Century Club

I am struggling with the notion of the Century Club.  It indicates age or rather aging bodies.  There’s no certificate from the Queen for having crossed the 100 line nor is there any personal pride.  All it does is say that I have taught 100 courses in a system of exploitation.  And having taught now more than 100 classes means that I have done so with relative approvability.  I have performed compliance adequately enough to warrant another course. I’m not proud of this.  Really what it does for me is bring to the foreground all the hurts, the struggle and the fears that I won’t survive.

Last week the CBC reported on the case of a woman employed by the City of Toronto who worked hard in a variety of positions that supported people living on the margins and did so without any guarantee that she would ever have secure work or benefits but the outcome for her is that she now lives with PTSD. I understand the cost precarity has played on her life.

I wish that you had called the Century Club something else or issued an accompanying statement with it drawing a line to the exploitation used by a system that prospers under the use of the bodies of others.

That I have taught more than 100 courses at Laurier is not a victory.   I wonder how many people have been missed in this counting who must travel from one university to another for their employment.   How many tenure track and tenured faculty in as many years have taught this many courses without worry of whether they would be feeding their family without making the call to the Food Bank?  This is the first time I have been entered into a club and since I don’t know the club members or what we’re to do as members I am bereft of explanation.  This admittance into a space I had not designed nor requested comes with shame and anger.  Shame because of 18 years of getting the message that I’m not good enough for a tenured position and anger that my labour has been used for profit by all levels of the university starting with my program and ending with the institution as a whole.

This term, in a program review I was told once again by the reviewer that I am replaceable and it’s not about me.  That’s right we are to assume an objective stance of distance and ignore that this thing called “quality teaching” is only possible when good people with incredible skills are acknowledged. People with names. The meeting was about ignoring me and what I have done but use my contributions in the argument for sustaining the program. How easy it is to say that it’s about the program as though it exists outside the hands of actual people when the person saying that has secure work. Their economic security comes out in their polite silencing of me when I argue that they could practice their feminism and fight for the security of the people who have done the toil of building the program.  I wish instead that the reviewer had said – “You are valuable. You bring critical skills to the program and to the experience of students so we will argue for a program that holds the people who make it possible in better security.”

My voice was politely dismissed under the guise that I don’t understand the restraints they as reviewers are under. I had to work hard not to creep away from that experience feeling once again that I wasn’t quite good enough.

I’m 57 years old and I need to have employment for at least another ten years.  So, I wonder what club I will enter into next.  I have spent most of my life without benefits and without knowing from one term to the next if I will be able to pay my bills.  My debt load mounts each year.  Those of us who live in precarity say these words too often to people who nod their heads in sympathy but the building of relationships that will do something more pressingly important doesn’t happen. We don’t know how to take care of each other that recognizes ways to use our own privilege for others. We don’t want to give up what we have and hand it over to others.  Some days it seems that too many just want more for themselves which means ignoring the “problem children” around them.

Here is what you need to know as well because I want to return to the CBC report that came out last week. This workplace system endangers our lives in ways that for the most part we don’t want others to know about. Too many of us live with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression all the result of a work life that doesn’t care that it is destroying our personhood. But to keep the job that emotional despair has to be kept under wraps. And of course, such a work life doesn’t remain only in the workplace, it seeps into our personal lives, as we try to figure out how not to put weight on our personal relationships.  But we do. The economic bind works well with the hidden messaging about our worth and our disposability. This is power functioning at its best.

Could we leave the university? Yes, but where would we go?  Because we’re not good enough for the university we’re not good enough for any other place either and for some like me the feasibility of other options is lesser because we aren’t 30 anymore.

I’m asking you to take this notion of the Century Club and apply some features to it that make visible the damage from exploitation. Turn it into a political tool. But don’t do it without us.    If this is a club then we all need to be part of the actions that move from it.

 

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Letter responding to the “strategic new directions for teaching and learning” from the Faculty of Arts

(Posted with permission from Jonathan Finn.)

Deb MacLatchy, Vice President: Academic
Paul Jessop, Acting Vice President: Academic
Kathryn Carter, Associate Vice President: Teaching and Learning

April 10, 2017

Dear Deb, Paul and Kathryn,

As the Chairs and Program Coordinators in the Faculty of Arts we are writing to express our deep concern with the March 13 announcement of the “strategic new directions for teaching and learning” at Laurier (see:
https://legacy.wlu.ca/news_detail.php?grp_id=0&nws_id=15837). We have two major concerns: first, the “new direction” places increased emphasis on student services and extra-curricular programs for students at the expense of teaching support and pedagogical development. Merging the Centre for Teaching Innovation and Excellence with the Centre for Student Success will likely result in a Centre with confused responsibilities, and the move seems to undermine the teaching mission of the University. An increased emphasis on co-curricular records, career development for students, and other student support services should not come at the expense of resources that directly support teaching.

