March 2022 – Volume 29, Issue 3
BUFA Voice

BUFA Voice

Executive News and Views

 

Message from the President

Michelle Webberby Michelle Webber

Members will soon be voting on nominations to the University Senate and to the BUFA Executive. Nominations are currently open for both Senate and the BUFA Executive.

A strong Association relies on the active participation of its membership.

Nominations are currently being accepted for candidates wishing to serve on the 2022-2023 BUFA Executive and will close at noon on Wednesday March 23rd. The following positions are open: Vice President, Treasurer, Equity Officer, Communications Director, Professional Librarian Representative, Non-tenured Faculty Representative, and two Member-at-Large positions. Each candidate requires three email nominations to be sent to the BUFA office at [email protected]. The election will be held Wednesday March 30th – Thursday March 31st. Successful candidates will assume their positions on July 1st, 2022. Please consider getting involved. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have questions about the work associated with being a member of the Executive.

Senate also relies on strong faculty and professional librarian representation in order to effectively exercise its mandate. Senate and its committees can play a key role in protecting educational quality and defending against administrative overreach. A strong participatory Senate can help preserve collegial governance. Our concerns as BUFA members about the terms and conditions of our work are often interwoven with education policy matters that are debated at Senate. BUFA members, with their collective academic expertise and pedagogical experience, have much to contribute to the setting of academic policy matters.

Nominations for Senate are open until March 14th at 4:30 p.m. Voting for the Senate election opens on March 18th by 8:30 a.m. and closes on March 28th at 4:30 p.m.

In advance of the close of Senate nominations, Larry Savage (current Vice Chair of Senate and BUFA Chief Negotiator) and I will host a “Demystifying Senate” information session for BUFA members. If you are considering running for Senate and/or you are interested in learning more about Senate’s role, then please consider attending. The Demystifying Senate session will be held on March 9th from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Please contact [email protected] for connection details.

More detailed information about the Senate election process can be found at https://brocku.ca/university-secretariat/senate-election/.

Please consider running for a position on the Executive or Senate or both!

The Collective Agreement is Central to Navigating the Promotion and Tenure Process for Faculty Members

by Gordon Hodson

In real estate it is commonly said that the three most important factors to consider are location, location, location. When it comes to Promotion and Tenure procedures for faculty at Brock, the three most important factors are the CA, the CA, the CA (Collective Agreement).

One of my prime responsibilities as Assistant Grievance Officer was to help members prepare their promotion and tenure packages. I also represented members if they found themselves in the position of being asked to further explain or elaborate their track record to their department/unit or to their Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee. This experience made clear to me that many BUFA members, whether applicants or department peers, were quite under-familiar with the CA.

I refer readers to Article 21 of the CA for the full information you need to know regarding the application process. When doing so, please note the distinctions between promotion to Associate Professor (21.04) and to Professor (21.05).

Of course, teaching and service play important parts for each type of promotion. But my focus here is on how to consider scholarly/creative (or research) activity. In my experience, this is the area where most confusions arise. Applicants can become unsure about how to interpret their own track record, and department/unit peers can also be unsure when it comes time to discuss (and vote on) applicants.

Let’s begin by considering the preamble in Article 21.06b (p. 69), relevant to consideration of scholarly/research output:

Evidence used to demonstrate the originality and quality of research/scholarly activity or creative work in support of an application for tenure or promotion may include, but is not limited to, the following items, with selection and weighting of the items as appropriate to the candidate’s scholarship or creative work…[emphasis added]

The passages that I have italicized are truly essential. Applicants do not need to possess each of the items in the list that follows (many will not), and applicants can bring additional types of achievements to the table. Indeed, the CA is clear that this process necessitates “flexibility in the character, assessment and weighting of evidence for tenure and promotion” (p. 68).

The subsequent list then describes no less than 18 potential categories of achievements. This high number alone should impress upon us all that there is no single standard of success or achievement across the university.

