Letters of understanding – COVID-19

Dear members,
 
As a follow up to the email sent on Friday evening regarding the letters of understanding (LOU) in effect for the exceptional period related to the COVID-19 pandemic, here are the five letters of understanding signed so far:

Yours sincerely,
 
The APUO

Update on letters of understanding – COVID-19

Dear members,
 
The APUO is pleased to announce that we have finally signed four new letters of understanding (LOUs) with the Central Administration to respond to some of the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Your mobilisation in demanding that the Central Administration join us in negotiations during various faculty forums and through emails has been crucial in successfully signing these LOUs. We are very grateful for your continued trust and support. 
 
Here are the four LOUs that we have signed today.
 
Academic and Professional Leave:
 
We strongly recommend that all members on or about to begin an academic or professional leave immediately read the LOU in full here. Do not hesitate to contact us for any advice you may need.
 
Labour Relations Processes:
 
For the duration of the exceptional circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the APUO and the Central Administration have agreed to extend the mandatory time limits to file letters of disagreement to 20 working days, and to 30 working days for notices of grievances, regardless of explicit time limits mentioned in letters from a Dean or the Employer to a member. This LOU includes terms for mediations, arbitrations and human rights complaints. You can view the LOU in full here.
 
Promotion and Tenure, and continuing Appointment Processes:
 
A procedure to continue reviewing applications for promotion and tenure and continuing appointments in accordance with the Collective Agreement has been agreed upon by the APUO and the Central Administration for the duration of the exceptional circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic. For this period, Direct Peer Review of Teaching has been suspended. As per the LOU:

  • “Regular non-tenured Faculty Members with a contract will be granted a one-time extension of a period of 1 year to such Faculty Member’s contract.” Notwithstanding Article 25.1.7.3 of the Collective Agreement, “such Member must apply for tenure no later than the seventh year of continuous employment at a rank of Assistant Professor or higher at the University of Ottawa.”
  • “If requested by a Librarian member on a preliminary appointment, as referred to in Article 17.7.3.3 of the Collective Agreement, the length of their preliminary appointment shall be extended by a period of 6 months from the expiry date of the term of the preliminary appointment.”  

You can view the LOU in full here
 
Use of Professional Expenses Reimbursements (PER) for Retiring Members:
 
Members retiring on or after March 16, 2020 will be allowed a grace period of up to April 29, 2021 to use their remaining PER funds and internal and general research funds as of the date of retirement for allowable expenditures. You can view the LOU in full here.
 
 
Negotiations are ongoing to address the following issues:
 

  • COVID-19 Assessment of Scholarly Activities and Academic Service Activities. 
  • COVID-19 Impact on Fall 2020 course development and delivery.

 
Based on the results of the past and ongoing surveys, and on the discussions held during our virtual Coffee Hours, Board of Directors Meetings, and during our upcoming Annual General Meeting, the APUO may propose new LOUs to address other issues raised by members. We will provide further updates as discussions with the Central Administration continue to progress. 

Survey Results for Fall 2020 Teaching – COVID-19

Dear members,
 
We want to thank you for participating in last week’s survey on teaching using unconventional means. Over 36 hours, 55.5 percent (704) of APUO members participated in our survey. We are grateful for the time you took to complete the survey during this busy time. The survey results will strengthen our position as we continue to negotiate letters of understanding (LOUs) with the Central Administration to ensure our members have all the tools necessary to prepare and deliver quality courses for the Fall 2020 semester.
 
In particular, we want to thank members for their support as we continue to navigate these uncertain times. Ninety-two percent (92%) of members who participated in the survey said they support the “APUO’s goal of negotiating a collective operational framework for Fall 2020 teaching covering the resources allocated to professors who will accept temporarily teaching using unconventional means (distance and/or online teaching), either entirely or partially.” Our goal is to ensure our members have fair and equitable working conditions and the tools necessary to deliver the University’s educational mandate successfully.
 
For those of you interested in reviewing the survey results, they can be found here. We thank members for taking the time to provide additional comments, and the APUO is currently reviewing them to further inform our negotiations with the Central Administration. 

2020-2021 Workload Letters

Dear members,
 
We write to you today to share a letter that the APUO President has sent to the Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs regarding the 2020-2021 workload Addendum sent to APUO members by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts. We understand that APUO members in other faculties have also received similar communications. 
 
