It has been, it feels, five years or so since March, when we first made the transition to online teaching. I hope that as the fall term winds down, you will have a chance for a few days of rest and/or celebration, bringing some normalcy to this season for you. We in the Faculty Association leadership group are enormously impressed by all of the work our members have done under truly trying circumstances.
Frankly, the quick turn-around between first and second terms, especially for those who have been teaching right through summer and fall or have been teaching three or four courses and are due to do so again in January, has been a source of anxiety for the FA Executive. The additional week of break will be useful in this regard and we are grateful to the Senates for adopting it. But we remain worried that the now well-documented additional workload of online teaching, continuing health concerns and social disruption, additional burdens of child and/or elder care, and similar issues are taking an enormous toll on our members. We are working hard to keep these issues firmly in the view of the University; there is no University without us.
Among the larger issues we are working on are these:
- We are working to make sure that any additional work that sessional lecturers must undertake outside their contract periods is remunerated equitably.
- We are in discussions with the University to bring in short-term changes to merit and PSA to allow for the process to more equitably to honour the additional work of online teaching while still assuring exemplary achievement in areas such as research and educational leadership, and the work of our Librarians and Archivists are rewarded.
- We are working to have a substantive role in any plans to reopen our campuses for teaching and research activities, so that issues of concern to our membership such as workload, intellectual property rights, academic freedom, health and safety concerns, and equity are fully addressed in any such plans.
- Together with our sibling organizations at the other BC research universities—and in coordination with CUFA BC—we will continue to monitor the effects of the covid-19 pandemic and the move on online teaching and reduced research opportunities on our membership. We know you have questionnaire fatigue, but we will need to beg your indulgence on that in the new year.
Of course, not all of our concerns are directly related to the pandemic—for example, our new equity and governance committees are getting started on their work. We also have concerns about the continuing unclarity regarding the educational leadership stream and the need to provide faculty within the stream with an adequate opportunity to engage in educational leadership activities. We are also working with CUFA BC to monitor activities of the new NDP majority government for any changes that they might consider making to the university funding model.
As ever, if you have any issue related to your conditions of employment you are encouraged to speak with our highly skilled professional staff members.
Finally, on behalf of the Executive and all our members, I’d like to give our collective thanks to all the staff members in the CUPE unions and AAPS who keep UBC running. And no one deserves more of our thanks than do our graduate students in CUPE 2278, the TA union, who have been working very hard helping us with instruction while seeing their own research opportunities narrow and the academic job market founder. We all must and will continue to lift one another up as an academic community despite our physical distance.