September 2020

by Faculty Association | Filed under Academic Views.

President’s Report

David Stewart, President

Dear Colleagues,

We are beginning a new fall term unlike anything any of us have experienced before and one which will bring challenges that none of us anticipated. The personal has become professional in ways that have taken us all by surprise and many of us are dealing with family demands that we were not expecting. The responsibilities and anxieties created by this situation have obviously affected all dimensions of our lives. Nonetheless, the response of academic staff members to the COVID-19 situation has been phenomenal and we all should take pride in how we have addressed the challenge. The Administration continues to state how much they value our contributions in these circumstances, and we look forward to more tangible expressions of their gratitude. The situation is certainly very different from what I was expecting when I put my name forward to run for President. It is a great honour to have been chosen to represent you in this capacity and while I cannot promise to not make mistakes, I can promise to do my best on your behalf. We are currently involved in several grievances with the university. These include an unprecedented number of policy grievances, several investigations and numerous grievances reaching the arbitration level. I will be providing more information on this later in the fall.

I want to thank Paul Rogers for his years of service as President and for working to ensure as smooth a transition as possible under the circumstances. Similarly, I wish to thank Executive Director Sheila Miller and the TUCFA staff for their extraordinary work this spring and summer. The first meetings of our new executive, board and departmental representatives are scheduled for later this month and I look forward to working with the members you have selected as your representatives on these bodies.

With limited access to campus, opportunities for face to face interactions and meetings are limited. However, there are a couple of initiatives that I wish to move forward on as quickly as possible. First, given the changed nature of the work environment, we will be sending out a survey asking people about their experiences and how these have changed and how we might proceed with the assessment process in these circumstances. Responses to this survey will inform how we approach our discussions with the Administration in this area so please complete the survey. Marie-Andrée Bergeron, Nigel Caulkett, Hamid Habibi, and Melanee Thomas are taking the lead on this project and we all appreciate your co-operation on this important issue.

The second initiative is one that I highlighted in my campaign, namely improving membership engagement. I will be asking the Executive to appoint a Task Force on membership engagement to get views from the membership on your needs and expectations and to identify ways in which we can improve communication and representation. You are likely to be approached for your opinions on this as well, either through a survey, as part of a discussion group or both.

I was very pleased that the wage re-opener not only resulted in a wage increase, which the Provost indicates will take effect in October and be retroactive but also accepted the arguments we made and rejected most of the points the Administration raised in support of their argument for a salary cut. I want to express our appreciation to those who worked so hard to build and present our case on this issue. Our Collective Agreement expired on June 30, 2020 and we will be sitting down at the bargaining table on this soon; in the meantime, we will also be looking at bargaining for the following year. Obviously, the situation with both the Administration and Government will be difficult.

We have worked out an understanding to co-operate with the Confederation of Alberta Faculty Associations in the consultations with respect to the government’s Alberta 2030 post-secondary plans and Sheila Miller and I had a meeting with the Minister of Advanced Education to identify some of the concerns we have going forward. In this environment, it is critical to both build alliances and get access to decision makers.

I have replaced Paul Rogers on a variety of committees including the Academic Crisis Management Team (ACMT) and the committee recommending changes to GFC on the Handbook (the former GFC and APT Manuals relating to appointment, tenure, promotion and merit). Our interests and those of the Administration diverge on these issues and I am working to present our views as forcefully as possible. We are committed to collegial self governance and to ensuring that academic staff members play a major role in identifying vacancies, making appointments and establishing the standards for tenure, promotion and merit. I am grateful to be working with Associate Director Don Kozak on some of these issues and making sure that the Administration is aware of our concerns. With the ACMT we were able to achieve modifications in the technology statement to students as well as the return to work protocol but these involved compromises and the membership on this committee is determined solely by the Administration.

Although face to face meetings with the membership are not possible in these circumstances, I hope to set up regular townhall meetings through Zoom where I can respond to questions and hear concerns you wish to raise. Again, more communication on this front will be forthcoming.