The APUO forcefully rejects this unilateral approach, especially as we have been making repeated attempts to cooperate with the Central Administration to identify the best course of action for the coming weeks and months in the form of letters of understandings (LOUs).
 
We know that the quality of teaching and the student experience are intimately linked to the working conditions of professors. Our working conditions have a direct impact on our students’ learning conditions. This is especially true in a context as difficult as the one we are facing. It is urgent and imperative that the Central Administration work with the APUO to determine an appropriate, fair, and effective general framework for the delivery of courses for the 2020-2021 academic year.
 
In the event that the Central Administration keeps delaying the signature of a formal agreement with the APUO, it is our responsibility to inform members of their rights regarding changes to their workload assignments after May 1.  
 
Some key points we wish to highlight are:
 

  • Deans must provide members with their official workload assignments prior to May 1.
  • The addendum sent by the Dean of Arts – or any similar communication – does not officially modify your workload assignment. It is simply an announcement of possible changes to come. 
  • After May 1, Deans must consult members prior to modifying their workload assignments. 
  • Changing the teaching format of a course from in-class to a class taught via an unconventional method (remote, teleconference, online) qualifies as a modification to a workload assignment.   
  • Members should be provided with an opportunity to express their views regarding any suggested changes to their teaching load. Following this consultation process, the Dean may send an updated workload assignment to the member. 
  • Courses taught via unconventional methods may be included in a member’s workload only with their prior consent
  • The Employer must provide members with the necessary IT support and technological resources if a member agrees to teach a course using unconventional methods.
  • If members disagree with their updated workload assignment, they have ten working days to file a letter of disagreement. Should you feel the need to file a letter of disagreement, we encourage you to do so in consultation with the APUO.

 
Should you have any other questions or concerns regarding your workload letters, do not hesitate to communicate with the APUO. 
 
The APUO 

LOU on Student Evaluations during COVID-19

Dear members,

First, on behalf of the APUO Executive Committee and administrative team, we hope that you and your loved ones are doing well during these difficult times. 
 
Three weeks ago, the Central Administration gave APUO members 48 hours to convert their courses to online and distance education courses, demanding an exceptional effort. In a time of great instability, at a time of year when everyone is carrying the weight of the academic year coming to an end, and when many are now caring for their children full time while homeschooling them, you have lived up to great expectations. The conversion occurred very quickly, and countless efforts were made to ensure the best possible educational experience and to provide guidance and reassurance to our students. Such efforts are not without their impact and consequences on the life, relationships and health of each and every one of us.
 
Under these circumstances, you will not be surprised to know that we have received a particularly high volume of communications from you about the letters of agreement we have proposed to the Central Administration. We thank you very much for this feedback. Your comments, concerns, encouragement, criticism and suggestions are extremely valuable to us. 
 
We are therefore pleased to announce that we have finalized a first letter of agreement with the Central Administration regarding student evaluations of teaching.
 
No A Report will be produced for the 2020 Winter and Spring/Summer semesters. However, the University will produce a personal report for members containing the results of the questions and student comments. Since A Reports will not be produced, student responses to the questions in the 2020 Winter and Spring/Summer surveys cannot be used to make decisions or recommendations regarding a member’s career, except in cases where members decide to add some of the data from their personal report to their promotion and/or tenure file.
 
Finally, please be advised that we are continuing intensive discussions with the Central Administration regarding the remaining letters of understanding. We will inform you as soon as new agreements are reached.
 
The APUO Executive Committee

LOU – Student Evaluations during COVID-19

Dear members,

First, on behalf of the APUO Executive Committee and administrative team, we hope that you and your loved ones are doing well during these difficult times. 
 
Three weeks ago, the Central Administration gave APUO members 48 hours to convert their courses to online and distance education courses, demanding an exceptional effort. In a time of great instability, at a time of year when everyone is carrying the weight of the academic year coming to an end, and when many are now caring for their children full time while homeschooling them, you have lived up to great expectations. The conversion occurred very quickly, and countless efforts were made to ensure the best possible educational experience and to provide guidance and reassurance to our students. Such efforts are not without their impact and consequences on the life, relationships and health of each and every one of us.
 
