Monday, April 18, 2016

FAUW Highlights: Visiting the School of Pharmacy

The FAUW Board recognizes that the University of Waterloo includes satellite campuses as well as the main campus. In mid-April, the FAUW Board took a field trip to the School of Pharmacy, located at the Downtown Kitchener Health Sciences Campus. This experience was the perfect opportunity for the FAUW Board to learn more about the perspectives, ideas, and innovations of a key University group.

On April 14, several Pharmacy faculty members participated in an informal discussion, which was strengthened by the various career stages represented at the table. The FAUW Board gained insight into a distinctive feature of the School of Pharmacy which is the amazing number of team-taught courses. Team-teaching ensures that each expert can connect with students at the appropriate place in the curriculum by sharing their knowledge on a specific topic. It is clear that Pharmacy faculty members function as a team in the classroom. Needless to say, the Board greatly appreciates the time Pharmacy faculty members took out of their busy schedules to meet with us!

As the official representative of all regular faculty members at the University of Waterloo, FAUW is continuously interested in the thoughts, questions & concerns of all University faculty. The FAUW Board strongly encourages any faculty member to contact FAUW at fauw@uwaterloo.ca anytime a question or issue comes up which is relevant to FAUW. We want to hear from you!

FAUW Highlights is a series of regular updates from the FAUW Board, written by Elise Lepage and Shannon Gordon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

FAUW Highlights: Meet SWEC, the Status of Women & Equity Committee

Greetings FAUWers,

Earlier this month, this blog explored the value of balanced and inclusive representation on the FAUW Board. With that theme in mind, we would now like to introduce you to the University’s Status of Women & Equity Committee, known across campus as ‘SWEC.’ The mandate of SWEC is to educate, advise, and advocate on matters related to the status of women, and broader equity issues such as those arising from gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, or gender identity.

SWEC is one of three major equity-promoting initiatives on campus, including the Office of Equity as an administrative body, and the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign (which many of you are likely aware of!). Each one plays a distinct role in improving the equity climate at Waterloo.

SWEC, a standing committee of FAUW, is composed of a diverse group of individuals with strong interests and experience in equity issues. With members from each of the six faculties, as well as one librarian, SWEC follows a community-based approach. In addition to liaising with related University committees, SWEC has a working relationship with the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT). SWEC Chair, Dr. Kathleen Rybczynski, also sits on FAUW Board of Directors as an Ex-officio/non-voting member of the Board.

To better serve as a proponent of equity, SWEC is in the process of broadening their community outreach. With the aim to create a locus of communication for equity initiatives, SWEC is currently redesigning their website content and would love your feedback (email Laura McDonald or Kathleen Rybczynski). If you are looking to connect on equity across campus, please contact us.

Each year, SWEC recognizes exceptional commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity at UW with the annual Equity and Inclusivity Award. This month, SWEC is celebrating the achievements of FemPhys and its co-founders Sarah Kaiser, Emma McKay, and Jennifer Reid. Their leadership, and their organization of public lectures, mentoring nights, and community-building social gatherings, have improved the equity environment at UW, particularly for women in Physics and Astronomy as well as within the broader STEM community.

FAUW Highlights is a series of regular updates from the FAUW Board, written by Elise Lepage and Shannon Gordon.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Changes to the Faculty Professional Expense Reimbursement Process

By Lynne Taylor, FAUW Treasurer

Every year, the University of Waterloo makes available to individual faculty members an allowance for out-of-pocket expenses related to the performance of teaching, research and professional duties known colloquially as the “professional allowance” or the Faculty Professional Expense Reimbursement (FPER). In the past, this claim could be made once annually at the end of the fiscal year for expenses incurred between 1 May of the previous year and 30 April of the current year, and was due by 30 April. Any allowable expenses that exceeded the maximum FPER in a particular year could be carried forward for up to three years, and be applied against future FPERs. This practice continues.

However, as of the latest salary settlement (effective 1 May, 2015), in addition to the ongoing practice of carrying forward all allowable expenses that exceed the maximum FPER, individual faculty members will also be allowed to carry forward all unspent FPER balances for up to three years. Thus, if an individual faculty member does not spend their entire FPER balance in a particular year, that unspent amount will be available to be spent for another three years. (This means, very pragmatically speaking, we don’t need to dash out to spend the remaining balance in the last weeks of the fiscal year, in order to claim the full allowance or lose a portion of it. Instead, we can let that amount carry forward to the next fiscal year and even accumulate for three years.) Simply put, any unspent balance will automatically be carried forward to the next year.

