SFUFA President’s Report June 2010
Serving on the SFUFA Executive is one profitable way of continuing our mission as life-long learners at SFU. As another academic year and my term as President draw to a close, I think it appropriate to articulate four things that I have learned. (I have learned more than four things but wanted to limit my message.) The points below may suggest that I am a slow learner since they might strike you as obvious. I ask forgiveness, therefore, while asserting what deserves wider consideration.
SFU Librarians have an academic mission. Consider the Library’s Mission Statement: “At the heart of the University, the SFU Library is dedicated to providing access to collections, services and facilities of the highest possible quality in support of the teaching, learning and research goals of the Simon Fraser University community.” Our librarians—our colleagues— are academic professionals without whose expertise the experience of teaching, learning, and research at SFU would be impoverished. I have said it before and will say it again: The library is the heart of our university or any university. Under the leadership of the new Dean of Library Services, Dr. Charles Eckman, librarians will continue to make their mark on SFU and articulate to the SFU community their role and responsibilities in the shared academic mission of our university. Please join me in welcoming our colleague from the library Carla Graebner to the SFUFA Executive. In the coming academic year, Carla will serve as President Elect. In 2011-12, she will be our President.
Our teaching faculty (Lecturers and Senior Lecturers) are a valuable resource for the practice of and scholarship on university teaching. Often the recipients of teaching awards alongside research faculty, they uphold SFU’s reputation for teaching excellence. Think, for example, of the forty-three Lecturers and Senior Lecturers in the Faculty of Science. I trust that teaching faculty will be represented among the “highly recognized and accomplished teachers” recommended in the Final Report of the Task Force on Teaching
and Learning to serve as University Teaching Fellows. Teaching faculty are well-placed to contribute to the key research theme of pedagogy, identified in the new Strategic Research Plan. Russ Day (Psychology,
recipient of a Excellence in Teaching Award in 2009), Michael Ling (Education), Mike Sjoerdsma (Engineering Science), and Steve Whitmore (Engineering Science) formed a solid contingent of teaching faculty on the SFUFA Executive. I am especially grateful for the support of Michael, who becomes our SFUFA President in 2010-2011.
Consultation is not the same as listening. I owe this insight to an observation made by Dr. Jon Driver, SFU’s Vice President, Academic, with whom I had constructive discussions about faculty concerns in monthly meetings. When it comes to various initiatives SFU takes consulting with faculty seriously. But faculty are often not convinced that consultation is effective. Many believe that their input is not properly heard and recognized. They wonder why they should devote time and effort to contribute to consultative processes at SFU when they see little or no evidence that their contributions have any impact. In reports that follow consultations, SFU administrative units would do well to recognize in detail the quantity, quality, and impact of faculty input. They should point out where that input improved a proposal. Where administrators disagree with faculty input, they should give the reasons for disagreement. I believe that the University can easily improve consultations with faculty. The SFUFA Executive consults monthly with the University Administration, a practice unheard of at many universities. We ask probing questions and offer precise suggestions for improvement. Although agreement between the SFUFA Executive and the University Administration is not perfect, both sides are committed to finding realistic solutions. The announcement in April that faculty will be able to make a Professional Development Reimbursement claim once a year at any time of the year instead of between 15 December and 15 January is a recent example of a healthy relationship between SFUFA and the Administration based on consultation and listening.
SFUFA should be a forum for faculty to meet and to exchange ideas. Many see SFUFA only as an office to which its members bring complaints, grievances, and problems. Indeed, SFUFA does assist many members every year in a wide range of activities from answering questions about university policy to resolving work-related problems. This important work is time-consuming and usually not reported out of respect for confidentiality. At SFUFA’s last meeting with its Faculty Advisory Council, I heard colleagues challenge SFUFA to be more than a complaint office. It can and should be a vital vehicle to bring faculty together on matters that affect us all.
SFUFA too can be an engine of interdisciplinarity. To that end, at its planning session on 10 June, the SFUFA Executive decided to make outreach to members a fundamental objective for the coming academic year. This should ease recruitment for the Executive and other SFUFA committees, another objective. By engaging more members, SFUFA will be able to attract more attention and, I trust, support for upcoming negotiations for, among other things, a financial exigency policy and economic benefits (2012).
Over the past year, I gained a greater appreciation for the collegiality that makes SFUFA and SFU function well. No SFUFA President can serve by decree alone—and indeed SFUFA members would never put up with a presidency by decree—but can only serve effectively with the help of many experts. Doug Dorward, SFUFA’s Executive Director, has been a constant source of good ideas, sound planning, and steady support. Brian Green, our new Membership Services Officer, has hit the road running in assisting SFUFA members. Doug served as Staff Advisor to the Bargaining Advisory Committee, and Brian to the Governance Committee. SFUFA’s Executive Assistant, Jenny remains as efficient and indispensable as ever.
My colleagues on the SFUFA Executive have been shining examples of good collegial governance. They have been generous with their advice, which I have done my best to follow. Besides Russ, Michael, Mike, and Steve, mentioned above, I thank Valorie Crooks (Geography), Suzana Dragicevic (Geography), Karen Kavanagh (Physics), and those invaluable veterans Glenn Chapman (Engineering Science), our Past President Bob Hackett (Communication), and our Treasurer Don Taylor (Library). Neil Abramson (Business Administration) continues to advise you with expert help on tenure and promotion matters. Carl Schwarz (Statistics and Actuarial Sciences) remains our indefatigable and unflappable Chief Negotiator with the University.
Panos Pappas (Linguistics) took the leadership of the Governance Committee and with his colleagues Allison Ayers (Sociology and Anthropology/Political Science), Maureen Covell (Emirita, Political Science), Glenn Chapman, Evan Gatev (Business Administration), and Bob Hackett, released the two surveys on collegial governance that appeared in March and April. The committee is currently analyzing the data.
Carl Schwarz chairs the Bargaining Advisory Committee, which included Marjorie Griffin Cohen (Political Science / Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies), Susan Erikson (Health
Sciences), Maureen Fizzell (Business Administration), Ramo Gencay (Economics), Carla Graebner, and Steve Whitmore.
Committee members debated the proposal to extend our contracts for two years with the stipulation that the university would not impose furlough days on its own initiative. The proposal became the agreement that SFUFA signed with the University and that remains in place until 2012.
Finally, to all members who attended General Meetings, the open forum on certification in November, the meetings of the SFUFA Faculty Advisory Council and who contacted me with their concerns, I offer my sincere thanks for your contributions to your Faculty Association.