Announcements: QUFA President’s Message #4, March 27, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I hope all of you have survived the first week of remote teaching without calamity, that you and your families are well, and that those who were travelling have been able to get home safely.   Here’s an update on matters affecting QUFA members that have emerged over this past week.

I spoke with the Principal yesterday and we have twice weekly calls scheduled for the foreseeable future – an ironic phrase, all things considered.  As many of you are aware, the University is discussing preparation for the possibility that we cannot resume as normal in September.  However, the Principal states that any decision about the Fall will not be made for some weeks; there isn’t even a sense at this point of what is likely.  In this state of uncertainty, here are some things QUFA wants you to be aware of.

Letter of Understanding (LOU) on terms and conditions of employment:  The Collective Agreement sets out the terms and conditions of employment for all QUFA Members.  To state the obvious, the CA provisions were negotiated assuming circumstances different from those the present emergency affords.  Therefore QUFA, like many other faculty unions across Canada will propose the negotiation of an LOU setting out terms and conditions specific to this situation.  An LOU, or (M)emorandum OU, is the legal instrument the parties use when we need to vary from the terms of the agreement because of any special circumstances.  Such an LOU would address matters such as 1) the length of probationary (pre-tenure and pre-continuing) appointments and the timetables for personnel processes, 2) leave entitlements and procedures for Members dealing with acute work disruptions caused by the pandemic, 3) merit and teaching evaluation, 4) “remote” teaching as distinct from the development of online courses should the University not resume normal operations in September.

Some of the matters above need to be resolved for our Members’ peace of mind. We have had many anxious inquiries from newer faculty about the tenure clock, particularly in view of decisions at American universities to lengthen probationary periods by a year.  Such matters are decided by administrative fiat at non-unionized universities. Here we will negotiate changes and do so as part of the LOU described above which may take some time.  Moreover, we will not do so hastily as we are still consulting among ourselves, with OCUFA’s legal counsel, with CAUT and with our Members about what such an LOU must comprise.  We ask both for your patience and for you to keep communications about your specific needs and circumstances coming.

Building Access and Cleaning:  As you are aware the campus remains open but, since I last wrote, more and more buildings are closed either absolutely (the libraries) or to any but fob holders.  Today’s Gazette carried an article about stepped up cleaning of buildings.  It appears to me that we are settling into a new normal: administration buildings are open, as are residences because there are students who cannot go home.  Academic buildings (those with faculty offices, laboratories and classrooms) are closed to all but fob holders. This semi-closure plus stepped up cleaning probably means that the campus is safer for those who have to be there than it was a week ago and it allows for faculty access to work spaces they may need. Please keep us apprised both of your needs for access and the condition of your buildings should you go in.

Teaching Evaluation:  I have been in conversation with Associate Vice-Provost Teaching and Learning about some confusion around teaching evaluations arising from well-meaning but potentially problematic efforts by the CTL and ETLT to assist faculty in developing their own student surveys to replace cancelled USATs. Because this topic is somewhat complicated, I will make it the topic of a separate bulletin.

In closing let me call your attention to these useful links.

  • Explanation of EI benefits by Peggy Smith, QUFA Grievance Officer:

https://www.qufa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Infosheet-COVID-19-2020.pdf

  • Reporting on Covid 19 Form for Queen’s staff returning from foreign travel, for those who are self-isolating and for those who are ill, and an explanation of its use by Peggy Smith:

https://www.qufa.ca/publications/qufa-voices/march-2020/

  • Guidance on Fair Dealing in the context of emergency remote teaching:

https://samtrosow.wordpress.com/2020/03/21/fair-dealing-and-emergency-remote-teaching-in-canada/

  • And finally, food for thought on the way the pandemic compounds existing inequities in the world of work:

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2020/03/feminism-womens-rights-coronavirus-covid19/608302/?utm_source=share&utm_campaign=share

All the best, and stay safe,

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Hanson                                                                                                    President