KFActs: The KFA, Research, & Scholarly Activity. Part II: Protections & Other Provisions
By Mark Diotte
Aside from the Collective Agreement provisions on funding sources for research and scholarly activity discussed in Part I, the KFA has negotiated or advocated for provisions to protect faculty research and scholarly activity along with provisions to enhance the ability of members to apply for and access funding.
Article 12.18 Academic Freedom
One of the foundations of work at a university is academic freedom. Without academic freedom, scholars are susceptible to censorship, discipline, and precariousness of employment as a result of their work.
Not all post-secondary institutions in our sector have provisions on academic freedom. Yet, in arbitration cases, it is often academic freedom language that prevails in protecting the rights of academics to freely engage in, disseminate, and publish their research and scholarly activity.
Our provisions were bargained in the round leading to the 2010-12 Collective Agreement. The article, in part, reads:
Academic freedom is the freedom to examine, question, teach and learn and it involves the right to investigate, speculate, and comment without regard to prescribed doctrine. Academic freedom ensures the following:
a) Freedom in the conduct of teaching;
b) Freedom in undertaking research and making public the results thereof;
c) Freedom from institutional censorship
Certainly, this language has been tested and defended at KPU through our formal and informal grievance processes, and this provision has offered much needed protections to KFA members who sought to make their ideas public.
One concern brought to the KFA by members is the difficulty in requesting funding from external sources without the ability to use traditional academic titles such as Professor, Associate Professor, and Assistant Professor.
To address this concern, the parties agreed to LOU#20 in the 2012-2014 Collective Agreement. This Letter of Understanding created a joint committee on the issue of academic title. The committee, consisting of Bob Davis, KFA President; Jane Fee, Vice-Provost, Students; Jeffery Shantz, KFA Social Science Representative; and Diane Salter, Vice Provost, Teaching & Learning, recommended that:
1. The Office of Research and Scholarship actively seek to open access with granting bodies to provide Instructor options, such as listings on drop down menus for applications and that the term Instructor be viewed by the funding bodies without prejudice, with some understanding to funding bodies what the title means at KPU. KPU administration should be prepared to write explanatory letters on behalf of faculty applications.
2. [F]aculty be allowed to identify themselves with alternative designations, such as J. Doe is a professor of History, on KPU business cards.
In the 2014-19 round of bargaining, these joint recommendations were brought by the KFA to the negotiating table as Union Proposal 3.3, but the Employer ultimately declined to accept the proposal.
Article 12.17 Scholarly Activity
Another key protective provision in the Collective Agreement is Article 12.17 which was negotiated in the 2007-10 Collective Agreement to recognize “that research and scholarly activity have always been an integral component of faculty work at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.” The significance of this statement is the formal recognition that research and scholarly activity are an essential part of faculty work at KPU under the agreement.
While the provision recognizes that research and scholarly activity are a component of faculty member work, it also protects faculty workload from becoming exploited or unmanageable due to any formal expectations for research or scholarly activity beyond a 100% assigned workload. The essential line here is that “nothing in this provision shall be construed as increasing a faculty member’s assigned workload.” In other words, the Employer may not force faculty members into untenable workload situations by requiring scholarly activity or research that increases a faculty member’s assigned workload beyond what they are compensated for. In contrast, some institutions in our local sector are required to perform research despite not being given the time to do so—the members of these locals may end up overworked and/or using their vacation time to perform the research duties expected of them.
- Aside from the three pools of negotiated funding mentioned in Part I, each faculty member is able to spend $100 each year as per Article 16.04 Personal Professional Development Funds. These funds are for scholarly activities and professional development resources such as books, journal subscriptions, computer software, and membership fees in professional organizations. This fund was established as of the 2001-04 Collective Agreement.
- In 2015, a concern was brought to the KFA that there was some uncertainty about whether or not time release could be funded through grants centrally administered through the Office of Research and Scholarship. As a result of KFA discussions with the Employer, then Provost and VP Academic Sal Ferreras signed a memorandum to the KFA that “confirm[ed] that the perspective of KPU is that to support their scholarly endeavors, faculty may apply for time release as a component of these internal grants. Approval for time release shall be given reasonable consideration.”
- Finally, in 2018, the KFA began advocating for members who were teaching ARTS 3991, 3992, and 3993 research supervision courses without receiving any form of compensation—despite these courses being credit & tuition bearing courses and requiring instructional responsibility for assessments and learning outcomes. In this matter, the KFA was consistently explicit: research is important to our faculty members, but faculty member workload must be fair and faculty member work must be compensated. The end result of the grievance process arising out of this situation is that all faculty members who delivered these courses in the past will be compensated for their work on a per-credit basis for the courses delivered. Furthermore, the KFA is advocating for the continuance of these courses and has reached a tentative agreement with the Employer for working conditions that will allow these courses to continue to be offered.
Professional development, research and scholarly activity are embedded throughout the provisions of the Collective Agreement, and the KFA has been successful in representing the desire of members for access to stable funding sources such as Article 16.05 Faculty Professional Development Fund, Article 14 Educational Leave, and Article 16.01 Professional Development. Similarly, the KFA has been successful in negotiating language that goes beyond opportunities for funding to protect the research and scholarship that is thus produced by our members.
If you have any questions or comments about this topic, please contact the KFA.
Updated in October 2021.