The second issue of concern is the firing of three long-serving, well-respected Laurier employees: Gail Roth (Manager, Community Service Learning), Lisa Fanjoy (Manager, Online Learning), and Jeanette McDonald (Manager, Faculty Programming). We became aware of the firings through word-of-mouth which is insulting to those whose jobs were terminated as well as to those of us who have worked closely with these valuable staff members over our careers at Laurier. The way in which this “new direction” was announced, with no mention made of jobs eliminated, and no ability to speak with those who were fired, flies in the face of the strong sense of community and collegiality Laurier actively promotes as core to its institutional identity.

Gail Roth was central to the early development and expansion of a key pillar in Laurier’s strategic plan – experiential learning grounded in community engagement – and to its integration into the academic life at Laurier. Gail and her team created a large network of community contacts, formalized the process of Community Service Learning in order to ensure that it was pedagogically sound through new online tools, and brought the non-profit sector more closely into contact with Laurier’s internal workings. For those of us who wanted to build CSL into our courses, she provided critical support. Gail was essential to the establishment of several key initiatives and programs in the Faculty of Arts including our popular and innovative Community Engagement Option.

Lisa Fanjoy was at the heart of early efforts to expand Laurier’s means of delivering its offerings. She worked actively with departments to encourage the creation of online courses and support faculty as they undertook this challenging process. She made herself readily available in order to coordinate between members of development teams and faculty members, and she was adept at explaining the online development process in plain and clear language. She played a lead role in the establishment of the first fully online degree in the Faculty of Arts, offered through the Department of Religion and Culture. One of Lisa’s many strengths was her ability to build a network of relationships in Arts that would help to achieve the university’s goals; it has been quite clear that her absence recently has coincided with a lack of ideal communication, coordination, and support in this area.

We are particularly shocked and disheartened with the firing of Jeanette McDonald because she is a highly regarded figure in the field of teaching and learning in Canada. In addition to over 10 published articles on teaching and learning and numerous conference presentations and workshops, Jeanette is the recipient of several awards. For example, in 2013 she won the President’s Award for Team Achievement at Laurier. In 2014 she was co-winner of the Pat Rogers Poster Prize at the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. And, most recently, in 2016 she was awarded the highly prestigious Distinguished Educational Development Career Award from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. As described on the STLHE website, the award “recognizes individuals for their contributions and leadership in educational development at the local provincial and national levels.” Given Jeanette’s considerable achievements, and her excellent reputation among faculty at Laurier, it is truly shocking that her job was declared redundant and her position terminated. No other person in CTIE has Jeanette’s expertise. Jeanette has been a tireless supporter of teaching and learning at Laurier and has been an invaluable resource for faculty whether they are new to the university, mid-career or senior members. As faculty members we rely on Jeanette’s expertise to become better teachers, something that is of direct benefit to our many thousands of students. Firing Jeanette was a monumental oversight.

We are troubled by the “strategic new directions for teaching and learning” at Laurier, specifically the cutting of valuable teaching support services and the firing of staff members. We ask that you re-introduce a robust network of support for teaching at the University, staffed by experts in the field. And we hope that future decision-making on the teaching and learning mission of the University will be considerably more collegial and collaborative.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Finn, Communication Studies
Deborah Van Nijnatten, Political Science
Meena Sharify-Funk, Religion and Culture
Robin Waugh, English and Film Studies
Darren Mulloy, History
John Triggs, Archaeology and Heritage Studies
Chris Nighman, Medieval Studies
Alex Latta, Global Studies
Sharon Marquart, Women and Gender Studies
Natasha Pravaz, Anthropology
Nathalie Freidel, Languages and Literatures
Rebekah Johnston, Philosophy
Lucy Luccisano, Sociology

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Mental health: helping our students

(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2017 5.2.)

By Anne-Marie Allison, Mathematics

The recent suicides of students at nearby universities (two at UW and four at UG this academic year) are a somber reminder of the profound importance of student mental health and campus resources.

Last month at the second High Incidence Disabilities in Higher Education Conference, Hara Estroff Marano focused on the increasing prevalence of depression, anxiety, (perceived) stress, and emotional dysregulation among college and university students in her talk ‘Crisis U’. “College students in North America are reporting unprecedented levels of stress and experiencing serious symptoms of mental distress, from depression and persistent suicidal ideation to self-mutilation and panic attacks. Campus counseling centers find that problems are not only common, and growing more common by the year, but severe and growing more severe.” She, like many others, underscores the importance of addressing the student mental health crisis occurring across our campuses.

