We hope you have begun settling into the term. There is no need to engage in platitudes about extraordinary times or exhortations that we are all in this together and doing a great job. We entered the new academic year anxious about our students, our families, our jobs; we are not certain how well we’ll do in our teaching and research or other professional activities under current conditions. The world seems an endless series of epidemiological, climatic, social justice, economic, and political disasters. We’re all doing what we can; we’re doing what we hope is well enough.
Meanwhile, life goes its daily round. The summer has been a season of change at the Faculty Association. We have had a change of leadership and we have new chairs for several committees. In late spring, we posted our anti-racism statement in which we committed to forming a standing committee on Equity. We are now forming the ad hoc Equity Committee under the leadership of our new Vice-President, Dory Nason. This committee will be constituted with members from both campuses and their first task is to develop a specific mandate, which will ultimately be voted on by the membership later this fall prior to its inclusion in our bylaws.
Over the summer we also continued to work on a variety of covid-19 related matters, including matters affecting our contract faculty members. We were pleased to announce earlier this week that we reached an agreement with UBC on “excellence tests” for our Lecturers given that their teaching performance this year might well not be indicative of their overall teaching excellence. We are continuing discussions with the University on appropriate compensation for our sessional faculty members, who are paid by the course, given the added work of putting their courses on line and meeting the growing needs of their students. Workloads across our membership are of paramount concern. We are concerned in particular about the teaching loads of our Lecturers and Educational Leadership faculty, who teach a large number of courses every year; many faculty are reporting concerns about their health and wellbeing, often under the rubric “burnout.” The issue of workloads for faculty was discussed at the September 8th Board of Governors meeting, where it was acknowledged that the findings of a survey of tenure and tenure-track faculty conducted by the university on workload produced alarming results. We will continue our dialogue with the University on appropriate relief for our members. Finally, following the announcement by the University of a substantial projected budget deficit, the Faculty Association has also engaged in dialogue with the senior administration to understand the current state of the University’s budget and how it will impact short- and long-term faculty working conditions. These discussions remain ongoing.
The Faculty Association was in an arbitration hearing this summer regarding the Lecturer’s “Excellence Tests”. When the 2016-2019 collective agreement was negotiated, the parties emerged with differing understandings of what was negotiated regarding excellence tests, particularly whether it was a one-time assessment or an assessment that would be conducted with every appointment. The Faculty Association’s position was that it was a one-time assessment for excellence after which time the Lecturer earned the presumptive right to work where the work was available given the high standards (excellence in teaching) that Lecturers are required to show. The University argued that they negotiated ongoing assessments for excellence. Clearly there was no meeting of the minds at the bargaining table and therefore the Parties were in arbitration in July to sort out our difference and get a neutral interpretation of the negotiated language. We expect to receive the written decision from Arbitrator Pekeles this fall.
Other policy-level grievance and arbitration matters include the indemnification of faculty members, maternity leave and vacation pay in the library, and the exclusion of Associate Deans as managers from the Faculty Association. On indemnification, we have arbitration dates scheduled for May 2021, though we continue to try to resolve the issue with UBC and ensure that faculty members are indemnified where they carry out the scope of their duties reasonably, responsibly, and in good faith. This is consistent with the language we negotiated with UBC in 2012. The Parties will be in a hearing in December on maternity leaves and vacation pay, and we await the decision of Arbitrator Simms in the matter concerning Associate Deans. We will report back to the membership once decisions on these matters have been finalized whether by agreement or arbitration.
At the end of June the Faculty Association sent out a compendium or companion document explaining the changes to our collective agreement. You can access the new collective agreement online by visiting the Faculty Association website. If you have any questions about the new provisions, please contact our office. With collective bargaining behind us for at least another year, the Faculty Association, though our joint consultation committee and other forums, will be meeting with the administration regularly to raise and discuss broader of issues of concern. Some of those concerns for the Faculty Association including collegial governance, academic freedom and indemnification, online teaching and intellectual property, donor agreements, and much else.
The UBC FA is 100 years old this year; we are the oldest faculty association in Canada and proudly one of the founding members of the CAUT. We had planned a number of social events to celebrate but in light of the pandemic we will have to postpone them. We will be holding our Fall General Meeting online on October 29th, 100 years to the day we were formed as an Association. As we did not hold our Annual General Meeting in May owing to the pandemic, we will be presenting our budget, audit, as well as our annual report. But we will also have a short slide show on our 100 years of our activism; we hope you will join us for the meeting. We are hoping we can get together and celebrate our 101st anniversary next year.
Finally, one of our Member Services Officers, Valarie Nickel, retired at the end of June. We wish her well in her retirement. We are pleased to announce that we have hired a new Member Services Officer, Lilian Deeb, who joins us from the TSSU at SFU.