January 26, 2009 General Meeting: President's Report

 

Notes from CAUT Presidents’ Forum
January 2009
David Hyttenrauch
MRFA President
 
From 16-18 January I attended a CAUT Presidents’ Forum in Ottawa, featuring a series of round-table discussions on topics of concern identified by member presidents in advance of the forum. Roughly 50 university faculty association presidents attended, representing a very broad cross-section of institutional sizes and locations. Because some of the topics might be of interest to various committees and groups, I’m summarizing some key points here.
 
Topics included in this summary:
·         Teaching Evaluations
·         Conflict of Interest Issues
·         Tenure Appeals
·         Faculty Association governance structures
·         Market Supplements
·         Care and Custody of Information: FOIP and Copyright issues
·         Workload: Teaching, Scholarship and Service
 
·         Teaching evaluations
 
o        CAUT has a handbook on appropriate measures of teaching excellence: http://www.caut.ca/uploads/teaching_dossier_en.pdf
o        Various philosophical splits always in play
§         Should the course or the instruction be evaluated
§         Should student feedback form part of evaluation of faculty performance
§         Should anonymous student feedback be credited
§         Should student feedback be published
o        Dossiers
§         UNB established a teaching dossier, recommended by a joint committee
§         U Manitoba uses one as well
·         Restricts use of student evals to numbers but not anonymous comments (which cannot appear even if the prof prefers)
·         May include outlines, teaching philosophy, statements putting course in context (role in program, level, student cohorts, other considerations; intentions, goals, accomplishments)
·         If difficulty (poor numbers), committee of three peers reviews outlines and the dossier
·         Administrative unit (comparable to ADC) supports and promotes the use of the dossier
o        Online evaluations
§         Ryerson allows online student evaluations but this is bound by CA clause limiting uses of SEIs to particular info; faculty may wish to include but can’t be compelled
§         Response rates are very low (30-40%) for online SEIs; concerns about form(ality), integrity of process (who completed under what conditions?), controls over use
 
·         Conflict of interest issues
 
o        Faculty Association / Administration issues
§         Engagement with institutional initiatives, policy proposals: should FA give negative or objection-based feedback vs positive/constructive advice?
§         Minimizes sense of being co-opted, but risk is losing the ability to make a positive contribution (purely reactive mode)
o        Conflicts in Peer or Supervisory Evaluation
§         Some universities assert primacy of Tri-Council Conflict of Interest Policy:   http://www.ncehr-cnerh.org/english/code_2/sec04.html
§         Apprehension of Bias model language: if bias is suspected, must present evidence and follow a particular procedure, but if reasonable grounds to assume bias, can ask to remove based on this evidence
§         MUN: write letter of reference, excluded from search committee
§         most other Presidents felt this went too far and felt need to protect ability to make academic and professional judgments (small academic world)
o        Conflict of Interest models
§         Explicit expectation of declaration of bias, then practice or Bylaws may follow one of two patterns
·         Chair or body can exclude from attendance, discussion or voting OR
·         Voluntary self-exclusion, perhaps guided by Chair who may ask whether prior knowledge, association etc. precludes an objective opinion; if no self-exclusion then other members have responsibility to assess, based on the declaration and on other arguments/statements made, whether the bias is unduly affecting the opinion; can then take account of this in forming their own opinions
 
·         Tenure appeals
 
o        Must maintain ability to grieve: tenure is fundamental to employment
o        Common to be entitled to grieve on process, discriminatory behaviour (gender), rare to be able to grieve on the substance
o        [language identifying that substance can be grieved may be appropriate to prevent arbitrator’s jurisdictional challenge]
 
·         FA governance structures
 
o        U Windsor: Exec Council of 11, Stewards’ Council of 33 representing areas; Council meets monthly
o        Mil rate of 8.5 - 9.8 is the norm
o        For exec positions, Nominating Committee headed by Past President + nominations from the floor
o        Candidiates’ forum when positions are contested, moderated by a parliamentarian
o        CA language requiring Scheduling to find a three-hour block of time for Exec meetings
o        University Senate members have block free as well for
 
·         Market Supplements
 
o        MUN offers market supplements widely as a recruitment tool
§         But recent MUN agreement gave higher % increases to existing faculty not receiving market supplements to assist mid- to late career faculty more than new faculty; those with supplements receive cost-of-living % but no steps for up to five steps to overcome perceived unfair benefit to new faculty
 