The list begins with publications in journals, book chapters, and so on, but note the absence of mention of journal metrics (such as journal impact factors). This means you can’t assume “I just published in the journal Science, I’m a shoo-in!”. Nor can you say about your peer “They don’t even have a paper in X, Y, or Z journal!”. Rather, an applicant’s impact on their discipline is something for the candidate to explain and contextualize in their application; impact can take many forms, and that needs to be recognized by all parties involved.

One of the most challenging aspects when assessing the dossier of a peer is not relying on your own internal standards, criteria, expectations, etc. Your standards are relevant to your own teaching and scholarship. What is relevant to the promotion and tenure process is the language in the CA. As a legally-binding document, everyone involved in the adjudication process has a duty to uphold that Agreement and to not add any extra layers.

Relevant to that point, over the years I have frequently heard some variation of “But my department hates me, I’ll never get promoted”. Let’s break down this belief. First of all, there is a serious duty of responsibility for us to act as professionally and objectively as possible during this process. Personal feelings should be set aside. Second, the CA is explicit that one can only weigh in on professional (not personal) factors. Consider the following passage from the CA:

Personal or social incompatibility shall not be a reason for denying tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. (21.04.d).

This means that if an applicant does not socialize after hours with their department or unit peers, or “doesn’t smile enough in the hallway”, or generally “isn’t your type of person”, such information is irrelevant to the task at hand. In fact, if you hear such discussions surfacing during promotion and tenure adjudication discussions, you should shut them down quickly so as to not prejudice the process. Our job is to speak to and reflect upon the professional contributions and achievements of the candidate. Period. Keep in mind also that the department or unit does not determine the application outcome; rather they weigh in as close and knowledgeable professionals, making a collective recommendation that will be helpful to the Faculty Promotion and Tenure Committee and Dean in making their recommendations to the Provost.

None of this is to say that excellence is unimportant but rather that excellence can take multiple forms. Nor is it to say that you can be a jerk to your colleagues and live consequence-free. We are all expected to contribute to a respectful working environment, after all. But, it is to say that a candidate’s personality cannot be held against them in the promotion and tenure process.

The take-home message is that the CA is a legally-binding contract that stipulates how the promotion and tenure process unfolds. BUFA members, Deans, and senior administration are all bound to this Agreement. Personal feelings and personal standards are important, but not to the promotion and tenure process itself. Whether you’re personally applying for promotion, or if you’re asked to speak about your colleague’s application, my advice is to brush up on the rules and regulations in advance.

OCUFA Updates

by Tim Murphy

There was an Ontario Confederation of University FacultyAssociations (OCUFA) meeting held on February 26 2022.Here are some of the highlights from that meeting.

Upcoming Provincial Election and Public Opinion on Post-Secondary Education

OCUFA is preparing for the upcoming provincial election this summer. The main lobbying priorities OCUFA has identified are as follows: removing performance-based funding, increasing government financial support, hiring more full-time faculty, increasing northern and bilingual grants, insisting on fairness for contract faculty, and replacing student loans with grants.Additional lobbying details can be found on the
OCUFA website.

OCUFA commissioned ECOS to conduct a survey regarding the issues of concern to faculty associations. The take home message from the polling is that if government policy matched public opinion, universities would be in much better shape. When asked what priority the government should give to post-secondary education over the next five years, 69% reported it should have a high priority. Universities have the support of the majority of people in Ontario who align themselves with any political party. When informed that the Ontario Government provides just 33% of the funding for post-secondary education and asked if it should be more or less, 57% said more (NDP 81%, LIB 78%, PC 57%, Green 52%, Other 14%). A majority of the public(69%) also reported that they see universities as important or somewhat important to the province’s recovery from COVID. In terms of support for faculty, 69% (NDP 90%, LIB 86%, PC 69%,Green 80%, Other 28%) reported they wanted the government to provide funding to replace retiring full-time faculty and 71% (NDP 90%, LIB 88%, PC 71%, Green 82%, Other 35%) think that contract faculty should receive equal pay if the work they are doing is equivalent to that of full-time faculty. In terms of funding models, 59% believe funding should be linked to enrolment and only 40% that funding should be linked to market conditions.