Under these circumstances, you will not be surprised to know that we have received a particularly high volume of communications from you about the letters of agreement we have proposed to the Central Administration. We thank you very much for this feedback. Your comments, concerns, encouragement, criticism and suggestions are extremely valuable to us. 
 
We are therefore pleased to announce that we have finalized a first letter of agreement with the Central Administration regarding student evaluations of teaching.
 
No A Report will be produced for the 2020 Winter and Spring/Summer semesters. However, the University will produce a personal report for members containing the results of the questions and student comments. Since A Reports will not be produced, student responses to the questions in the 2020 Winter and Spring/Summer surveys cannot be used to make decisions or recommendations regarding a member’s career, except in cases where members decide to add some of the data from their personal report to their promotion and/or tenure file.
 
Finally, please be advised that we are continuing intensive discussions with the Central Administration regarding the remaining letters of understanding. We will inform you as soon as new agreements are reached.
 
The APUO Executive Committee

Results – Executive Elections 2020-2021

Dear APUO Members,

The Nominations and Elections Committee hereby presents the 2020-2021 APUO Executive Committee. Each position received only one nomination. As a result, each candidate has been elected by acclamation. The mandate for Executive Committee positions is for one (1) year, beginning July 1, 2020.

The President’s mandate ends on June 30, 2021, therefore there was no election for the presidency.  In addition, in accordance with Article 6.1.2 of the Constitution and By-lawsthe position of past-president refers to the immediate past president unless that person cannot or will not serve on the Executive Committee, therefore it is not an elected position.

APUO EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE 2020-2021

President (2019-2021): Dimitrios KARMIS (School of Political Studies)
Past-President (2019-2021)Susan SPRONK (School of International Development and Global Studies)
 

 First Vice-President
  JACOB, Jean Daniel Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences
Hiring date : July 1, 2009
Nomination form
 Second Vice-President
  PARÉ, Daniel Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Faculty of Arts
Hiring date : July 1, 2003
Nomination form
 Secretary-Treasurer
  HATHERILL, Jeanette Scholarly Communication Librarian, Library
Hiring date : October 3, 2011
Nomination form
 Mobilization Officer
  GIROUX, Dalie Associate Professor, School of Political Studies,
Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences
Hiring date : July 1, 2003
Nomination form
 Equity Officer
  RAJIVA, Mythili Associate Professor, Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences
Hiring date : July 1, 2012
Nomination form
 Academic Officer
  MONTPETIT, Colin Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science
Hiring date : August 1, 2007
Nomination form
 Officer-at-Large
  BLAIR, Jennifer Associate Professor, Department of English, Faculty of Arts
Hiring date : July 1, 2008
Nomination form

 
The Nominations and Elections Committee

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.

Winter 2020 Semester Amid COVID-19

Dear APUO members, 
 
On March 13, President Jacques Frémont announced that “as of Wednesday, March 18, 2020, all in-person classes and labs in the current (winter 2020) term will be moved to distance and online learning formats for the rest of the semester.” In light of this decision and the many problems it poses for members of the university community, particularly students and professors, we are informing APUO members that:
 

  1. On March 17, the APUO submitted four letters of understanding to the Employer by which, if signed by both parties, the rights and responsibilities of APUO members in the performance of their duties would be recognized and assured, notwithstanding exceptional circumstances. One of the more urgent letters states 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. On March 19, we are still negotiating with the Employer about the terms of this proposed letter of understanding.

 

  1. Please also be advised that academic freedom and good professional judgement remain our best guides when it comes to determining the terms and conditions for the completion of courses that up to recently were taught in-person, while respecting students’ rights and upholding the professional standards of our various disciplines. It is equally important to note that APUO members are not required to adopt or adhere to a specific or narrow definition of what “distance education” means, nor are they required to report to their respective deans for the decisions they make in this regard.

 

  1. We invite our members to consult the Collective Agreement, in particular, Articles 9 (Academic Freedom) and 22.2.3.1 (Provisions applying specifically to certain types of teaching). 

 
This means: (i) you are not required to create online courses if you think that this is not appropriate for your teaching; and (ii) 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.
 
In summary, we encourage you to exercise, in the decisions you make about the completion of courses in the winter session – and possibly in the preparation of courses in the spring and summer semesters if the exceptional circumstances we are experiencing continue – your full rights, guaranteed by the collective agreement.
 
