Dear SFUFA Members:
While many SFUFA communications lately have centred around COVID safety and workload issues, these remain only a small part of what demands our attention. This edition of our bulletin begins with a COVID update, but provides as well important information on a number of other issues:
– pensions and the BCCPP transition process
– guidance regarding Freedom of Information requests
– concerns related to collegial governance and consultation
– the status of labour relations at SFU
Today, January 21, the Public Health Officer released a letter to Presidents of post secondary institutions. That letter can be found on our website here:
As we prepare to resume face to face teaching on January 24th, faculty, staff and students continue to raise questions about SFU’s management of the ongoing health crisis. SFUFA has not called for all classes to remain remote, but has proposed to the University Administration a number of steps they can and, we believe, should take immediately:
– greater faculty autonomy in decisions about when to teach remotely;
– a cap on the size of classes to be taught face to face;
– meaningful involvement of health and safety committees in COVID planning;
– regular air quality updates to the community;
– development of a comprehensive safety plan
– proper resourcing for campus safety including facilities for rapid testing and provision of N95 masks
We also continue to ask for increased TA and tech support for faculty who do wish to provide remote instruction for students who are unable or reluctant to attend in person. And we continue to ask, too, that SFU take steps to ensure that individual Faculties do not exert pressure on members to undertake work that senior administration has acknowledged is not expected. The response of the administration has been consistent, and consistently disappointing: no additional resources have been provided; no steps have been taken to ensure any consistency in the demands put upon faculty. SFU is simply uninterested in addressing workload issues in any way.
One last reminder as we begin to resume in person teaching: as the University returns to face to face instruction, it is particularly important that all of us monitor our own health and exposure risks. If there is any possibility that you might be ill, or may have been exposed to someone who has COVID, it is recommended that you not attend the University. Where members are well enough to work but believe they might be contagious or may have been exposed, temporary continuation of or return to remote instruction is recommended.
SFU has now submitted the list of those who indicated they might want to buy service. BCCPP is in the process of calculating costs on an individual basis and will carry out that work over the next few months. People will receive their cost of buyback by the end of April; members will then have 120 days to decide how much past service to purchase. For those who are still unsure or were not able to get on the list this year, there will be another opportunity in 2023. (A detailed description of the whole process was sent out by [email protected] on Nov. 10.)
Critical dates to be aware of are as follows:
|Deadline for you to return a Purchase of Service Application Form||
December 31, 2021
|Statement of Cost sent to you by BC Pension Corporation||
By April 30, 2022
|Deadline for completing the past service purchase||
120 calendar days after receiving the Statement of Cost
In general, there have been many complaints about SFU’s communications and lack of responsiveness on the pension transition, but SFU appears to have heard those concerns and the [email protected] email is now being more actively monitored. That is the best first point of contact for pension questions, but if something is not or cannot be answered there, please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected] or [email protected]
We also point out that as we approach the buy-back period, people are uniquely exposed to the volatility of their current investments (i.e., if there were a market downturn between now and midyear, people will not have the usual amount of time to ride it out). We therefore encourage everyone to make market volatility part of their considerations, and to seek professional advice about mitigating the risk associated with this volatility.
Guidance re: Freedom of Information Requests
In recent years, Freedom of Information requests – by students, faculty and staff, and members of the public – have been increasingly common, and SFUFA members may be asked to provide records (including email correspondence) pursuant to those requests. We provide here a brief guide for faculty members on the FOI process and what members can and should do when a request is received. This guidance has been posted to the SFUFA website and can be found at https://www.sfufa.ca/foi-requests-a-brief-guide-for-sfufa-members/
Policy Reviews and Consultation
Many members have noted recently the increased number of university policies under revision. SFU appears to be undertaking a fairly comprehensive policy review, and this has the potential to impact faculty in significant ways. The review and regular updating of policy is a normal and important administrative task. SFU’s current approach, though, does raise concerns. First, the pace of review underway makes it incredibly difficult for faculty members to find the space and time to properly understand and respond to proposed policy revisions; meetings regarding even the most critical policies for faculty are rarely convened, but rather email announcements are sent out, often without adequate response times, with the result that many faculty indicate they are unable to give these policies the attention that they would like. Further, while SFU is required under our Collective Agreement to bring to joint consultation any policy revision that might impact the rights or working conditions of faculty members, the University has largely failed to do so, forcing the Association to react despite SFU’s legal obligation to proactively seek our feedback.
More substantively, what we are noticing in the wave of policy revisions is an increasingly legalistic and managerial approach that too often does not recognize the work faculty actually do and the wide range of ways that they do it, and begins with a more top-down and disciplinary framework than has been the case in the past. SFUFA is very concerned that these reviews and the University’s approach to them, including the failure to meet its legal obligations to us, can only undermine the role of faculty in the governance of the University. We welcome the assistance of any faculty members willing to assist us with policy reviews as they come in, so that we can ensure that each and every policy revision is carefully monitored with an eye to its real impact on faculty rights and faculty work.
Labour Relations at SFU
The concerns about consultation and collegial governance around policy revision are, sadly, only one indication of a more general deterioration of relations with the University Administration. After many years of largely informal, collegial resolution of disagreements, the last few years have seen SFU become increasingly managerial in approach, less proactive, and less responsive. We have seen the number of cases that require formal grievances and mediation or arbitration skyrocket; we have found an administration less and less willing to take faculty concerns seriously; and we have seen SFU reorganize and restructure its operations in ways that pose significant threats to collegial governance without anything resembling meaningful discussion.
Our experience at SFUFA is not unique. Other campus employee groups have noticed a similar trend. A letter has been developed by all of SFU’s unionized employee groups to highlight SFU’s new, and troubling, approach to faculty and staff relations. That letter has been posted to our website and can be seen at https://www.sfufa.ca/joint-letter-on-labour-relations-at-sfu/