Alberta University of the Arts Faculty Association
President's Report | August 20th, 2020
I hope that you have had a good annual vacation leave, or as good as the circumstances permitted.
The Faculty Association Executive (FA) wishes to update you on its recent activities before the fall semester kicks into high gear. This summer has been, to say the least, both busy and challenging for us.
Over the summer, the FA filed two formal grievances, adhering to strict timelines; we also dealt with a number of issues on a more informal level.
The first grievance concerned complaints that the annual student evaluation of teachers (SET) had been changed without consultation with FA. Professors teaching Spring courses were directed to use an online SET that included a second section related to online learning. This section apparently was designed to collect data on student responses/satisfaction with online course delivery. This new section indicated a change to the evaluative scheme done without consultation with the FA, as required in the collective agreement, article 9.03. The evaluation also contradicted the VPRAA's Spring letter that stated faculty would be released from obligations to receive an evaluation for their teaching-related responsibilities for the calendar year.
The outcome of the grievance was that the FA obtained assurance that there would be more clarity going forward from administration with respect to evaluation changes. Clarity was also obtained regarding the suspension of faculty evaluations. These are suspended for the calendar year 2020. We asked for more information about the separation of the two sections of evaluation, clarity around the use of data collected, and privacy of the data if shared internally and/or externally. We also asked that the Spring evaluations be destroyed in their entirety but did not receive confirmation about the use or destruction of any data captured. We still see aspects to be discussed with administration and we will keep members informed.
The second grievance concerned faculty who were assigned work over their vacation period by a person other than the VPRAA. This was successfully resolved and administration stated that they will make clear to all administrative staff that over the summer the VPRAA is the only person who may assign work to faculty, per article 12.02.
The FA was assured that a clearer process for faculty to apply for and be given 'days in lieu' is forthcoming from administration, and we look forward to seeing and discussing a draft of that document.
At some point over the summer, administration seems to have become confused about faculty who were taking their annual vacation leave and who chose to engage various university departments in a university work related capacity. As a result, staff apparently received an administrative directive not to engage with faculty in any manner. To be clear, this was never a work to rule action imposed by the faculty association.
The issue came to our attention when the FA began to receive complaints from faculty who were being denied PERA processing, who's research and research assistant funding was being held up, and who simply were not receiving answers to their questions.
The FA sees this confusion and subsequent decision not to engage with faculty as having absolutely no basis in the collective agreement.
A series of informal conversations followed, and the FA is happy to report that for the most part, business on the part of administration with respect to faculty returned to normal.
The FA's position with respect to annual vacation leave remains as it always has, in alignment with the article 12 of the collective agreement. This article entitles certain faculty annual vacation leave and the article neither dictates nor denies activities.
Any faculty member may choose to spend their annual vacation leave in any manner they wish.
An ongoing problem arose around faculty access to the building and the perception that administration and the RMT were somewhat arbitrary in admittance decisions. One faculty member was refused entry to pick up their research and this drew the attention of the FA. As this admittance refusal is not yet resolved, the faculty member's ability to continue their professional, creative and research activities is impacted. It appears that an administrative decision has implied either a) that advancing knowledge through the highest levels of research is not a necessary part of our job as faculty members at a university (which it is), or b) that this is an attempt to change or determine our workload responsibilities, in which teaching responsibilities are seen as more essential than our research responsibilities. As of this writing we are still in discussions with administration.
The FA is concerned about the aggregate number of issues brought forward to us by faculty members over the annual vacation leave. In our view these issues were for the most part simply violations of or misreadings of the collective agreement by administration, issues that could have easily been non-issues were the collective agreement adhered to.
This next academic year promises to be a difficult time for us all in that courses, meetings, and University governance will be online; budget constraints and post-secondary sector cuts are ongoing; our 2019/20 Collective Agreement expired weeks after it was ratified in June 2020 and AUAFA/NAC be entering Collective Agreement bargaining in Winter 2021; government mandates legally cannot be shared with FA's; we continue to be in the midst of a global pandemic and one of the largest social justice movements in the Americas. In our view, our job in part is to remain as transparent as possible and to continually listen to what our membership has to say regardless of the physical distance between us.
We are, as always, here to get involved in protecting faculty rights, for all faculty in all capacities.
Wishing you success with your online delivery of course content in the fall.
President of AUAFA
Documenting Faculty Practice + Research
Vacant positions 20/22
AUAFA/ FPAC Representative
AUAFA/ GFC Representative
AUArts/ Health & Safety Committee