TRUFA President’s Report to the Membership
Over the last month, I have been involved in the following activities:
Williams Lake Visit
TRUFA Table Officers travelled to Williams Lake (WL) to meet with faculty members. Since I was elected TRUFA President in 2014, I have made it a point to schedule a visit to our Williams Lake colleagues at least once each year. On Tuesday, October 18th, Star Mahara, John Turner, Lloyd Bennett and I met with the newly formed Williams Lake Faculty Council, chaired by Kathy Lauriente. As I told attendees at our November 16th general faculty meeting, it was very heartening to see an important governance initiative spearheaded by Williams Lake faculty. Despite not being formally recognized in the academic structure of TRU, this Faculty Council is a very important collective voice for faculty, for the WL programs and for students. Since the TRUFA visit, the WL Faculty Council has made a proposal to the Provost that would enhance the ability of WL faculty to provide key input into academic decisions affecting the campus and would provide for strong academic leadership while maintaining the important connections between Kamloops and Williams Lake members of departments. On Wednesday, October 19th I met with Ray Sanders, the WL campus director, who expressed support for both the Faculty Council and the establishment of an academic leadership position on his campus. Later in the day I met individually with WL faculty from four program areas to discuss specific concerns related to course section cancellations, workload, student recruitment and support, and challenges related to working collegially with Kamloops-based departments. At the same time, John and Lloyd met with several members on steward-related issues. I want to thank the hospitality shown by our WL colleagues during our visit.
Labour Management Consultative Committee
On October 26th, TRUFA table officers plus Deputy Steward Mike Looney, met with TRU administrators in our monthly TRU / TRUFA consultative committee meeting. Among the issues discussed were respectful relationships between faculty and administrators, departmental Chair release algorithm, safety issues, administration’s “Open Governance” initiative and follow-up to the September Town Hall, CurricuNet approval processes, task force on Williams Lake, and course evaluations. Once the Consultative Committee minutes are approved, they can be accessed at http://www.tru.ca/hr/current-employees/faculty/Faculty_Consultative_Committee.html
Among the many issues that TRUFA has been working hard to resolve with administration, the most challenging have been those related to collegial governance and academic decision-making. As Vice President Star Mahara’s columns have shown, governance plays a critically important role in our professional lives (Read them here and here). What TRUFA would like to reiterate with all TRU faculty is the importance of your participation in both department committees and Faculty/School Councils. Look for more details about how faculty can play a major role in all academic decision-making through their Councils.
FPSE “Open the Doors” Campaign
Beginning last year, the Federation initiated a campaign whose goal was to ensure that post-secondary education become a major issue for the May 2017 provincial election. TRUFA has participated in the first phase of the campaign through having TRU faculty, staff, students and administrators sign a “I Support Post-Secondary Education” pledge to be sent to the government in Victoria. In a number of “days of action,” highlighted by cupcakes and award draws for students, we gathered over 1700 signed pledge cards out of a provincial total of 10,000. The last of these events was held at TRU on October 31st with a “scary day of action.” Check our photos of the event, including TRUFA activists in costume.
The first phase of the campaign concluded with a “Win Your Rent for a Year” contest for which students were encouraged to submit their stories about the value of their participation in post-secondary education, and their challenges—financial and otherwise—they face in getting a university or college education. On November 17th, FPSE hosted a gala evening at which the winners were announced and celebrated. TRUFA hosted a “gala viewing party” at The Dean in the CAC building to which students were invited to watch a livestream of the event held in Vancouver.
CAUT Western Regional Conference and University of Manitoba Faculty Association Strike
Each year, all of the faculty associations from Western Canadian universities meet to discuss key issues and share information. From November 3rd to 5th, I attended this year’s meeting, hosted by the University of Winnipeg. Delegates heard a report from CAUT Executive Director, David Robinson, who updated the following issues:
- positive moves by the new federal government (restoration of the long-form census; promise to appoint a national science officer; reinstatement of important data on academic salaries and equity surveys; modest increase in tri-council funding, and repeal of C-377, a notorious anti-union bill originally tabled by the Harper government);
- the potential negative impact on universities of both the CETA and TPP trade agreements;
- review of the Copyright Act—the need to ensure intellectual property rights for academic producers of copyrightable material, and the need to protect fair use or fair dealing provisions of the Act so that academics can use such material in their classrooms;
The conference also included these panel discussions:
- Indigenizing the Academy
- Collective Bargaining Updates
- Respectful Workplace Policies
- Academic Freedom vs. Protection from Harassment
- Pay Equity
When delegates arrived in Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) had been on strike for three days. Faculty took the “last resort” decision to strike based on a number of issues, including unilateral imposition of higher workload, erosion of collegial governance (Deans denying the authority of Faculty Councils), the use of a travel reimbursement system called Concur that has downloaded the responsibility for clerical work onto faculty members amounting to dozens of hours of reporting, and a severe lack of administrative support shown to department Chairs and faculty members. The final issue that led to the strike was the use of Performance Indicators to evaluate the performance of faculty members in teaching, research and service. These so-called Key Performance Indicators use quantitative metrics used to determine whether or not faculty are meeting their obligations.
Earlier this week, UMFA reached an agreement with their administration on a new Collective Agreement. They achieved some major gains, including – most importantly – new workload language that vests workload decisions with departments, not Deans.
Twice a year, delegates representing the nearly 80 faculty associations belonging to CAUT and their 68,000 members meet in Ottawa. As I write this report, I am participating in the CAUT Council, and will report on important new issues and developments in next month’s TRUFA Newsletter.
Submitted in solidarity,
Tom Friedman, TRUFA President