With the introduction of Concur, the new online system for submitting expense claims (which is being rolled out across campus as I am writing), individual faculty members now will be able to make two FPER electronic claims annually, at any point between 1 July and 30 April. It is limited to two claims, because the actual calculations must still be done manually and Finance does not have the resources to manage more than two claims per faculty member. We have been assured that these claims will be reimbursed in a timely manner (the expectation on Finance’s part is that it will be within approximately 10 days of submission). The period 1 May to 30 June is blacked out in order to allow Finance to calculate the amounts for the upcoming year.

What about expenses incurred in April of a fiscal year that cannot be submitted by the 30 April deadline?

Some confusion has arisen around a clause in the March 16 email from Finance to faculty and administrative staff regarding the FPER. In it, we were informed that claims for 2015/16 would not be accepted after April 30. The effect was to decree that any legitimate expenses incurred in the two weeks prior to 30 April (an estimated window) could neither be claimed in the 2015/2016 fiscal year, nor in the following fiscal year (2016/2017). Instead, the faculty member would have had to absorb those legitimate expenses themselves. 

This would happen because of the way in which the paperwork must flow – before an FPER claim can be submitted, it must be reviewed and approved at the departmental level, which often takes two weeks. At least one department was requiring that the form be submitted by 20 April at the latest, in order to meet the 30 April deadline. To use that department as an example, any expenses incurred by a member of that particular department between 20 and 30 April would not be able to be claimed, simply because of the time lag imposed by the flow of the paperwork.

This concern was raised by FAUW with Finance and, as of 25 March, 2016, a resolution has been reached. Concur has been reconfigured to allow any expenses incurred in April of a given year, that are not able to be submitted due to the timing of internal submission deadlines, to be claimed with the following year’s FPER claim.

NOTE: This is only for expenses incurred in April of the given fiscal year. See the “General” section of the official FPER guideline.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Scheduling Memo – 2016 Reboot

By Bryan Tolson, FAUW Vice President

By now, you should have heard about – and hopefully read – the memo regarding the Fall 2016 changes to the scheduling system. With these substantial changes now officially announced, it seems an appropriate time for another blog post about scheduling.

The point of this post is to give you my thoughts, as FAUW’s representative on PACT (the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Timetabling), on the scheduling system and in particular the most recent memo from PACT addressing the system of constraints. I will close with some essential facts and recommendations about how you can get what you need under the revised system.

If you have not read the memo, I suggest you do so before continuing below (read the memo here). FAUW has posted scheduling system-related blog posts in the past few years. For a refresher on the ongoing debate around scheduling, you can find them using the following links:

http://www.fauwaterloo.blogspot.ca/2014/01/new-scheduling-system-what-you-need-to.html
http://www.fauwaterloo.blogspot.ca/2015/03/scheduling-systems-same-old-tune.html

It is both my and the Board’s basic premise that the new scheduling system is here to stay and that our goal is to work with it and the Administration to get the best for FAUW members. That said, we must also realize that it is a centralized scheduling system in which every unit and every faculty member must share finite space and, thus, lecture times. Equity and fairness are a big concern for all on PACT (including me), as well as for FAUW. Any accommodation made for one faculty member will impact another, so these cannot be made lightly.

Let me provide a concrete example. If you attempt to “game” the system so that you avoid teaching Friday afternoons, you are effectively sentencing a colleague to teach in that time slot. (So please keep your colleagues in mind as you attempt to define a teaching schedule that works for you.) Negotiating this balancing act is not a simple exercise and this newest memo is another attempt to strike that balance.

What I like in the memo

There is much to like about this latest iteration of PACT’s attempt to identify acceptable constraints on timetabling. First of all, many people are working very hard to try and make real improvements to the scheduling system. The changes in the memo are a “net positive” in terms of achieving equity and fairness across the campus.

Second, like it or not, it appears that future provincial funding for new teaching space on campus will require a clear demonstration that we are utilizing our current teaching space at something approaching full capacity. Hence, setting targets for the ratio of 3x1-hr courses to 2x1.5-hr courses to maximize room use efficiency is sensible from this perspective.

Third, the idea of giving every faculty member on campus – our childless, parentless, or partnerless colleagues included – the opportunity to specify a seven-hour teaching block in which all their teaching will occur is also a good one. Lastly, the changes to the system introduce more predictability for instructors, something many of us appreciate.