In the difficult exceptional circumstances that we are currently experiencing, we wish to reiterate that we fully trust our members’ professional judgment and want to assure you of our unconditional support. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
 
The APUO Executive

Mental Health at the University of Ottawa

Before we dive into our analysis of the challenges relating to mental health at the University of Ottawa, the APUO wishes to extend its deepest condolences to those who knew one of the five students lost in the last months. We encourage members seeking support in this difficult time to connect with the available resources, including the Employee and Family Assistance Program
 
We also call on members to share any information they may have on the whereabouts of a student, Jonathan Blanchette, who has been missing since Thursday, with the Gatineau Police Service by calling (819) 246-0222.
 
In the last months, the University of Ottawa has lost five students by suicide, shedding light on a major problem on our campus and more broadly in our society. In response to media requests, the Central Administration claimed that it is doing “a lot”[1] to ensure that adequate services are in place to respond to the needs of students in distress. A $91.8 million surplus, a shortage of campus mental health resources, and a distressed student kicked out of residence tell a different story. Students and University personnel testimonies also paint a different picture of the reality on campus.
 
This January marked the 7th edition of the University of Ottawa Wellness Week. Held from January 20 to 24, the Wellness Week offered zootherapy, yoga and meditation classes, and promoted its financial aid program and the Student Academic Success Service (SASS), among other events. While useful, these resources tend to address mental health issues on campus as purely individual issues and to neglect their structural and systemic components, whether it is the pressure associated with the rising cost of tuition fees, the fact that SASS is operating beyond its capacity, poor students-professor and students-librarian ratios, or the increasing workload of professors, librarians, and support staff. Mental health can’t be isolated from its context.[2] In light of the cumulative financial surplus over the last decade, it is clear for the APUO that the Central Administration can and should reconsider its approach to mental health. 
 
During last year’s APUO Listening Tour, members across all faculties have shared that their growing workload has had a negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. Along with the challenges associated with a growing workload, members have expressed grave concerns for the welfare of their students, noting a spike in academic accommodation requests, and in the number of students who appear distressed in their (increasingly large) classes. The shortage of on-campus resources and the long waits to see mental health professionals are only aggravated by limited coverage for mental health services in both the student health plan and in the employee benefits package.
 
For several years, students and APUO members have been demanding more resources to meet the mental health needs of our community. Last fall, the APUO reached out to the organisers of the Wellness Week and offered to deliver a series of “Know Your Rights” workshops for members who may need workplace accommodations. Our offer was rejected because “it did not fall under one of the seven Wellness Week pillars,” revealing our institution’s narrow perspective when it comes to dealing with the challenges stemming from Mental Health on campus.  
 
We must also express our concern with the fact that the campus Wellness Week was followed up by a strange week-long Scientology exhibition titled “Psychiatry: an industry of death.” The controversial exhibition caused student outrage and protests. Indeed, students expressed concerns about the pseudo-scientific character of the exhibition, which reinforced stigma towards those diagnosed with particular mental health disorders and requiring therapy or prescription medication. The APUO is concerned that the Central Administration allowed the exhibition to take place – especially in the current context – and urges it to carefully consider the consequences associated with welcoming such exhibition on a university campus. 
 
The uOttawa Gazette of January 28 stated that “President Frémont has asked Provost and Vice-President, Academic Affairs Jill Scott to […] lead a newly created Advisory Committee on Mental Health. The Provost will also undertake a listening tour of the campus to hear from members of the uOttawa community.” We welcome this initiative and encourage the Provost to take all the time needed for such an important exercise. The APUO Listening Tour organized about thirty meetings in academic units and took almost a year. It is difficult to imagine that a listening tour of all the stakeholders on campus could do less than that.
 
The APUO will be joining the students’ union and other labour unions in the coming weeks to develop a list of demands to be presented to the Central Administration, as well as to discuss our own initiatives about mental health on campus.
 
You can find a critique of the University of Ottawa’s Wellness Week published in the students’ French newspaper, La Rotonde. 
 
For a list of on and off-campus resources to share with students, please consult the following link.

 
[1] Elizabeth Payne for the Ottawa Citizen, After four student suicides, uOttawa group demands better mental health services, December 12, 2019
[2] The report of the Campus Action Group on Mental Health and Wellness released in January is also characterized by a narrow perspective that tends to neglect the structural and systemic components of mental health issues.