Message from the Association President
Happy New Year! I hope that you had some time to relax over the break, although I know that must feel long ago now. And I hope that the first week of classes has gone as well as possible.
I am writing in regard to plans for summer teaching. This past Friday, Chairs and Directors were asked to provide information about the formats in which summer courses will be offered. Courses with over 40 students are to be offered online, while Chairs have been told that “classes with 40 or fewer students can be in any of the following formats: fully face to face, face to face with some online (mixed mode), online with some face to face (mixed mode), or fully online if there is a rationale for doing so (e.g., multi-section courses).” They were further informed that “The Provost is providing maximum flexibility within these options, with instructors encouraged to pursue as much face to face as feasible.” Feasibility includes considerations for safety, accessibility, and limitations on available infrastructure (including classroom availability, student services, residence accommodation, etc.).
Chairs have been told that if they plan to offer a course of 40 or fewer students fully online they must provide a rationale, which I am told should relate to the issues noted above. It is not necessary to provide a personal health reason (though such issues should be noted as “instructor preference or safety”).
The Association was concerned when we learned of the administration’s memo on this matter.
We have heard from a number of members about their fears about possibly being required to teach face to face before vaccinations have been made available to everyone, and we have shared these concerns with the administration.
The Faculty Association’s strong position is that no faculty members or librarians should be required to teach face to face until everyone in the UVic community (instructors, students and staff) who wishes to be vaccinated against COVID-19 has been vaccinated.
After inquiring with the administration regarding this issue, we were reassured on two fronts:
1. Since decisions about course offerings are made at the level of department and Faculty, if faculty members are not comfortable teaching face to face, they should inform their chairs or Deans of their concern. We would assume that members’ concerns in this regard would determine the format of summer courses they would offer.
2. We have also been told that a plan for safe return of faculty and staff to campus over the next year is being developed, including decisions regarding face to face teaching over the summer term, a time when vaccination will not be fully available.
Apparently, the senior Executive is meeting early this week on this matter of planning a return to campus. The Association is strongly advocating that the senior administration maintains its current position, which is that no faculty member is required to teach face to face if they are not comfortable doing so in the context of a dangerous pandemic.
The Association recognizes that the administration is concerned about the health and well-being of its instructors and students, and so we trust that they will move in the right direction here. As soon as a decision has been made and information is available, I will write to you again.
In the meantime, if any members feel pressured to teach face to face courses over the summer when they are not comfortable doing so, I strongly encourage you to contact us about this matter and we will support you in all ways possible. At the same time, please be assured that, as always, you can contact us in confidence, and we will not take any action on your behalf without your agreement. You can email me, or our membership services officers, Ben Johnson and Reuben Kellen.
Wishing you all the best with this term’s teaching. And remember — it absolutely does not need to be perfect. As I mentioned in December, if you find that things are becoming too difficult and you require further support, I encourage you to reach out to your Chair or to the Association.
All the very best,