Faculty are an important point of contact for students and they require now more than ever the skills, the support and well-defined resources to assist students who may be struggling. Dr. Shekhar Saxena, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organization says, “For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery.” Faculty should be afforded collaborative assistance when they seek help on behalf of their students.

While most faculty genuinely care about their students’ well-being, institutional factors can make getting this message across to students next to impossible. Growing class sizes work against students making connections with their professors. Fewer full-time hires and the University’s ethos of ‘do more with less’ in response to the ever increasing faculty administrative load severely limits the time faculty have available to interact with students. Precariously employed Contract Faculty teach a majority of students and are often responsible for larger classes. Usually without individual offices, they lack adequate access to meeting spaces to meet with students privately. These institutional barriers can deter vulnerable students who want to reach out, no matter how approachable their professors may be.

Have you encountered situations with a student(s) where they asked for help or you thought they needed help? Have you found the resources on campus sufficient or lacking? Do you know what happens when you start the ball rolling on getting your student the help they need? Read on…

 

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Century club inductees

(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2017 5.2.)

Having taught 100 or more courses at Laurier is worthy of recognition in and of itself but, when that milestone is reached by a Contract Faculty member it is a testament to their on-going commitment to their teaching, their students and to Laurier.

In recognition, WLUFA will be honouring the newest Contract Faculty members to reach this impressive mark at the Spring Wine and Cheese. Their names will be added to the 11 Contract Faculty members already inducted into WLUFA’s ‘Century Club’.

Congratulations to Helen Ramirez, Elin Edwards, Angela Trimarchi and Kathy Foxall.

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6 Some days I feel overwhelmed

By Kimberly Ellis-Hale , Sociology
Some days I feel overwhelmed. Between students asking for support and understanding, Accessible Learning’s term-long student accommodation updates, Dean of Student’s requests for additional student-related consideration, and URGENT-student-related-notices, I very rarely feel that I have a handle on this side of teaching.
Maybe I am feeling this way because of my course load or student numbers or the tragedies at the Universities of Guelph and Waterloo, or the increase in the percent-
age of students, who require, ask or need more than just a review of their latest assessment. Whatever the reason, I am not alone in feeling the increased pressure
that mounting student mental health concerns has created across the post-secondary sector.
Results of the 2016 National College Health Assessment (NCHA II) Ontario Canada Reference Group’s survey of more than 25,000 Ontario post-secondary students indicate that rates of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts have increased since 2013.
According to Meg Houghton, president of the Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA), campus mental health care providers are not only seeing increased severity and complexity of student mental health care needs, but also a broadening of the demands for their services which now often include supporting “significant diagnoses, trauma counselling and crises (Ontario campus counsellors say they’re drowning in mental health needs http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/mental-health-ontario-campus-crisis-1.3771682).”
With words like ‘increasing’, ‘crisis’ and ‘overwhelming’ liberally interspersed in conversations and news reports on the situation faced by Ontario colleges and universities, it is not surprizing that the mental health care needs of students has out-
stripped the post-secondary sector’s capacity to meet the increasing demand. Perhaps that’s why the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) has recently announced that it will provide additional funding starting in 2017-18 to assist with the costs of hiring added mental health service providers at all publicly funded colleges and universities.
Laurier is not immune. Between 2014/15 and 2016/17, the Waterloo campus’ Wellness Centre experienced an almost 20 percent increase in student mental health care visits and, according to the centre’s Director, Karen Ostrander, the numbers continue to
climb. When combined with the peak demand periods of end of October to mid- November and end of February until the end of March, students often have to wait
several weeks just for an initial appointment. That is not to say that the Centre won’t see students in crisis, but rather that their same-day appointment slots are limited.
While the Wellness Centre’s approach to student health is multidisciplinary—providing access to family physicians, one consulting psychiatrist, registered nurses, Master’s level trained counsellors, a dedicated mental health nurse, a case management and outreach
counsellor and a gendered violence advocate (through the Diversity and Equity Office)—
there are many things it is not.
The Laurier Wellness Centre is not an emergency service. It is not equipped to provide long term counselling support. It does not provide specialized mental health services. More egregiously, however, is that it is not available to support students outside of ‘regular working hours’. If only mental health issues were compliant!
Outside of ‘regular working hours’, the Blue Folder (see article by Leanne Holland Brown this issue) recommends that faculty contact Special Constable Services (SCS) if they are concerned about a student’s safety or the safety of others. According to Karen Sider, SCS’ Administrative Assistant, members receive initial specialized training on the Ontario Mental Health Act (1990) (which they have the authority to enforce), participate
in Laurier’s Mental Health and First Aid training, and have access to online de-escalation, suicide awareness and prevention, drugs and psychosis, etc. training through the Canadian Police Knowledge Network. Important training, indeed, given that the SCS not only appears frequently as the first point of contact in the Blue Folder but also because it has expanded its mandate.
In partnership with others on campus—some more easily identifiable than others—the SCS is a member of two specialized teams mobilized when either a student is said to be in extreme distress or it has been determined that the student’s behaviour is disruptive
or threatening. The first of these is the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) which is described as a ‘student support team’ providing “early intervention and elevated levels of support for students exhibiting disruptive or concerning behaviour” and “aim[s] to foster conditions for student support, success and safety through assessment, interven-
tion and coordination” (see the Blue Folder). The second is the Threat Assessment and Prevention Team (TAPT) whose role, as described in the HR & Compensation Meeting minutes of Tuesday January 24, 2017, is to “triage, assess and report on violent behaviour by employees or students.” Under the direction of Safety, Health, Environment & Risk
Management (SHERM), its advantage is in cost savings and outcome control accrued by keeping it in-house rather than hiring external professionals.
The difficulty with these ‘Teams’ as they are currently configured, and with online form-
based programs like the At Risk Student Reporting, is that there is very little clarity regarding the processes that faculty may have initiated. Given the lack of available information about such approaches and the termination of the faculty member’s involvement, many faculty either hesitate to initiate or, for those who do, are left wondering just what they have given license to.
Let’s hope that at a minimum there is greater transparency in all aspects of SHERM’s proposed changes to the way Laurier students, staff and faculty are handled under its Violent Risk Assessment and Management. But given that the proposed changes, found on page 175 of the 176 page April 10th, 2017 Senate Agenda Package, provide little in
the way of detail, it may be unlikely. Of equal, if not greater, concern in the proposed amalgamation of BIT and TAPT is the apparent loss of BIT’s said focus on providing a safe and supportive environment for students.
So, what are faculty to do in the face of increasing mental health concerns among students? If there was a clear, easy answer to that you would be reading something else.
Faculty can take advantage of the various training opportunities (see Leanne Holland Brown’s article this issue). Though having completed the Mental Health First Aid training, I was astonished at the expectation that we know all our students well

