Friday, April 13, 2018

What You Missed at our 2018 Spring General Meeting

We had a full agenda at our Spring General Meeting last week. Here are some of the highlights.

Bryan Tolson's President's Report included an update on current policy development and the messages shared with MPPs at OCUFA's lobby day last month. View the President's Report slides (PDF) (and our blog post about lobby day) for details.

Marcel Pinheiro delivered the Elections Committee report: The successful candidates from Arts, Engineering, Environment, Mathematics, and Science are, respectively: Alice Kuzniar, Paul Ward, Daniel Cockayne, Dan Brown, and Vivian Choh (read more about the directors-elect). Voter turnout was 33% in Arts, 26% in Engineering, and 29% in Science.

We received no nominations from members in Applied Health Sciences, so this position will be vacant until the Board can fill it by appointment.

Members approved the budget for 2018–19 and changes to the constitution regarding the role of past president, the executive committee, and the name and mandate of the Status of Women and Equity Committee—now the Equity Committee. The updated constitution is on our website.

Lead negotiator Benoit Charbonneau gave an overview of the salary negotiation outcomes and a crash course on how our salary structure works, which you can also get from our Faculty Guide page on salaries. A detailed explanation of the negotiation results was posted on our blog in February. Charbonneau also noted the members of the Lecturers Salary Working Group.

Dan Brown, one of our representatives to the fall break working group, gave an update on the fall break pilot project. Thank you to the 506 faculty members who participated in the survey that closed on March 30. We are reviewing the results now.

We introduced a couple of waste-reduction initiatives at this meeting: Thank you to everyone who brought their own plate and/or coffee mug, and to everyone for composting their pizza crusts and paper plates!

The next general meeting will be in December.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A View of Academic Freedom and Top-ten-ness

—George Freeman, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering

The President's Luncheon on Academic Freedom, held March 12, was the start of a great exploration, particularly if the university develops a serious interest in President Hamdullahpur's vision around seeking to be a top-ten school, seen in his discussion document "Disrupting the 21st Century University, Imagining the University of Waterloo @2025" where it is expressed as the question "do we want to be recognized and respected as one of the best in the world?" [emphasis added].

This first meeting spoke to the general policies protecting academic freedom at Waterloo and focused mostly on aspects protecting our freedom to engage controversial ideas and disseminate controversial results. I take a much wider definition of academic freedom which includes all three of President Hamdullahpur's "non-negotiable principles" around this topic: institutional autonomy, faculty independence, and academic freedom". Although dismissable as just semantics, I believe it is important to not forget those institutional- and faculty-autonomy components. There's a similar trap in the University of Waterloo Act, where our objects are "the pursuit of learning through scholarship, teaching and research within a spirit of free enquiry and expression." It is too easy to group free enquiry and free expression under a common mental heading of "free talk" and forget that what it is we talk about has to come from someplace. Academic freedom in the large also protects that place (or spirit).

In my opinion, the history of scholarship demonstrates that it is extremely difficult to suppress ideas and their evidence-based evaluation forever. To me, academic freedom, in the freedom-of-expression sense, acts mostly to prevent long delays and prevent the messenger from being punished for the message. This protection of an environment free of recrimination and censorship is obviously important but not the whole story. In a policy sense, it admits to after-the-fact remedies for violations, something easy for us to contemplate.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Where Does FAUW Stand on the Responsible Investing Working Group?

We have received some questions about the Responsible Investing Working Group, which is tasked with making recommendations about whether and how to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into decision making for the investment of the university's endowment and pension funds.

This working group was created in good part in response to approaches by faculty, students, and staff with interests and concerns about how the university invests, in particular calls for the University to divest from fossil fuels. It is a working group of the Board of Governors, since it is the Board that has primary oversight of investments. The FAUW representative is Alan Macnaughton who is also a member of the Pension and Benefits Committee.

The working group has not yet produced its report. Anyone interested in these issues who has not yet provided input to the group should do so as soon as possible. You can send your input to Mike Grivicic in the Secretariat.

FAUW is looking forward to the release of the working group’s report. We will seek input from members and formulate a response at that time. Please make sure you follow our blog and emails if these are issues of interest to you.

News From Your Board: March 22 Meeting Recap

—Peter Johnson, director for the Faculty of Environment

As we approach the end of the winter term, the FAUW Board of Directors met to discuss a variety of important issues. We discussed the agenda and process for the upcoming Spring General Meeting (April 5th) and reviewed our draft budget for the coming year, which will be presented to the membership at the General Meeting.

Many Board members attended and/or participated in the President’s Luncheon on Academic Freedom. As a result, we discussed this event and its outcomes in depth (see our blog post on the event for more details). Going forward, FAUW respects the efforts made to host this event and the issues and discussion that it raised, but ultimately there is still much work to be done to clarify how Academic Freedom is exercised on campus. Further events and discussions with administration will be very welcome.

The Board had a lengthy discussion about the issues raised at the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health forum and report. FAUW strongly supports many of the recommendations of this report and is working to provide advice to our members on how to better support student mental health.

We also reviewed several issues raised by individual members. We are always open to addressing specific issues, and receiving direct feedback from the membership, so please get in touch.

Upcoming events include the our annual tenure and promotion workshops, and the Spring General Meeting on April 5 in QNC 2502 from 11:30-1:30pm. Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Notes from the President's Luncheon on Academic Freedom

—Bryan Tolson, FAUW President

I want to thank everyone who attended the President’s Luncheon on Academic Freedom last week. For those who missed it, there was a summary in the Daily Bulletin last Friday and I’ve highlighted some key takeaways below. It was a compelling discussion with insightful questions from all, so thank you again to all who participated.

It’s clear that academic freedom is important to our members. It’s also clear that it’s a complicated issue, and I look forward to further discussion. Here are a few points from this event that I think are worth highlighting.

FAUW Execs Appeal to MPPs at OCUFA Queen’s Park Lobby Day

FAUW President Bryan Tolson (Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Treasurer Dan Brown (Computer Science) lobbied at Queen’s Park on March 20, advocating for investment in the university sector, renewal of faculty ranks, and better working conditions for short-term and contract faculty.

Tolson and Brown were part of a team of 25 faculty members from across Ontario, brought together by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), which represents 17,000 faculty members and academic librarians at 28 universities across Ontario.

Tolson and Brown met with several MPPs from Waterloo Region and neighbouring Wellington County: Hon. Daiene Vernile (Kitchener Centre), Hon. Kathryn McGarry (Cambridge), Michael Harris (Kitchener-Conestoga), and Ted Arnott (Wellington-Halton Hills); they also met with legislative staff for Catherine Fife (Kitchener-Waterloo).

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bragging Rights: FAUW's Contributions to UW's Canada’s Best Diversity Employers Award

We were please by the University's announcement last week that it was named one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for its commitment to gender equity.

We were especially excited to see two initiatives started by FAUW volunteers—Waterloo Women's Wednesdays and our Equity & Inclusivity Award—specifically mentioned as contributing factors to the University's selection!

The Equity & Inclusivity Award is a project of our Status of Women & Equity Committee (SWEC). Waterloo Women's Wednesdays (W3) is run by a committee with representation from faculty, staff (including our own), students, and postdocs. It is funded in part by FAUW and the Staff Association.

FAUW is actively working on equity issues of all kinds across campus at the Board level, through representatives on policy drafting and other committees, and via our own Status of Women and Equity Committee.

SWEC has working groups investigating a number of areas, including accessibility and accommodations, healthy workplaces, hiring, and the needs of racial and cultural minorities. There will be a call for new members in May.