COVID-19 Update: August 7, 2020
Message from the Association President
I hope that all is well with you, and that you are having some time to take vacation and enjoy the summer weather. I hope you are not spending all of your time preparing for online teaching, or worrying about preparing for it.
TA Support and Online Teaching
We all know that worrying doesn’t help, but many academics are unfortunately very good at it. I hope that I can assuage at least some of your worries by letting you know that Deans were informed at the end of last week that they received almost all of the additional funding for TAs and sessional lecturers that they had requested to assist with the extra demands of online teaching. So I hope that you will be hearing very soon about additional TA supports to help you with your teaching this fall. There was also some additional funding made available for LTSI to help them assist you in learning Brightspace and to support you as you begin online teaching.
The Association would appreciate hearing how you are finding the training and other resources available through LTSI. I have been providing the Director of LTSI with both positive and constructive feedback from Members about this training. If you have anything you wish to share, please let me know.
Funding for Purchase of Equipment to Enable Working from Home
I have been asked about whether the University will reimburse Members who purchase equipment to assist them with their teaching. I was informed that the Deans were recently told by VPAC that:
“Instructors who require new computer hardware, software, or discipline-specific equipment necessary to engage in teaching or research from home may choose to use their Pro-D funds. However, recognizing that the purpose of those funds is professional development, reasonable requests for equipment should instead be funded through each Faculty’s equipment reserves. In cases where the purchase is significant, access to matching funding for faculty members is available through the central Computer Acquisition Fund.”
So you can use your Pro-D to fund these purchases, but you can also request funds from Faculty equipment reserves. You should make these requests through your Chairs to the Dean. If the deadline for applying to the Computer Acquisition Fund has passed in your Faculty, or if your request does not fit within the criteria of the fund, I would suggest requesting funds from the equipment reserve fund. I am aware that some faculties have more funds than others. Such inequities should not limit your access to needed teaching resources. If you are not successful in these requests, the Association is pleased to try to assist you in this regard.
Please contact our Membership Services Officers:
Reuben Kellen – [email protected]
Ben Johnson – [email protected]
There appears to be more complexity regarding purchasing needed ergonomic desks or chairs for home use. I hope to have more answers to this question soon.
Intellectual Property and On-Line Teaching
I have been asked by several Members about retaining intellectual property rights over online course material. As you may be aware, our Collective Agreement makes it that clear that Members have intellectual property (IP) rights over the results of our research and our teaching materials (Appendix B of the CA). However, in regard to teaching materials, the CA also states:
50.0 If the IP comprises Course Materials the Creator(s) must be credited in every use and the University is entitled, at its sole discretion, to use, correct, update, modify or replace any part of the Course Materials without obtaining subsequent approval from the Creator(s).
In seeking clarification on this issue from the University, I have been told by the AVP Faculty Relations that given that there have been no incidents of concern of which the University is aware, there is no reason to believe the university will not continue to respect creator-owned intellectual property and exercise its license for use in a responsible way.
I am seeking further assurances from the University on this matter. Some universities require faculty permission before the use of their course materials by others within the University. This is an assurance that the Association is seeking from UVic. We may not succeed in making progress on this issue until the next round of collective bargaining, but given the current context of online teaching we will do what we can. If you have any concerns about this matter feel free to contact me, or your Dean, who can send a message to the senior administration about your concerns.
Hiring Freeze Lifted
In positive news, I just heard that the hiring freeze has been lifted because fall enrolments are looking healthy enough to permit this. So the University’s finances are clearly at manageable levels, which should be reassuring.
At the same time, because the majority of students will not be on campus and international enrolments are down, there have been some layoffs among other unions on campus, particularly in areas such as Food Services and Residence Services, where demand for services are much lower. The majority of the English language instructors in CUPE 4163 have also been laid off because most international students cannot travel to UVic. I am sure you will join me in expressing our hope that these employees in other UVic unions will soon be recalled to their positions.
I have been receiving a number of other questions from Members, including several at our recent Council meeting. Thanks very much for making your concerns known. I am seeking answers to other questions including (but not limited to) the following:
- Will CES scores for the fall be used by the University in evaluation?
Since online teaching remains a new experience for most Members, as well as for our students, we are seeking the same agreement we made with the University over the spring and summer, in which CES scores can only be accessed by instructors, and only used for evaluation if instructors wish to use them in this way.
- Will the University set up spaces on campus with appropriate equipment to enable instructors to record lectures for online delivery?
I understand that at least a few departments have created such spaces, but the Association seeks assurance that the University will create such spaces that will be available to all instructors. Apparently discussions are underway on this question
- What will be the exact rules and protocols regarding face-to-face teaching and maximum capacities in classrooms and university buildings?
The University has provided some guidelines in this regard. I have been told that since the government has just released its safety protocols for the post-secondary sector, UVic protocols are being finalized and will be released soon.
- What will happen if there is a second wave and schools and daycares close in the middle of term?
I realize that this is a concern for a significant number of our members and I am seeking clarification and assurances from the University as to what support they will be able to provide to the parents of young children if this were to occur. As I have mentioned in other updates, we have an agreement regarding family accommodation, but there may be other additional options to explore.
I hope to have answers to these and a number of other important questions you have asked as they are provided by the Administration, or as the Association reaches agreements with the Administration on these issues.
Many of your units have completed your Unit Standards. For those who are still working on them, I just wanted to remind you that the Association has a number of resources on the development of Unit Standards, some produced in collaboration with Faculty Relations, that are available here. If you are interested, the Association can also send you some completed Unit Standards.
The University is in better financial shape than some of us might have predicted just a few months ago, and the Administration is putting significant resources into ensuring that you are supported in online teaching. There are still a number of unanswered questions, but I hope that you can take some reassurance from the good news in this email, and find some time to relax – swimming, hiking, lying in the sun or whatever appeals to you – before teaching starts up in the fall. You can only do so much, and while I know you are all trying to develop good online courses, they don’t have to be perfect. You need to take care of yourselves during what remains a time of stress and uncertainty.
Wishing you all the very best,
University of Victoria Faculty Association
Email: [email protected]