As these numbers indicate, there appears to be widespread support for many of the issues important to us. This support comes from across the political spectrum. Preparation for theelection has begun and as the election nears, OCUFA will become more active and begin advocacy programs. As more information becomes available I will distribute it, but it would be great if everyone could be prepared to (at a minimum) ask candidates about these issues, inform them that the majority of voters support universities, and ask them explicitly if they support the OCUFA priorities outlined above. We need to turn these popular public opinions into governmental policies. More information about how to participate in the advocacy actions of OCUFA can be found here.

Bill 124 (Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act)

OCUFA is part of a coalition of 40 unions representing over 250,000 workers led by the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) who launched a Charter challenge to Bill 124 that, among otherthings, limits increases to compensation to 1% per year for three years. This challenge has been progressing slowly (primarily due to COVID) but legal documentation has been filed and hearings are set for September.

Laurentian University CCAA Process

OCUFA continues to actively support the Laurentian University Faculty Association as they navigate the financial restructuring process at Laurentian University. This process has been devastating to Laurentian University with 69 programs and 110 faculty cut. A request for documents the Administration claimed were privileged relating to the sudden declaration of insolvency was denied, but is being appealed. OCUFA has met with Ontario’s Auditor General to discuss her value-for-money audit of Laurentian. OCUFA continues to argue that the use of the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA) is inappropriate for a public institution because it was drafted for use in the private sector and represents a dangerous precedent for all public institutions moving forward.

Health and Safety

Decisions regarding return to campus and mask/vaccine mandates continue to be made with little to no input from faculty and librarians. The provincial government exempted post-secondary institutions from distancing requirements in teaching spaces and has reduced testing in general making it unclear just how prevalent COVID (specifically the Omicron variant) is in the general population, let alone on our campuses. OCUFA continues to call on administrations for transparency and consultation with faculty associations in health-based decisions.

Four McMaster university students filed an application for judicial review of McMaster’s vaccine policy. They are seeking the removal of the policy. The hearings will take place later in March. Although McMaster is the respondent, McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA), the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), and OCUFA have all been granted intervenor status and OCUFA is preparing a factum present at the judicial review later in March.  OCUFA has also submitted an affidavit supporting vaccine mandates and outlining the obligation the Administration at McMaster has to “exercise reasonable discretion  in determining the consequences of policy violations”. Given the uncertain nature of the pandemic, OCUFA supports continued mandatory vaccine and mask mandates.

Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education

OCUFA encourages all member associations to pressure administrations to address racism and encourage support and hiring of faculty from diverse backgrounds. OCUFA is also preparing to collect data to “better understand the sector and illuminate the structural issues that continue to hide inequities”. This data will be shared with provincial and federal governments to hopefully influence data-driven decisions where equity factors should be considered.

Bargaining Updates

Ontario Tech University (UOIT) has reached a settlement after a short strike. Three associations recently settled (OCADU, X/Ryerson, Toronto). There are two other associations currently in negotiations (York and McMaster). There are also several agreements expiring in 2023 (including Brock), so it will be a busy year for negotiations in the sector.

Social Media Day of Action in Support of Contract Faculty

There will be a Social Media Day on Wednesday March 9th organized by OCUFA’s Contract Faculty Committee. This media day is to bring attention to the treatment of contract faculty and support our colleagues. Precarious employment often is associated with salaries and benefits at levels lower than their permanent colleagues. An email with sample tweets and other suggested social media messages has been emailed out to all BUFA members. Please consider downloading the suggested messages and show your support for our colleagues.

Award Deadlines

OCUFA has simplified and synchronized the various awards it supports. The deadlines for most awards are now March 21st, except as noted. The available awards include the Status of Women and Equity Award, the Henry Mandelbaum Graduate Fellowships, the Lorimer Award (Bargaining), the Mark Rosenfeld Fellowship in Higher Education Journalism, the OCUFA Award for Outstanding Contribution to Grievance/Arbitration, the Service Award, and the Teaching and Academic Librarian Awards (due May 27th). More information about these awards can be found on the OCUFA website.

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