Apr 162019

Recently, the Joint Committee for the Management the Agreement (JCMA) met with Vice-Provost, Teaching, Learning and Student Experience Patti McDougall and Teaching and Learning Centre Director Nancy Turner to discuss concerns raised by the Ryerson arbitration decision and a recent report from the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA). JCMA also heard about their experiences with pilots of the new “Student Learning Experience Questionnaire” (SLEQ), a name reflective of a change from the language of “teaching evaluation” to “learning experience.”

We have reported to you in recent months regarding national events concerning student evaluation of teaching. Most recently, in an e-Letter, we told you about the OCUFA report stemming from an investigation of complaints of misuse and inappropriate interpretations of scores on student evaluations of teaching. The report found that even responses to questions about specific features – the length of time in returning assignments, for example – are affected by respondents’ broader assessment of an instructor, and thereby impacted by stereotypical views, views that are often unconsciously held. An earlier e-Letter asked you to comment on the Ryerson decision where the arbitrator ordered that student-based evaluations of teaching not be used to measure teaching effectiveness in tenure and promotion cases, effective immediately, until the parties could negotiate appropriate language in their collective agreement. A basis for the arbitration ruling is the extensive literature about student evaluations of teaching that show results from these instruments are influenced by instructors’ gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical attractiveness, class size, time of day, etc.

Both guests knew about the Ryerson decision and both were aware of, and agreed with, many of the concerns about the biases inherent in student evaluations expressed by the OCUFA report. They stated that SLEQ asks students to respond to questions that focus on the course rather than the instructor, such as: “The course provided me with a deeper understanding of the subject matter,” “Course projects, assignments, tests, and/or exams improved my understanding of the course material.” The instructor’s unit may add other questions, and so may the Instructor.

They also stated that this is not just a new form and a new system, but also raises the issue how the feedback of students is used. Decision makers will need to be educated appropriately to evaluate these forms as a single element within a case file. Using only student questionnaires is no longer considered a best practice. Additionally, they stated, this will require decision makers to understand sample sizes, and frequency distributions rather than simple averages, as well as how to look out for potential biases.

SLEQ will not be imposed on any unit. Ultimately, it is up to units to determine what instrument they wish to use to collect student feedback. Instructors will be encouraged to use class time to complete the questionnaires. Students will be allowed to opt out if classes are so small that their comments might easily be attributed to them. As well, faculty will be allowed to request that evaluations containing inappropriate remarks be removed in their entirety.

USFA is following this issue closely and will continue to report on new developments. We recognize that the stakes can be high for faculty members’ careers with the continuing use of student evaluations in tenure and promotion decisions. In the meantime, faculty members in individual units should remember that no anonymous material should be introduced or considered, except for student course evaluations, which must be properly validated instruments of performance evaluation. Whether or not they choose to adopt SLEQ, academic units should consider, and articulate how they will address the problem of bias in student responses – that is, the conscious or unconscious views about instructor’s gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical attractiveness, class size, time of day, etc. As well, since SLEQ results will not be released if the response rate or class size is below a certain threshold, units should also consider how issues of small classes and low response rates will be addressed, whatever instrument they choose.

Apr 042019

As faculty members, we have dual interests in copyright protection. Many of us create copyrighted materials including textbooks, videos, podcasts and expect our work to be protected.

As educators, many of us find it occasionally useful to use pieces of copyrighted materials in the classroom for illustrative purposes – a few pages of a text document, part of a musical composition, a few minutes of video. This is known as “fair dealing”. However, the legislation took some time to catch up to the spread of digital media.

Until 2012, the University of Saskatchewan held a license agreement with Access Copyright, a service that acted as an insurance policy against copyright violation lawsuits. Following several other universities, the U of S chose to manage its own, recognizing the declining use of printed coursepacks and increased usage of digital material, and the high cost of the agreement with Access Copyright, and a 2012 Supreme Court Ruling that made fair dealing easier.

Since then, the publishing industry, in decline as it adjusts to the new realities of digital media has demonized the so-called misuse of copyrighted material by educators, and engaged several universities in lawsuits. York University, one of the first to cut ties with Access Copyright in 2011 due to rising costs, was ordered to pay for copyrighted materials in 2017.

Educate yourself on this issue. Read CAUT’s public service announcement and watch this video (or show it to your students) to understand this issue. You can also sign CAUT’s petition to urge Parliament to maintain fair dealing.


