COVID-19: Update and Recommendations, March 23, 2020

Dear members,
 
This bulletin provides an update on the status of the negotiations of letters of understanding with the Central Administration and makes recommendations for the Winter and Spring/Summer semesters.
 
Letters of Understanding
 
Since March 17, the APUO has proposed six letters of understanding[1] to the Central Administration on the following issues:
 

  1. Teaching and learning conditions for the remainder of the 2020 Winter semester.
     
  2. Student course evaluations for the Winter 2020 semester: the APUO demands that the course evaluation data for this semester be destroyed.
     
  3. Academic Leave for the Winter 2020 semester: the APUO demands that members who are on academic leave from January 1 to June 30, 2020, be returned their credit years for that leave.
     
  4. Labour Relations Processes: the APUO asks that the parties demonstrate flexibility with respect to the timelines in the Collective Agreement regarding grievance processes, disciplinary matters, and human rights complaints and investigations.
     
  5. Promotion and tenure processes: the APUO requests a) that the parties meet to clarify how members’ activities during the pandemic period will be evaluated; and b) that all non-tenure members be granted an additional year of pre-tenure.  
     
  6. Computer equipment and support: the APUO requests a) that the Employer provides funding so that members who do not have a laptop or adequate computer equipment at home can make these purchases; and b) that the Employer provides funding to reimburse members for computer-related expenses (supplies, internet access, etc.).

 
With respect to the first letter of understanding, it stated that it is up to APUO members to determine how best to complete their courses and to evaluate their students, including but not limited to deciding whether or not to: (i) deliver all or part of the final portions of their courses via the internet; and, (ii) change the structure of evaluations – including final exams and assigning a Pass/Fail grade for the course. This proposal was rejected by the Central Administration. Instead, they have left it to the executives of each faculty to decide on these matters, making the current situation one of strong asymmetry of teaching and learning conditions across faculties for the remainder of the 2020 Winter term.
 
We want to negotiate with the Central Administration on the remaining five letters of understanding that we have proposed, but four of them have so far gone unanswered. We will keep you informed of developments in the upcoming days.

 
Recommendations for the remainder of the 2020 Winter semester
 
Following the Central Administration’s rejection of our proposal for a letter of understanding on teaching and learning conditions, we reiterate the recommendations made in our March 19 bulletin:
 

  1. Interpret the directives of your respective faculties in light of the Collective Agreement, particularly articles 9 (Academic Freedom) and 22.2.3.1 (Provisions applying specifically to certain types of teaching). If in doubt, do not hesitate to consult us.
     
  2. You are not required to create online and distance learning courses.
     
  3. You are not required to adopt or adhere to a specific or narrow definition of what “distance education” means, nor are you required to report to your Dean or Unit Chair for the decisions you make in this regard.
     
  4. You have full flexibility in the choice of teaching methods, in the adoption or in the amendment of ways to appropriately evaluate students, and in the format in which the teaching is delivered.
     
  5. Academic freedom and good professional judgement are essential guides when it comes to determining the terms and conditions for the completion of courses while respecting the rights of students and upholding the professional standards in your disciplines.
     
  6. Don’t put your health and wellness at risk, don’t ask yourself the impossible. Neither you, your students, nor the University will be well served if you are burned out. We all want to rise to the exceptional situation we are in, but it also means acknowledging and accepting that the end of the 2020 Winter term is unlikely to be as good as expected.

 
Recommendations for the 2020 Spring/Summer semester
 
In the current situation, it would not be surprising if the Central Administration were to announce that all courses for the 2020 Spring/Summer semester will be online and distance courses. We have learned that some of you have already received a request from your Dean or Unit Chair to convert your 2020 Spring/Summer course(s) to online and distance delivery.
 
Here are our recommendations to those who have a teaching load scheduled for the 2020 Spring/Summer semester:
 

  1. If you are willing to convert your course(s) to online and distance learning, we recommend that you immediately contact your Dean and Unit Director to obtain assurances that (a) the maximum enrolment for your course(s) will not be increased; and (b) you will be entitled to one assistant (contract of 130 hours) per course whose main task will be to assist you with the conversion.
     
  2. If you do not wish to convert your course(s) to online and distance delivery, we recommend that you immediately contact your Dean and Unit Director to inform them that you do not consent to convert your 2020 Spring/Summer course(s) to online and distance delivery (as per Article 22.2.3.1 of the Collective Agreement) and that you request that the course(s) be moved to the 2020 Fall term or the 2021Winter term, whichever you prefer.

 
If you do not have a teaching load in the 2020 Spring/Summer semester but are willing to convert courses to online and distance learning and offer them in that semester, we recommend that you immediately contact your Dean and Unit Director to inform them. We also recommend that you obtain assurances that (a) the maximum enrolment for your course(s) will be reasonable; (b) you will be entitled to one assistant (contract of 130 hours) per course whose main task will be to assist you with the conversion.
 
Do not hesitate to contact us if you need help.
 
The APUO Executive

 
[1] A letter of understanding can be defined as follows: it is an agreement that is outside the scope of the collective agreement and often supersedes or expands articles of the collective agreement. Letters of agreement do not follow the path of a collective agreement and must be renewed by the parties when they expire.