What I do not like in the memo

The devil is really in the details with this system. The details are what matter to all of us and I am concerned about certain aspects of the new definition of constraints, concerns I have raised on the faculty members’ behalf at least once, sometimes multiple times, at PACT meetings or in PACT discussions, with little impact. Chief among those are that:
  • regular research commitments such as remote field-work or off-campus meetings with research partners (these can be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reschedule) are not explicitly listed as a Level 2 constraint. To be clear, they potentially are allowable Level 2 constraints, but only at the discretion of the Chair. So ask for these if they are needed. 
  • all faculty who teach a 1x3-hr lecture to more than 80 students are now forced to either teach in the 2:30-5:30 p.m. time slot or in the evening (there are no other options). This is not fair. Unless the campus is ready to decide that no class should be delivered in one 3-hour block during the daytime, our colleagues who, for pedagogical reasons, choose to teach this way deserve more flexibility in potential teaching times during the day. (If you teach a course like this and share my concern, please email me: btolson@uwaterloo.ca.) 
  • in this first iteration of the “teaching window” model, Chairs are being asked to ensure that their unit has “spread their teaching window requests evenly over the three start times (8:30am, 9:30am and 10:30am).” I firmly believe that the natural distribution of requested start times across the available options will be such that the resulting schedule’s integrity will not be compromised. 
  • there are scheduling software defaults that are not yet known to all instructors. It is unclear in the current documentation, for example, how early a faculty member can be scheduled to teach the day after delivering a night class that ends at 10:00 pm. 
The memo is a living document and so I believe the above concerns can be easily dealt with in the next revision or even earlier, when supporting documentation eventually goes online at the brand new scheduling website. I have other concerns, but they will be made clear in the following list of “what you need to know.”

What you need to know when submitting teaching availability constraints

The list below highlights things you need to know that are not clear from the scheduling memo, or things I think need to be emphasized. The memo contains many other things you also need to know so please do also read the memo if you haven’t yet!
  • You cannot be required to teach after 5:30pm. You may do so if you wish to, and you are free to negotiate this arrangement with your Chair. However, you cannot be required to do so. 
  • Chairs have been instructed in the memo to ensure that instructors have spread their teaching window requests evenly over the three start times. While some of us may be able to be flexible, others may not. My recommendation is that those who, for personal or professional reasons, cannot change their teaching window should simply refuse to do so. 
  • Due to time constraints, PACT was unable to completely standardize the way that instructor availability constraints are collected from instructors. As far as I can tell, your department will collect these in one of the following ways:
  1. A slick web-based collection form. I have seen the test website for this form but if you wish to learn more, you will have to ask for details from your Faculty-level PACT Representative. Make sure your scheduling representative is aware of this option. 
  2. A more clunky MS-Word-based option using the template file provided by the RO to scheduling reps (see form here). 
  3. Some sort of variation to what your department has done in past terms to collect instructor constraints.
For anyone in category #3, you should check that your departmental approach is essentially consistent with the instructions you see in the link in #2 above. If you have concerns about inconsistencies which may lead to inequities, please share them with your scheduling rep, your Faculty PACT Representative and me (btolson@uwaterloo.ca).
  • You are not limited to submitting only two teaching availability constraints even though collection methods #1 and #2 in the above bullet imply this. If you have valid constraint requests, you are allowed to submit more. Simply add the additional required constraints in your submission to your scheduling representative (include them in an email if necessary). However, please do not attempt to craft a complex and numerous set of constraints that precisely defines your perfect/ideal lecture schedule. This will be counter-productive. 
  • You are not required to submit ANY documentation to either your Chair or to your departmental scheduling representative to support medical- or human rights-related constraints (these are Level 1 constraints). For a constraint based on medical reasons, you should communicate directly with the university’s Occupational Health Nurse, Linda Brogden (lbrogden@uwaterloo.ca). For a constraint based on human rights issues, contact directly Mahejabeen Ebrahim, Director of the Equity Office (mahejabeen.ebrahim@uwaterloo.ca). If they approve the constraint requested, Linda or Mahejabeen will provide confirmation to that effect to your Chair without releasing details as to the grounds for the constraint.
  • The memo makes clear that, if it is necessary for a department to reduce the number of 2x1.5-hr course offerings, achieving the required reduction is the responsibility of the Chair and instructors within the department. It is also clear from the memo that PACT recognizes that all the necessary reductions of 2x1.5-hr course offerings will be gradual and will certainly not be completely achieved in Fall 2016. My hope is that departmental members will be able to work together collegially to determine how best to meet the target ratios specified in the memo (e.g., 9 classes of 3x1-hr MWF : 6 classes of 2x1.5-hr TR). Thus, it is important to realize that you should not be forced to switch multiple courses in one term from one meet time pattern to another, or switch all your courses in the 2016 academic year, to a completely new meet time pattern (e.g., from all 1.5-hr meets to all 1-hr meets). 
  • Your Chair has been instructed to inform you in a timely manner of any teaching availability selection or constraint that s/he has chosen not to approve. 
  • Several early-March “Question and Answer” sessions have already been arranged with chairs/directors and their scheduling representatives to discuss how to set department/school goals. You should pass questions/concerns through these channels initially. 
Please feel free to bring concerns to me through your department’s representative on the FAUW Council of Representatives, as scheduling is a topic of discussion at the March 23rd Council meeting this term. Of course you can also email me directly at btolson@uwaterloo.ca.

