaires are deeply problematic instruments for the purpose of evaluating faculty members’ teaching effectiveness.”

It is our understanding that the University of Calgary administration is in the midst of a review of the Universal Student Ratings Instrument (USRI). It should be noted that this endeavour began prior to the release of the arbitrator’s report, nevertheless, many of the overarching concerns raised through the arbitration on the validity of student evaluations as a measure of teaching effectiveness are shared by the Faculty Association. The Faculty Association Board of Directors met with Leslie Reid, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning), at its meeting in May 2018 to discuss, as an initial step, some of the concerns with the current instrument and how it is used. The Association will continue to monitor this matter and we encourage academic staff to provide feedback and input on these teaching instruments when provided the opportunity to do so.



Academic staff have right to representation

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Academic staff have right to representation | Filed in October 2018

Academic staff members meet from time to time with their Department Head or Dean (or equivalent) on a variety of matters. Most such conversations are regarding such things as planning or assessment and are collegial.

There are, however, times when academic staff are called into a meeting with the Dean (or equivalent) regarding an investigation which may or may not lead to discipline. As there have been cases recently where academic staff have not, in our view, been fully apprised of their representational rights, we want to note that Article 20.4 of the Collective Agreement stipulates that “[i]n all matters of discipline, an academic staff member shall be entitled to be represented or accompanied by a person appointed for that purpose by the association.”

The Dean (or equivalent) must therefore inform you of this right and ensure you have the opportunity to avail yourself of representation from the Faculty Association should you choose. If any academic staff members have questions or concerns about their rights to representation we ask that they contact the Faculty Association.

Recovery of payroll errors requires explicit consent

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Recovery of payroll errors requires explicit consent | Filed in October 2018

From time to time University of Calgary Payroll may make errors whereby an academic staff member is over-paid by the institution. The Faculty Association has had concerns with how repayment may have been handled by Payroll in the past. Payroll cannot recover compensation and take deductions from a paycheque without the explicit consent from the employee, nor can they dictate the terms of the repayment (size/frequency of payments, etc.). The Association has been assured by Payroll that the employer is seeking the explicit consent of academic staff for repayment when errors occur.  If any academic staff members have questions or concerns please contact the Faculty Association.

U of C Associate Professor receives CAFA Distinguished Academic Early Career Award

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on U of C Associate Professor receives CAFA Distinguished Academic Early Career Award | Filed in October 2018

University of Calgary Associate Professor Dr. Yvonne Poitras Pratt (pictured centre) has been awarded the 2018 CAFA Distinguished Academic Early Career Award. Also pictured are Hon. Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education and Dr. Mary-Ellen Tyler, CAFA President, U of C Faculty Association Vice-President and Treasurer, and Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design.

The Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations (CAFA), the provincial organization comprised of academic staff associations from the Universities of Alberta, Calgary, and Lethbridge as well as Athabasca University recently announced the recipients of the CAFA Distinguished Academic Awards for 2018.

The CAFA Distinguished Academic Awards recognize academic staff, who through their research and/or scholarly, creative or professional activities have made an outstanding contribution to the wider community beyond the university.

The Faculty Association of the University of Calgary is very pleased to announce that Associate Professor Dr. Yvonne Poitra Pratt was chosen as the recipient of the 2018 CAFA Distinguished Academic Early Career Award recognizing her leadership in developing community based teaching and learning strategies for further reconciliation between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of Canada.

Since joining the faculty at the University of Calgary, Dr. Poitra Pratt has consistently lead the way with respect to education and the reconciliation process. She has initiated a number of collaborative research and community engagement projects at the Werklund School of Education. She has taken the lead on a major collaborative research project on the transformation of teaching practice through “difficult learning” and in 2016 Dr. Poitras Pratt and her colleague, Dr. Patricia Danyluk, were the recipient of a highly competitive U of C Teaching Scholars Grant for an action-oriented research project exploring a multi-faceted approach to building stronger connections between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, schools and communities.

Although early in her career, Dr. Poitra Pratt’s influential community-based research is making an impact beyond the University and the Faculty Association congratulates her on this distinguished award.

Dr. André Grace, Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Canada Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority Studies at the University of Alberta, was chosen to receive the 2018 CAFA Distinguished Academic Award.

The awards were presented at an event hosted by CAFA in September. More information on the CAFA Distinguished Academic Awards can be found here.

Board of Governors nominee appointed

by Faculty Association | Comments Off on Board of Governors nominee appointed | Filed in Gazette, October 2018

Over the summer, Professor Tavis Campbell (Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts) was appointed by the Minister of Advanced Education as the Faculty Association’s nominee to the Board of Governors. The position was left vacant after Professor Peggy Patterson (Werklund School of Education) retired in June. Professor Campbell was appointed to serve the remainder of Professor Patterson’s term ending July 31, 2019. Because of his role on the Board of Governors, Professor Campbell will now sit as a non-voting member of the Association’s Board of Directors. Professor Campbell has been a member of the Association’s Board of Directors since July 1, 2011.