·         Care and custody of information
 
o        Faculty correspondence
§         VOIP message systems may archive all voice mails for up to 53 weeks even if deleted from mailbox
§          “Don’t send by email if wouldn’t want to see it published in the newspaper”
§         York faculty can’t be compelled to use email
§         One university fought a battle over IT requirement to use Gmail because servers are housed in U.S. and subject to U.S. homeland security regulations
o        Curriculum
§         Frequent conflicts over ownership of distance delivery curricula and materials
§         Extraordinary resources definition: at UTrent, a one-day seminar in web design was deemed extraordinary and admin claimed some copyright interest in materials
§         UBC has claimed that it is the publisher of record for materials on WebCT and the university therefore has some ownership in copyright and control over the materials
o        FOIP, Collegial Activity and Peer Evaluation
§         FOIP regulations and requests leading to conflicts in ownership of and access to various materials: emails, personal notes, notes of meetings, minutes of meetings, even voicemails; some universities asserting all information produced in the course of work is under their care and control if not ownership
§         Prov legislations frame as individual request; the head of FOIP gathers relevant information, and then filters it to produce a response to the request
§         Only documents under the custody or control of the university can be collected, and they must relate to the applicant
§         Nothing in the Acts addresses collective rights; FA needs permission to intervene/have standing in responding to request
§         In corporate situations, FOIP officer may gather all materials and then filter the appropriate ones for transmission, rather than requesting only relevant materials to begin with
§         FOIP officers typically not aware of subtleties of PSE information, processes
§         Institutional challenges and extraordinary requests
·         U Ottawa
o        policy delimited types of materials: only decisions and minutes in University control; such documents acquired during the course of employment and not in the possession of the university; personal notes when acting in a quasi-judicial role
o        CA has article that prohibits both sides from interfering/abridging academic freedom including under influence of outside parties
o        BUT university made extraordinary FOIP request and called in all materials relating to a particular individual and set of circumstances
o        Arbitrator sided with FA on academic freedom argument and even concluded that the FA had been too narrow in its definition of what was protected information; offered to retain jurisdiction and continue process to review limits on information
o        University then asked arbitrator to surrender jurisdiction and turn over to Privacy Commissioner’s office; pending
·         U Lethbridge
o        FOIP request for all documents relating to one individual’s employment over a ten-year period from three different departments’ chairs
o        Led to policy grievance on academic freedom, abuse of authority, roles of Chairs
o        Working on MOU; goal is that it would cover docs in possession of admin roles, communications between chairs and deans
o        Would exclude confidential academic conversations among members
o        FA would be made aware of FOIP requests [to allow it to advise members on appropriate info]
o        Would keep within processes in CA
o        Analogies and considerations from CAUT Counsel
§         Corporate vs academic models of information retention/ownership
·         On retirement, death or dismissal, what is the practice? Academic files are retained by the employee, along with personal items
·         In corporate practice, records are retained by the employer, and the employee may be supervised/escorted during process, and given little time to vacate
§         Email has increasingly assumed the role traditionally played by telephone conversations: brief, informal communications among colleagues
§         Telephone conversations considered essentially private (many protections around interception of telephone conversations)
§         ‘mail’ designation also interesting: criminal offence to interfere with paper mail; Canada Post could not claim custody or control of mail in the postal system and can’t legally intercept
§         Would be outraged to find an administrator in our office going through a physical file cabinet, but admin has technical capability to access electronic files and has done so at some institutions
§         Internal paper mail systems: means or mechanism of transmission, but would not be intercepted or archived
§         The email server is owned or more likely leased by the university: email may be housed there, but that is a means of storage and transmission and it does not follow that email on the system is owned by or in the care and custody of the university
§         A bank may retain a stock certificate (it isn’t delivered to you as the buyer) but it does not have control of it and cannot legally use it for any purpose
§         Custody has a legal connotation [cp custodian; cp the kinds of documents and access to them spelled out in Bylaws – minutes, financial records, certain correspondence]
§         Claim of custody then has wider implications: wrongful access to documents for other processes because wrongly viewed as within the ownership (cafre and control) of the employer
 
·         Workload: Teaching, Scholarship and Service
o        Equivalency of Teaching Activities
§         MUN:
·         CA language requiring that load be averaged for individuals over two years
·         Workload equivalencies (teaching, advising, supervision and other teaching functions) studied and determined at department level as collegial exercise (majority vote approves)
·         Equivalency study recognized via CA and becomes binding; can only be reopened within 45 days of completion of a new collective agreement (generally 4-year agreements at MUN)
§         Similar at York
o        Teaching, Scholarship and Service
§         Fight against high regard for research intensity in workload: research has enough intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and should not be further privileged in workload
§         FAs struggling against view that teaching is a sign of “loserdom”: FA seen as protecting the losers by research stars at many institutions, but FAs respect all forms of faculty work (representing all members)
§         CAUT’s language on the dissemination of knowledge is much more vague than some institutions’ references to publication in peer-reviewed journals; FAs recognize as a problem
§         Full range of academic activities including service required (33-33-33 weight in considering applications at some institutions) and worth protecting an absolute  requirement of all components of faculty work
§         Erosion threat from admin and faculty re devaluing teaching and service: both need repeated reminders and vigilance
§         Work-life balance a concern for FAs: ‘careerist’ researchers set unreasonable standard; part of equity concern as well because that standard disadvantages women and families
o        Faculty Autonomy and Quality of Life
§         UMan argument that our freedom and autonomy is part of our compensation; lowest paid of the professions but the least tied/most autonomous; but autonomy threatened from all sides
§         Wilfred Laurier negotiated a workload reduction for the first year back after parental/maternity leave to recognize and ease transition
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