Resources, Workload, Collegial Governance and Engagement

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

– By Paul Rogers, Faculty Association President –

The main topic of my final Academic Views article of calendar year 2012 is the continuing concern of academic staff in a number of areas of the University regarding the related dimensions of resources and workload.  A subsidiary topic is collegial governance, and I will wrap up with some content on employee engagement, since the other three topics impact this.  I’ll have quite a bit more to write on these concerns later, but I want to begin on a more positive note.

In my October Academic Views article this year I stated that “I am committed to working with senior administration from a perspective of cooperation and mutual respect”, and I commended the University administration for deciding not to enter into a model licence agreement with Access Copyright.  In this December article, I want to add two further commendations for the administration, and for Provost Dru Marshall in particular.  Firstly, I’d like to thank Dr. Marshall for inviting me and Sheila Miller (Executive Director of the Association) to address an evening session of the “Academic Leadership Development Program for Deans” in late November  on the topic of how deans can interact with the Association in an effective and constructive manner.  Eleven of the thirteen Calgary-based deans were able to attend and our presentation was followed by a wide-ranging question and answer period.  Secondly, I’d like to commend Dr. Marshall for hosting two “town hall” meetings at which information on the U of C’s new “budget model” was shared (this was also shared with General Faculties Council at its meeting on 18th October).

However, while the sharing of more information on the University’s budget process was a positive step, there remain many members of the academic staff who are greatly concerned as to what the implications of the 2013-14 budget (and also budgets for years further into the future) will be for the resources available to their Faculties or departments and hence for academic staff workloads.  For some units (e.g. Arts and Education), it has been known for some time that the future number of academic staff will be much less than it was in the recent past, but other units (e.g. Science and Engineering) are seeing plans to reduce academic staff positions or place positions on indefinite hold.  To be more specific:

  • The 2011-2014 Comprehensive Plan for the Faculty of Arts predicts that there will be 341 academic staff in that Faculty in 2013-14 while Office of Institutional Analysis (OIA) data suggest that there were 370 in 2011-12, down from a peak of 406 in 2008.  If the prediction is correct, this will be a drop of 16% in 5 years.
  • According to OIA data, the number of academic staff in the Faculty of Education dropped from 87 in 2007 to 73 in 2011, a decrease of around 16% in 4 years.
  • The Faculty of Science has completed a review that includes a “decision” to reduce the number of academic staff by 39.  According to OIA data, this reduction would mean a decrease of 16% from 2011-12 levels (of 244).
  • Engineering has recently put a number of planned academic staff positions on indefinite hold due to budget concerns.  According to OIA data, the number of academic staff in Engineering has dropped by about 10% between 2007 and 2011.

The recently announced hiring of 50 new assistant professors (the so-called stimulus hires) is certainly a positive development, but this must be weighed against the significant position losses noted above (that have either already taken place, or are planned to occur).  It should also be recognized that only half of the cost of these new positions is being covered by new money provided to the Faculties, the other half having to come from budgets that are already under significant pressure.

Another concern of the Association that I must briefly mention before I get into the final topic of engagement concerns collegial governance and the process for developing or revising university-wide policies or procedures.  Back in February 2012 a formal process for this went through both the General Faculties Council and the Board of Governors.  This process includes both targeted consultation with stakeholders (such as the Association) as well as the opportunity for general public feedback on a good draft of the policy or procedure, elements that contribute to ensuring comprehensive consultation among stakeholders.  The Association is concerned that the administration is reticent to follow this process in all cases, and has asked the administration to either commit to following the February 2012 process or explain its concerns with this process.  I find it troubling that, to date, the administration has not responded adequately to this significant concern.

As anyone who read my March 2012 newsletter article on the results of the U of C’s 2011 engagement survey may recall, the number one concern of academic staff was the funding being provided to support the needs of departments (click here to view Academic Views, March 2012).  Almost two months ago, the Association acquired more detailed information on the results of the engagement survey in the form of results decomposed by administrative unit (e.g. by Faculty).  The Association has prepared a report on this new data (click here for the report Engagement Survey Results – Comparison Across Units) but I want to highlight some interesting aspects of the newly-acquired data here:

  • Comparing Faculties based on their average response to the questions in each category (see the section of the report beginning on p5) the two units with the most significant concerns appear to be Arts and Science, which rank in what I might term the “most gloomy” three (of eleven) units on 12 of the 16 categories.  These two units are followed by Education and Kinesiology, each of which ranks in the bottom three units on 6 question categories.  At the other end of the spectrum are Social Work, Medicine, and Nursing, which each rank in the bottom three at most once.
  • Looking a little closer at two question categories where there is substantial variation across the Faculties we can see the following:
    • For category #8 (faculty/institute/administrative unit, see p14 of the report) the three units with the most significant concerns appear to be Kinesiology, Arts, and Education (in each of these three units, on average, more people respond unfavourably than respond favourably to the four questions in this category).  At the other end of the opinion spectrum, there are four units, Social Work, Veterinary Medicine, Medicine, and Nursing, where the favourable responses outnumber the unfavourable by a factor of almost 4 to 1 or higher.
    • For category #13 (resources, see p19 of the report) the two units with the most significant concerns appear to be Arts and Education (in each of these two units, on average, more people respond unfavourably than respond favourably to the ten questions in this category).  At the other end of the opinion spectrum, there are three units, Veterinary Medicine, Social Work, and Medicine, where the favourable responses outnumber the unfavourable by a factor of 3 to 1 or higher.
  • Looking now at two specific questions where the overall level of concern was most significant (see the section of the report beginning on p23) we can see the following:
    • For question #45 (rate the University in terms of providing the funding to support your department’s needs, see p24 of the report), which was the top concern for academic staff, there were four units where the ratio of the percentage responding unfavourably to the percentage responding favourably was larger than 4 to 1.  These faculties are: Arts, Engineering, Science, and Education.  Also, in every unit the unfavourable responses exceeded the favourable.
    • For question #25 (the University supports me in achieving a reasonable balance between my work life and my personal life, see p25 of the report), which was another major concern for academic staff, there were three units, Education, Arts, and Science, where the  ratio of the percentage responding unfavourably to the percentage responding favourably was larger than 1.5 to 1.

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 (I can be reached via email at my Faculty Association address, paul.rogers@tucfa.com).  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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