In BUFA President

In August, all BUFA members were required to submit an Annual Report to their Dean or Head Librarian. These senior administrators will base our yearly performance reviews on these Annual Reports. According to the current Collective Agreement (2014-2017), if your Dean/Head Librarian believes that your 2014-2015 performance does not meet expectations in teaching, research and/or service, he or she will meet with you to explain, consider your response, and then send a written explanation and detailed advice about what you must do in order to more adequately meet expectations. If your Dean/Head Librarian finds that your performance does meet expectations, you may receive a letter to that effect (although we have been told that not all Deans convey this positive information directly to faculty members).

As Article 35.01 states,
The Parties agree that the purpose of performance review is to advise and guide faculty and professional librarians members with a view to ensuring that individual performance is consistent with the expectations set out in this Collective Agreement.

Thus, the overall goal of the review should be to “advise and guide” and help individuals improve their performance. In this spirit of advice and guidance, it is appropriate and timely that we take time to review the University’s own performance over the last year. Indeed, the University has just published its first Annual Review for 2014-2015, which provides a wide range of information that may be useful when assessing its strengths and weaknesses over the past year.

Our individual performance reviews are based on the expectations set out in Collective Agreement articles on our rights and responsibilities, workload, tenure or permanence, and promotion. The criteria for the University’s performance review should be defined, at least partially, by the Brock Act, which specifies that the University’s “objects and purposes” are to advance learning; disseminate knowledge; address the intellectual, social moral and physical development of its members; and work toward the betterment of society.

The first component for the University’s performance review, then, is whether the University is meeting expectations with respect to the advancement of learning. One major dimension within this component is the quality of the University’s support for research. Although there have been recent improvements in the amount and quality of research support from the Office of Research Services, this unit is severely underfunded. We note, for example, the continuing reduction of staff support for the Office of Research Ethics, which, in spite of heroic efforts by the remaining staff, will likely result in delays in the processing of REB applications. Response times for computer support are notoriously slow, again resulting in delays of research activity.

A second performance review component for the University is whether it is meeting expectations for the dissemination of knowledge, reflected at least partially by the institution’s support for teaching and learning. Here, we have seen budget cuts decimate seminars across the University. Classroom technology has not kept pace with other universities. Both classroom conditions (e.g., lack of desks in some lecture halls) and severe shortage of study space are likely to interfere with student success. New programs are approved without adequate resourcing or full consideration of their effects on existing programs. On the positive side, we recognize the valuable work done by the Centre of Pedagogical Innovation in facilitating and recognizing teaching skills in both faculty and TAs.

A third measure of the University’s performance is its success in fostering the intellectual, social, moral and physical development of its members. The University’s performance in this area is clearly unsatisfactory. BUFA hears from many of its faculty and professional librarians that they are highly stressed and receive little support from administrators. Morale is reported to be low; the aftereffects of the scope and manner of previous staff job losses continue to reverberate across the University.

Although harassment and bullying incidents seem to be an increasing problem, the Office of Human Rights and Equity has been without specialized staff for a long period and no longer operates independently from Human Resources. Indeed, as you look through the University’s Annual Report, you will find little, if anything, that reflects the perceptions, viewpoints, and insights of the people who work and study here. Surprisingly, there has not been a university-wide employee satisfaction survey here at Brock in many years.

This lack of effort in understanding and assessing the state of Brock’s employees conveys a message that the administration does not care about our wellbeing. The closed and secretive search for the next President sends a similar message. Such problems in the University’s performance in this domain are even more striking, given that one of Brock’s strategic priorities is to make the University a preferred place to work and study.

The last area for performance review, based on the Brock Act, is the University’s efforts toward the betterment of society. This comprises serving the public good; examples include facilitating effective knowledge mobilization, promoting critical thinking and academic freedom, serving underrepresented and vulnerable populations, and collaborating with local and broader communities to help them meet their needs. In many ways, we have done well on this criteria. Brock has been active in fostering community connections and, in particular, has positively transformed downtown St. Catharines with the opening of the new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. On the other hand, we are concerned that financial considerations may overshadow the academic and community importance of Rodman Hall and lead to its dissolution. We also are very much troubled by the Board of Trustees continuing insistence on a university-wide “Code of Conduct” that seeks to limit our academic freedom to be critical of the University and engage in public discourse that may “harm” its reputation. Indeed, this essay could be interpreted as violating the proposed Code.

The University needs our feedback on its performance. The Administration hears the Board’s perception of Brock’s success regularly. The Board’s criteria of success are predominantly financial and reputational, based on relatively simplistic quantitative performance indices (the “dashboard” approach). The University also needs to hear the voices of faculty and professional librarians letting our Administrators and Board members know how Brock is performing on dimensions that are important to our academic mission.

Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
Brock University
Phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3870
[email protected]

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