Apr 012019

The grievance filed on June 7, 2017 regarding the medical disclosure requirements for short-term disability benefits or salary continuance has been successfully settled. The forms provided by the private corporation contracted to manage short-term disability benefits, Lifemark Health Group, have been revised and can be accessed through the following link: https://wellness.usask.ca/documents/leaves/lifemark-physician-package.pdf. The medical information now […]

Mar 272019

Nominees for the Executive committee are as follows: Category A (Instructor, Lecturer, Special Lecturer, Assistant Librarian or Assistant Professor) Category B (Associate Professor or Associate Librarian) Geraldine Balzer, Curriculum Studies, College of Education Lenaic Couedel, Physics and Engineering Physics, College of Arts and Science Category C (Professor or Librarian) Doug Chivers, Biology, College of Arts […]

Mar 272019

Claims for reimbursement for any expenses from any of the benefit plans must be submitted to Sun Life within 90 days of the end of the calendar year in which the expense is incurred.   This means that the deadline for submitting claims incurred between January 1 and December 31, 2018 is March 31, 2019.  […]

Mar 182019

Duties assigned to faculty at the ranks of instructor and lecturer differ from the duties assigned to the professorial ranks, which include research, scholarly, and artistic work: instructors and lecturers are expected to focus on the delivery of instruction in support of academic programs. Assignment of duties for Instructors and Lecturers is in accordance with […]

Mar 152019

CUPE 1975 is continuing to work on achieving a new collective agreement at the bargaining table. Earlier this month it reached out, through a mediator, to University administration requesting a meeting. CUPE’s intent for this meeting is to discuss questions and concerns the employer has raised on its website about the Jointly Sponsored Pension Plan […]

Mar 132019

The 2007-2009 Collective Agreement included a new clause on Guidelines for Assignment of Duties (Article 11.5) that defined a process by which academic units discuss in committee and ratify their own workload guidelines. This article makes it possible for employees to define appropriate workloads that take into account the full range of duties in their […]

Mar 112019

Online applications for the USFA Scholarship will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Saturday, June 1, 2019. The USFA Scholarship Program is open to students who are immediate family members of USFA members.  Immediate family includes spouse/partner, sons, daughters or children whom USFA members have served as legal guardians. The application form for the 2018-2019 USFA […]

Mar 072019

On March 1, 2019, The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) released its report investigating complaints of misuse and inappropriate interpretation of the scores on student evaluations of teaching. The report points out that many factors figure in students’ responses, some of which have nothing to do with quality of teaching: class size, time […]

Mar 062019

This is the time of year when the process for the Assignment of Duties is underway. Provisions for the assignment of duties are covered in Article 11 of the Collective Agreement. Department Heads, or Deans in non-departmentalized Colleges, “following consultation and discussion with faculty at a meeting,” assign duties. This annual meeting is an important […]

Feb 252019

In a recent arbitration hearing, Arbitrator Anne Wallace Q.C. considered the issue of audio recording of College Review Committee (CRC) meetings and deliberations.  The Association filed a grievance when it appeared that one College’s CRC deliberations were being recorded without the knowledge or consent of some of its committee members and without the matter having […]

Feb 142019

The USFA Executive is concerned about the current state of labour relations on campus. We are working hard to improve these relations and we call upon USFA members to help with this effort. The USFA shares a common interest with the other unions on campus in negotiating fair compensation, job security, and safe working conditions […]

Jan 022019

To our USFA colleagues, happy new year and best wishes for the coming year! With the beginning of the winter term, we are setting up more meetings with the Employer. We continue to work toward conclusion of a prolonged, and occasionally contentious, process. Since we began negotiations with the Employer in July 2017, many of […]

Dec 202018

On Thursday, December 20th SK Federation of Labour (SFL) will be walking the picket line with UFCW 1400 members at the Saskatoon Coop Westview (33rd St W and Ave P N) from 5 pm to 7 pm. The SFL has invited affiliated unions, their locals, Saskatoon Coop members, and others to join them in walking […]

Dec 102018

Faculty are advised to check the upcoming changes effective January 2019 in coverage limits for amounts reimbursed for individual visits to the various paramedical practitioners covered by the Sun Life Extend Health Benefits. While the overall yearly maximum coverage amount remains in effect at $500 per year, changes are occurring in the maximum per visit […]

Nov 272018

UFCW Local 1400 members have been on strike with the Saskatoon Coop since November 1, 2018. Saskatoon and District Labour Council will be walking the picket line with UFCW 1400 members at the Saskatoon Coop Attridge Drive location on Wednesday, November 28, 2018 from 5 pm to 7 pm, and invites affiliated unions, their locals, […]

Nov 152018

Recently, research employees and out-of-scope employees in the College of Arts and Science received an email regarding contingency planning “in the event of an emergency or if relief work is needed during a CUPE 1975 strike.” The message requested recipients to complete a “confidential” skills inventory form itemizing their credentials or experience in the trades, […]