COVID-19 UPDATE: June 15, 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE: June 15, 2020

Message from the Association President

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that all is well with you and that you have had some time to enjoy the spring weather (hopefully the warmer weather will arrive at some point!).

I’m writing to share the results of our Fall 2020 Course Delivery and Research Survey with you, as well as the Workload Toolkit that Michele Parkin (Associate Vice President Faculty Relations) has provided to Deans and Chairs to assist those of you who may have particular challenges with transitioning to the online teaching realities that are new for most of us.

I would like to thank the over 400 members who filled out the Association’s recent survey on fall teaching. These results, and the many comments you took the time to include, greatly informed my consultations with Michele Parkin regarding the Workload Toolkit that can be used to reduce the excessive workload created by the pandemic. As is true in any kind of bargaining, and most particularly when we don’t have the negotiating power we have during regular collective bargaining, we can’t get all that we would ideally want. And we do have to recognize the financial constraints the University faces at this time.

Having said that, I am pleased that the University has acknowledged the extra work involved in moving to online teaching and is providing options to address this, particularly for those most heavily impacted such as: teaching stream faculty with high course loads, instructors with multiple courses to be converted for fall term, instructors with courses that are especially time consuming to convert to online formats, and instructors with large enrolment courses. This memo does not guarantee support for those in these categories, but makes it more possible for you to request support, and provides various options that you can take up, or your Chair or Dean can suggest. Some may seem more useful or appropriate to you than others.

If you believe that preparing and converting one or more courses to an online format will take a great deal more time than normal course preparation (as some of you indicated in the survey), please calculate this time carefully. You can then make a request to your Chair or Dean to receive partial or full course credit (towards a future course release/credit). Full course credit would only be possible (and not guaranteed) if you can prove you will spend as much time converting the course to an online format as you would normally spend preparing and teaching the course in a face-to-face format, but partial course credit may be available if you are still spending significant additional time on this work.

Another option to consider might be requesting an Alternative Workload arrangement, if you can’t do any research at this time due to pandemic restrictions, and would prefer to teach more now so that you can do more research and less teaching later. Or, those scheduled to have a heavy online teaching load may opt to do more research, scholarly activity or service now and reduce their current teaching load, and teach more later.

Those who feel that online teaching and teaching prep is taking up most of their time and are concerned that this will hurt them when the time comes for salary evaluation, may wish to change their evaluation ratios (without changing the number of courses they are doing) so that there is more emphasis on teaching and less on research for the 2020 evaluation year. You should be aware that the Collective Agreement makes it clear that the agreement of the Association member is required for any Alternative Workload arrangement, or any change in evaluation ratios.

Another option listed here is that of a Reduced Workload, in which less work is required, but it means you are moving temporarily to a part-time appointment, with a part-time salary. This may work for some members, but again, the Collective Agreement makes it clear that the agreement of the member is required for any Reduced Workload arrangement.  In addition, if you will be able to continue at your full research and service load, but just need to reduce your teaching load at this time, we strongly encourage you to consult with the Association, as this will require you to submit both a Reduced Workload and an Alternative Workload request to your Chair.

Other options listed in this memo, such as team teaching for large online classes, dividing large online classes into smaller sections and providing extra TA support as well as other support for proctoring exams, chat management, etc, could be effective in reducing the extra work involved in teaching online classes. Recognizing other teaching work beyond online classes to develop a more varied teaching schedule for members (such as directed studies, graduate and honours supervisions, program development) could also be a positive option, if this work can be recognized as equivalent to other teaching assignments.

The Association is concerned that the memo notes that the options listed are “subject to the ability of the academic unit to support associated costs or program alterations.” Faculties are able to request support from the central administration to assist with providing these supports for instructors, but it is not clear how much central financial support will be available for this purpose.

The Association believes that our members across campus should have equal access to these supports if they are facing equal challenges with heavy online course loads. At the same time, we are aware that some units and faculties have more resources than others. If you feel that you are unable to access the supports you need because of the limited financial resources of your unit or Faculty, please don’t hesitate to contact the Association. We can’t promise to solve the problem, but we can advocate on your behalf.

This memo also notes that you can request accommodation on the basis of disability or family status. There may be particular issues related to online teaching that require accommodation on the basis of disability. For those with young children or eldercare responsibilities, the survey demonstrated the major pressures this places on many of you in terms of severely limiting your time for both teaching and research. As noted in my email to the membership on April 4th, if you do not have any childcare support given the pandemic situation, you can request accommodation on the basis of family status and may be able to have a course cancelled. However, with this accommodation you would be expected to teach another course sometime in the next three years.

If you have questions about any of the issues mentioned above, or those listed in the attached memo but not discussed here, please feel free to consult with me or our membership services officers:

Reuben Kellen   [email protected]

Ben Johnson      [email protected]

In requesting these supports, we encourage you to first discuss them with your Chair or Director. If you need further assistance or support, our membership services officers will be pleased to assist you.

Wishing you all the very best,

Lynne Marks
University of Victoria Faculty Association
Email: [email protected]

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