TRUFA President’s Report to the Membership
Over the last month, here are the activities and issues with which I have been involved:
TRU / TRUFA Labour Management Consultative Committee
At the monthly Consultative Committee meeting held on January 25th the following issues were discussed:
Williams Lake Working Group
In December 2016, the Provost set up a Working Group consisting of three Kamloops Deans and the WL campus director to assess communications, programming and working relations between Kamloops and WL. The expectation is that the report of this Working Group in March 2017 will result in the formation of a Task Force, which will engage in a comprehensive review of academic programming at Williams Lake. While the Working Group has been consulting with WL faculty, TRUFA has been assured that any Task Force will have full representation from WL faculty and support staff.
Sabbatical Leave Replacement
One of the challenges facing departments is how to accommodate members taking 6 or 12 month-long sabbatical leave. TRUFA explained that some faculty have told us that they are reluctant to apply for sabbatical leave because they do not want their colleagues to ‘pay the price.’ In response, TRU administrators reiterated the importance of departmental sabbatical leave plans and the incorporation of sabbatical leave replacement needs into three-year rolling workload plans. I would urge all departments to ensure that they follow the requirements of Article 14.4 of the Collective Agreement:
14.4 Departmental Sabbatical Leave Plan
14.4.1 Annually, the Department Chair will consult with Faculty Members of the Department to prepare a sabbatical leave plan that will be recommended to the appropriate Dean by September 15. The sabbatical leave plan shall consist of the following:
-A rolling schedule of projected sabbatical leaves of Department Faculty Members during the next three years;
-A projected course schedule that attempts to minimize the disruption of course delivery due to sabbatical leave absences during the three year period; and
-An estimate of the costs of covering additional course instruction, if needed, due to projected sabbatical
When a Dean-approved sabbatical leave plan is in effect by September 15th, the Dean can then ensure that the budgetary request to the Provost reflects the replacement needs of the department.
Tracking Incremental Progression for Continuing Sessional Faculty
When Sessional faculty have completed three consecutive years of at least 50% workload, they are converted to Continuing Sessional status, at which time they begin to receive annual salary increments. TRUFA asked that TRU Finance and HR ensure that the union and the members are informed as to when the increment is applied and what salary step the member has achieved.
Draft TRU Sexual Violence Policy
TRUFA submitted feedback on the latest draft of the TRU Sexual Violence Policy. This feedback was provided by TRUFA’s Status of Women Committee.
Course Evaluation (Student Opinion Surveys)
TRU administration reported that at the meeting of department Chairs with the Provost, at least one Chair raised the issue of low student response rates and asked whether or not it might be possible to extend the survey completion time beyond the current 48 hours. The Provost pointed out that the course evaluation time was negotiated between TRUFA and TRU administration. TRUFA explained that the 48 hour extension was a concession given that the Memorandum of Settlement reached with the mediator required that all surveys be completed during the class time only. The parties agreed to re-examine the issue once the Winter 2017 semester survey results have been compiled.
The Fall 2016 course evaluation report indicates that 96% of all responses were received either during class time or within 48 hours after class time. The 4% received after 48 hours were removed. TRUFA believes in the principle of the supervised completion of the survey, and that keeping the surveys open for an extended period of time is not in the best interest of credible results.
FPSE Secondary Scales Conference
On January 28th, Association Presidents, chief bargainers and contract faculty representatives from all FPSE locals met in Vancouver to discuss ways of eliminating so-called “secondary scales.” At TRU, for example, neither Sessional nor Continuing Sessional faculty have full access to the ‘regular’ TS salary scale. Sessionals are compensated at 80% of TS-1 without any access to incremental progression up the scale. The 80% portion reflects the fact that Sessionals do not have any obligation to perform service. While Continuing Sessional faculty do have incremental progression rights, they are still capped at 80% of the salary step they reach for they, too, have no service obligations.
In the 2016 provincial table negotiations, eight FPSE locals successfully negotiated a Letter of Understanding, through which the unions and the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association (PSEA) would begin to discuss ways of eliminating these secondary scales prior to the 2019 round of bargaining. Even though TRUFA was not part of this provincial table, we believe that if the government does fund elimination of these discriminatory scales for some employees in the system it’s quite possible that that funding could be extended to TRU and other institutions.
“Open the Doors”—FPSE’s non-partisan post-secondary education campaign
The 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Federation of Post Secondary Educators of BC (FPSE-BC) initiated a non-partisan campaign highlighting the need for focus on post-secondary education leading up to the May 2017 provincial election. One year later at the May 2016 AGM, delegates reconfirmed their support for this campaign.
Three main principles animate the “Open the Doors” campaign:
- Access—is post-secondary education accessible for students, particularly those who live in more remote communities in our region?
- Affordability—can students and their families afford university education, and can post-graduation student debt levels be moderated?
- Appropriate Funding—is TRU funded at a level that will enable our University’s teaching, research and regional educational delivery mandate under the TRU Act?
Since early in 2016, TRUFA has engaged in a concerted outreach to the TRU community—especially to students—and highlighted these goals. Our “cupcake strategy” has resulted in approximately 2,000 students/faculty/staff/administrators signing pledges that call on the provincial government to restore funding to the university and college system.
On January 31st, TRUFA held its first of three sessions – the “Funding Squeeze” – alerting students to the issue of affordability. Some 150 students filled in surveys, asking them what financial pressures they face in pursuing a post-secondary education, what their concerns about debt may be, and what topics they would like political candidates and their parties to address during the provincial election campaign.
Over the next two months, TRUFA will engage the TRU community again, first, focusing on the impact of reduced government funding for TRU—increase in class sizes and limitations on course/program offerings; next, why investment in post-secondary education is crucial in building a strong economy, reducing income inequality, and fostering a healthy, contributing population.
February TRU / TRUFA Labour Management Consultative Committee
On February 15th, TRU administrators and TRUFA table officers met to discuss the following issues:
- Student Opinion Surveys—the Fall 2016 course evaluation report indicates that 77% of all responses took students 10 minutes or less. TRUFA members are concerned that, especially in cases without in-person supervision by a colleague, students are not encouraged to take their time and provide thoughtful, considered feedback. To this end, TRUFA asked what percentage of total responses included written comments. We know that in the era of hard copy survey responses, some 60% to 70% or more of student responses included written comments. All faculty know that written comments are of much greater benefit than mere numerical responses.
- Equity Audit—Both TRU administration and TRUFA agreed that an audit of the University is required to provide data about equity in appointment, salary placement and promotion in terms of gender, race and other factors. The audit is a necessary firs step in addressing these important considerations. TRUFA indicated that the union is prepared to proceed as soon as administration is ready.
- Governance—TRUFA has invited TRU senior administration to jointly plan and deliver a workshop for all faculty, support staff, students and administrators on the shared governance model of university governance at TRU. Similar to joint workshops held on Tenure and Promotion, and on Sabbatical Leave, this governance workshop would send a clear message that administration and faculty are fully committed to the principles of shared governance and to the operational procedures at the department, Faculty/School Council and Senate levels required to achieve shared governance.
Submitted in solidarity,
Tom Friedman, TRUFA President