The Scheduling Office has a new website with news and resources.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Faculty access to the student portal

Guest post from the Student Success Office

All Waterloo faculty members can now access the student portal - a mobile-friendly communication and student success tool that delivers just-in-time information to current students. The portal was launched to all undergraduate and graduate students last fall.

You can log into the portal using your WaTIAM username and password. A brief video and online tour will orient you to the site and you can read more about the portal’s features and find helpful tips. You can also enable a fake student data set in your portal so you can see what students see, to get a more robust view of the student experience on the portal.

How can this help you as a faculty member?

There are many features that may be of value to you as a campus community member, including the real-time GRT schedule; WatCard balance; campus news and events; food outlet hours, locations, and specials; varsity schedules and scores; and campus hotspot crowd reporter.

As a faculty member, if you use Learn to post midterms, quizzes, and assignment due dates in the Learn course calendar, your students can import that into their portal calendar, to ensure they stay on top of their important dates.

How can you help?

As you navigate through the different portal features, think about how this tool can be of value to your students and where possible, encourage your students to use it, to help manage their academic, social, and campus life information.

This year, the portal team will focus on creating a much-desired mobile application, as well as investigate enhanced system integration, including Learn.

If you have any questions, you can submit feedback in the portal or email the portal team.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

FAUW Highlights: Inclusivity & the FAUW Board

Greeting FAUWers!

The FAUW Election Committee is passionate about addressing a recurring issue: balanced and inclusive representation of all six faculties on the FAUW Board. At the moment, there is significant Faculty of Arts representation in the group, but no Directors affiliated with the faculties of Environment, Mathematics, or Applied Health Sciences.

Representing the interests of all faculties is vital to a group like the FAUW Board, and to support this approach, the new FAUW Constitution ensures that each faculty has at least one representative on the Board, with additional “At-Large Representatives.” 2016-2017 will be a transition period toward this new representation on the Board.

This month, FAUWers will elect their President (July 2016 to June 2018), as well as one member affiliated with each of the six faculties (July 2016 to June 2018). Current members whose terms end in 2017 will become At-Large Representatives. To support this transition, one of the Board’s current Lecturer members (Heidi Engelhardt) will become the “Lecturers Representative” until the end of her term in June 2017.

The need for this new cycle of elections arose from a lack of informed voices around the table regarding current practices in each of the six faculties. Inevitably, FAUW's operations were slowed by the need to go outside the Board to find the information we needed regarding a number of issues.

Although elected from each of the six faculties separately, it is understood that the individuals elected in this way will still act in the interests of the membership as a whole, not exclusively the members of their faculty.

We believe that this new approach will foster better representation of our members. This also means that we look forward to your nomination forms!

Your next steps:

Note: Only active members of FAUW – those regular and non-regular faculty and professional librarians who have opted in – are eligible to vote and be elected. If you can’t recall whether you’ve opted in, check the bottom of the Call for Nominations announcement in your email.

FAUW Highlights is a series of regular updates from the FAUW Board, written by Elise Lepage and Shannon Gordon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Board Updates, Starting with Weather Policy

By Elise Lepage

Greetings FAUWers,

I’m one of the newest Directors on the FAUW Board, and will start hearing from me quite regularly on this blog (I hope!) to share what this Board is about and what it is doing for you.

Having attended bi-weekly Board meetings since last summer, I have been amazed by the number of crucial issues that FAUW is committed to. Meeting agendas are packed with a variety of burning topics requiring a range of expertise, and fostering in-depth discussions.

My hope is that regular, short updates on the blog will help you better understand FAUW’s role, gain insight into what is at stake, and encourage you to reflect upon the UW environment – and to share your stories with us.

 * * * 

I will start this week with a timely issue: the Severe Weather Policy. This issue stems from 2015 when the University of Waterloo remained open during a very stormy winter day. The University updated the weather closing guidelines on January 19 of this year, and has agreed to discuss, with FAUW, revisions to these guidelines as they are integrated into the University’s overarching emergency guidelines.

The FAUW Board and SWEC have been hearing a number of concerns from faculty, mainly about the need for clear and transparent standards for non-closure during severe weather, such as priority snow clearance routes to aid accessibility, and accommodating missed classes fairly.

As this important discussion continues, the silver lining is perhaps that the remaining weeks of the winter semester may bring more spring than snow!


As always, we want to know how issues are affecting you. Please join the conversation in the comments, or send private concerns via email.