KFA President’s Update to the Membership February 2021
I hope this email finds you well and bearing up under the pressures imposed on us by the pandemic.
This is the sixth month of my term as your President, and I want to reach to update you about some of the work your KFA is doing.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the work of all faculty in keeping the lights on during the pandemic. We know how challenging the pivot to online teaching has been. I’d also like to acknowledge the team of dedicated faculty that make up the KFA Executive and Table Officers. I appreciate all of the work you do in serving our members.
The pandemic has brought no respite from work for us; if anything, we have seen a multiplication of issues needing our attention. In what follows, I’ll identify a few of these issues and provide a brief update on where the conversation is at.
The pandemic has had a differential impact on individual areas, and it has deepened a crisis that already existed in the English Language Studies department, a crisis created initially by the institution’s lack of support for the area and by the institution’s decision to cut off enrolment for international students in ESL. The KFA works with the Employer to minimize layoffs whenever we are notified that the security of the workforce may be impacted. This work is occurring on behalf of the ELS department, and we are also working on behalf of all faculty to negotiate a pandemic-related variance to the Collective Agreement to extend the recall period. On a positive note, there are several other areas in which we were able to mitigate pandemic-related layoffs.
LOU #13 Joint Committee on Class Size Past Practice
Letter of Understanding #13 states, “the committee discuss, review, and adjust class size for classes with registration limits lower than thirty-five.” This matter has been occupying a great deal of our time and the time of faculty helping us to review existing course caps. We will update you about the committee’s progress at the end of February.
The KFA and the Research and Scholarship White Paper
As many of you know, a White Paper on the topic of research and scholarship circulated through faculty councils and other groups in the institution. The White Paper arrived at Senate in October of 2020, and in January 2021, the KPU President brought to Senate a response to the White Paper that proposed actions to each of the paper’s 25 recommendations, many of which relate directly to collective bargaining. When this occurred, the KFA had no choice but to assert its right under the Labour Code as the exclusive bargaining agent for Kwantlen faculty and insist that those parts of the White Paper that pertain to working conditions be withdrawn from the Senate discussion.
Why did we do this?
Labour law required it. Senate is not the appropriate venue to theorize how working conditions might be altered to facilitate research and scholarship. This is work that must be undertaken through collective bargaining to ensure that your rights and responsibilities are agreed to and protected, and that the interests of a majority of faculty are represented. Promises and agreements made outside the collective agreement—as we are currently seeing with class size—are not protected. There is no guarantee that the promises of one administration will be honored by another.
What was the Employer’s response?
The Employer agreed to remove parts of the White Paper from discussion, but they were not pleased to do so. Consequently, you may hear the Employer refer to the KFA as the “faculty trade union,” taken from the language of the Labour Code. What the Employer intends by using this name is not exactly clear, but we are proud of this certification and the protection it provides. We are not alone. Increasingly, faculty at traditional universities across Canada (including UVic and SFU in 2014) are coming to realize that true power over their working conditions comes from certifying their faculty associations as trade unions with exclusive bargaining agent rights.
What is the KFA’s position on Research and Scholarship?
The KFA has always supported research and scholarship at KPU, but we do not support placing additional research and scholarship expectations on already heavy workloads. And the Collective Agreement is clear that research and scholarship is part of faculty work. Article 12.01 Normal Duties divides faculty workload into three different categories: 1. Teaching or Professional Practice, 2. Service, and 3. Scholarly Activity and Professional Development.
Article 12.17 Scholarly Activity also recognizes research and scholarship as part of faculty workload. The article states, “research and scholarship have always been an integral component of faculty work at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Research and scholarship inform teaching, curriculum and teaching practices, enhance the knowledge of faculty and students, and enable faculty members to remain intellectually stimulated and current in their fields. […] Nothing in this provision shall be construed as increasing a faculty member’s assigned workload.”
Article 12.17 also contains a definition of scholarly activity: “Scholarly activity is a dynamic process consisting of the following interrelated components: discovery, application, integration, teaching and learning, and creative artistry.” We look forward to discussions around how research and scholarly activity can be supported at KPU.
What is the KFA’s position on Rank and Tenure?
The KFA does not have a position on rank and tenure. We represent the position of the faculty body as a whole. The typical model of rank and tenure is incompatible with the system of regularization at KPU, and it is not favored by a majority of KPU faculty. The Employer, in its response to the White Paper, seems to agree. However, the question of title is separable from the discussion of rank and tenure. Based on the input of faculty through the bargaining surveys, the KFA supports permissive use of title, especially as a way to support faculty whose funding applications may be negatively affected by the absence of a typical academic title. Recently, VIU moved simply to designate all of its regular faculty members Professors. A similar move is possible at KPU.
Who ultimately decides the KFA position?
You do. The KFA represents and takes its direction from you. Our bargaining surveys are where you tell us what your priorities are. We will soon be preparing for the next round of bargaining, so you will have the opportunity to make your views known.
This term, we will be preparing for our next round of bargaining by electing a Working Conditions Committee, readying the bargaining survey, and engaging in other preparatory work. Mark Diotte, Vice President, Negotiations, will shortly provide an update on this matter. In the meantime, Mark is already starting bargaining preparations by attending frequent FPSE Bargaining Coordination Committee meetings. As well, four Table Officers attended the FPSE Bargaining Conference on February 6.
On Monday, February 8, the Minister of Advanced Education announced the provincial government is providing $4 million as part of pandemic recovery to fund 24 micro-credentials across 15 BC post-secondary institutions. The specific micro-credentials and institutions involved were not disclosed. The announcement presented micro-credentials being delivered completely or partially online, taking weeks as opposed to months or years to achieve, and as potentially combining toward substantial credentials.
Policy AC15: Micro-credentials is currently being developed. We will be speaking with the Employer at LMRC this month about the link between micro-credentials, workload, and remuneration.
The KFA is offering the following workshops this semester:
- All faculty are invited to the Robert’s Rules/Effective Meeting Participation workshop today from 1-4 (Wednesday, February 17).
- All Chairs and Coordinators are invited to the Chair/Coordinator Lunch Meeting on Thursday, February 18.
- All faculty are invited to attend the College Pension Plan Retirement Workshops being offered later this month.
- If you would like to follow KFA Executive meetings, please log into the Members Only area of our website. Table Officers and Executive members provide written reports, which you can read in the minutes.
- You can always connect with us at Online Open Office Hours. The next office hours are today from 4-5:30.
- Your area representative on the Executive Committee are your first point of contact with your Union, should you have any questions about your working conditions. You can find your area rep here.