Dear SFUFA members:
As we reach the middle of the semester, here is an update on some of our activities and issues that SFUFA has been are working on. High on our priority list has been COVID conditions and advocating for a safe workplace in the return to campus this semester. We have heard that some of our members have had to teach both in-person and remote students in the same class. In addition to meeting with SFU, we have also been meeting with CUFA BC and its member Faculty Associations in joint efforts to lobby the provincial government and our administrations. In the last few days, we have been challenging SFU’s lack of diligence in applying the Provincial Health Order on mandatory masking (see details below).
The latest word on the appointment of a VP People, Equity and Inclusion is that an announcement on this position will be further delayed until the Spring semester. In the meantime, we are committed to challenging SFU to see that its EDI agenda brings substantive and meaningful change. On that front we have several cases related to teaching faculty that reflect SFU’s failure to create stable, continuing positions where needed, and are looking at various ways to address workload and resource inequities. The sudden closure of Document Solutions on the Surrey campus (see below) is just one example of service inequities that faculty are experiencing.
We will be looking for more frequent consultation with you all on these and many other issues through the creation of two new networks – departmental liaisons, and a university wide network of Chairs. Please see details below, and consider signing up.
COVID and Return to Campus
Gaps and uncertainties in the University’s return to campus plan continue to emerge, and SFU’s communications in this area remain inconsistent at best. Early in the semester, the University indicated that it would collect declarations of vaccination status from faculty, staff, and students; while voluntary, this would be supplemented by a requirement to provide regular proof of a negative COVID test, supported by on-site rapid testing. We understood that this approach was developed in concert with other post-secondary institutions in BC, and was approved by the Public Health Office. Other protocols – related to masking in all public areas, including classrooms, and mandatory vaccination to access ancillary spaces and services – were put in place by the PHO directly.
In recent weeks it has become apparent that SFU is not taking a consistent approach to rapid testing or provision of proof of a negative COVID test. This is not simply an SFU issue, as reports from other Faculty Associations in BC suggest that the same problems exist on their campuses. But it does indicate that across the sector, university messaging has claimed or implied a more comprehensive, consistent approach than has in fact been implemented.
We continue to work with other Associations across the province to address what must be addressed on a provincial scale, and to prioritize this matter in our work with other SFU-based unions and associations and with the University. In the meantime, we have made clear to SFU out position that:
- faculty should not be made responsible for enforcement of the mask mandate or any other PHO order;
- faculty are nonetheless authorized to enforce the order in areas or situations under their supervision;
- faculty have access to security in the event that the PHO order is not being respected and they are unable or unprepared to enforce it themselves;
- faculty are authorized to leave any area in which a PHO order is being disregarded until such time as SFU can ensure that the orders are being followed.
We have asked the University to confirm their agreement or indicate which of these, if any, they disagree with. We have not yet heard back, believe strongly that all of these are reasonable assumptions on which you can act.
Yes, it is that time again already. Our collective agreement with SFU expires on June 30, 2022, which means we can anticipate commencing bargaining in late spring. Prior to that, we have a significant amount of work to do: consulting with and surveying members on priorities; establishing a Bargaining Advisory Committee; development of a bargaining mandate; and writing language to take to the table.
We will be sending out regular bargaining bulletins beginning later this fall, highlighting some of the key issues for this next round of negotiations. We also need to consider the possibility that we may see a different kind of bargaining than we have experienced in the past. An increasingly centralized, top-down SFU approach, more formal and with less space for open, collaborative discussions, may well impact negotiations, and we must prepare for whatever that might look like.
Departmental Network and Chairs’ Committee
One of the major issues we have noted in recent years is the decline of collegial governance and meaningful consultation at SFU. We intend to make this a bargaining priority, but we also recognize that we at SFUFA can and should find ways to strengthen those approaches in our own internal affairs.
This Fall we will be creating two new mechanisms for member engagement and consultation:
1) Network of Departmental Contacts:
We will be seeking volunteers in each academic unit to meet once a semester, and to receive regular updates and questions from the Association. We hope to improve communications not only from SFUFA to units, but from members to SFUFA, so that we can better work with members to proactively address local concerns.
2) Chairs’ and Directors’ Committee:
Chairs and Directors play a critical role as the voice of faculty members to Deans and senior administrators. They are overworked, rarely thanked, and insufficiently compensated for all they do. They also may find themselves pulled in different directions, expected to represent colleagues while often pressured to be the voice of the Dean within the unit. We have had some very productive meetings with Chairs and Directors over the past two years, and hope to build on those with a more regular, organized approach.
Further information about both of these initiatives will be coming soon. But if you have questions or may be interested in either, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Pension Plan Support
Transition to the BC College Pension Plan is now administratively complete, though a few members appear to not have received BCCPP membership notification. If you are uncertain as to whether you have been moved to the new plan, please contact [email protected]
Preparations are now being made for members who wish to purchase ‘years of service’ in the College Plan. This is entirely voluntary, and the default is for existing pension contributions in the old SFU plan to stay in that plan. But those who do want to transfer funds to the BCCPP have now been asked to complete a form to indicate possible interest in buying years of service. We will stress that filling out this form is not a commitment to purchase years of service or to move one’s funds – rather it indicates to the BCCPP that a member would like to know what their individualized cost of years of service will be so that they may then decide how to proceed.
The form and information on past years of service can be found at:
If you have questions or require assistance, please contact our Chief Negotiator, David Broun, at [email protected]
Closure of Document Solutions, Surrey campus
Members on Surrey campus have recently, and without warning, been informed that Surrey’s Document Solutions office has been closed. A number of members have been reaching out to us – and to SFU directly – noting the serious challenges and additional workload burden that flow from this decision. We have been and will continue to meet with the responsible administrators, who seem to recognize that this decision was announced and implemented poorly but have not developed an adequate alternative to address the pressing concerns faculty members have.
We are stressing to SFU that document support is not an ‘extra’, but a critical need, and must be provided as a part of the academic infrastructure whether or not it is in itself profitable. We encourage affected faculty members to continue to communicate with us, and also directly with SFU about the impact of the Surrey Doc Sol closure.