Once again, let me say that is a great honour to represent you as President and I look forward to working with the Executive, Board, and departmental representatives in advancing our issues in the next two years.

Best wishes,

David

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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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Faculty Association Representation

The Faculty Association would like to remind its members about the right to representation under the Collective Agreement. One of the key purposes of the Faculty Association is to protect academic staff interests through its work to resolve conflicts between members and the Administration. From time to time academic staff members may contact the Association for confidential advice. Many conflicts can be resolved informally at an early stage by the academic staff member with the advice of the Association and do not require Faculty Association representation. However, when there are situations that escalate which have the potential to lead to discipline, the Administration is required to advise you of your right to have a Faculty Association representative attend with you. In other situations, such as resolving conflicts, a Faculty Association advisor may also be useful. Please be aware of your rights for advice/representation. At any meeting with an Administrator where you are concerned that you need advice or representation – especially where the Administrator indicates that the results of such a discussion might lead to discipline — you can ask for a recess in the proceedings to allow you to have time to contact the Faculty Association for assistance.

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Faculty Association Office Remains Available

As with most of our members, the Faculty Association Staff continue to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a strange and difficult time for new members to begin a career at the University of Calgary. We hope that your first few weeks have been a pleasant experience despite these challenges. While the Faculty Association staff are also working remotely; staff are available to assist new and ongoing members in the new reality. Likewise, new and often unexpected challenges arise for all members as the pandemic and University budget constraints unfold.

We continue to do our best to help members to navigate these issues. When an academic staff member contacts the Faculty Association, their inquiry is directed to the most appropriate staff person and triaged in order to best assist those individuals who have time sensitive concerns. Faculty Association staff endeavor to get back to individuals as quickly as possible. The best way to reach us is by emailing Faculty.Association@tucfa.com with your concerns and, if possible, how you would like us to help. However, we continue to monitor our phone line for voicemail messages, so feel free to also leave a message at (403) 220-5722.

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Membership Emergency Fund

The Faculty Association provides Member Emergency Funding to help individual members under emergency circumstances due to a sudden loss or decline in remuneration from the University. Member Emergency Funding is not intended to be used in cases where normal remuneration is inadequate for an individual’s expenses. Rather, this funding is available when there is an unexpected drop in remuneration, or when a personal emergency arises. This funding is not intended to replace the normal assistance available from the government or other agencies.

In addition to current members, individuals who have held sessional, limited term or contingent term appointments which have recently terminated are eligible to apply. Relief may be provided as a grant, an interest-free loan, or as a combination grant/loan.

For more information on Member Emergency Funding, please contact Faculty Association Executive Director Sheila Miller, by phone, (403) 220-5722 or by email, Faculty.Association@tucfa.com.

All inquiries will be held in the strictest confidence.

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Deans Surveys

The Faculty Association of the University of Calgary, in accordance with its policy concerning the Assessment of Deans and equivalents, has completed a survey of the academic staff members in Faculties where the Dean is at the end of their term, which includes the Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. The Association has begun to distribute an email survey to the academic staff members in Faculties where the Dean or Dean-equivalent is at the mid-point of their term including the Vice-Provost (Libraries and Cultural Resources), the Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, the Dean of the Haskayne School of Business, and the Dean of the Faculty of Nursing.

The results of these surveys are shared with the respective Deans and the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) subject to response thresholds in the policy. In the case of review or search committees, the results will also be shared with the members of those committees. The results for the survey of the Dean of the Faculty of Law and the Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine have been distributed to members.

In accordance with the Faculty Association policy, information on only the quantitative results (statistics) of the survey will be released to the Association membership provided that the number of surveys received meets our requirements for the distribution of results. To ensure the survey’s validity, we treat responses in the same manner as an Association ballot.

Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns.

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September 2020

President’s Report


Updates and Changes to the USRI


Faculty Association Representation


Faculty Association Office Remains Available


Membership Emergency Fund


Deans Surveys

 

 


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