enough to discern slight shifts in their behaviours. (This feat is unimaginable for growing class sizes, let alone the ‘do more with less’ environment faculty face.) And I was frankly horrified by the depiction of those with major mood disorders as threats.
There are the pathways laid out in the Blue Folder, extensions to dial and forms to submit but know that while these steps are easy, they are all missing their disclaimers: our Wellness Centre is stretched, on-campus counselling is restricted to working hours, off-campus resources may provide little comfort (especially for first-year students living away from home for the first time), online form-filling is some-what suspect, training often confers a false sense of security and unclear lines of responsibility, SCS may
seem too much while BIT, and especially TAPT (and who knows about the new Teams), appear to be downright heavy-handed. Until there is greater clarity around intent, opportunities for involvement, information regarding process and clear statements about responsibly and student-desirable mental health outcomes rather than University cost savings and risk reduction, caution is needed–at least for our students’ sakes.
What am I going to do? I will continue to show genuine interest in and concern for as many of my hundreds of students each term as I can. I will demand more infor-
mation before I submit a form or call in the troops. I will advocate for the spending of Laurier’s annual $100,000 MAESD money to be directed towards the hiring of after-hours and weekends mental health service providers. I will hold my university responsible
for the mental health needs of our students–after all, they are part of our Laurier family now right? And I will continue to seek out and talk with people who are also genuinely concerned about students to buoy myself when I am feeling overwhelmed.
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WLUFA equity and diversity town hall a success

(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2017 5.2.)

By Laurie Jacklin , Society, Culture & Environment & Michele Kramer, President

The issue of equity has been on most faculty association agendas for quite some time, but it has only been in the fairly recent past that equity has been closely scrutinized as something that needs addressing beyond pay-scales and gender. WLUFA is proud to be among a very short list of associations that have decided to institute an Equity and Diversity Committee as part of their association committee roster. The idea was to have a committee that was different from other University-driven equity and diversity committees in that this committee would find ways to foster and support, specifically, our diverse faculty complement. Additionally, a WLUFA Equity and Diversity Committee would be charged with looking into how the language of our collective agreements themselves may or may not produce barriers to an equitable workplace.

Naively, we believed that the way forward was fairly clear but, as many of you know, putting this committee into place has not been without its difficulties. One of the greatest of these was the (justified) criticism that our newly-constituted Equity and Diversity Committee didn’t seem all that “diverse”. Of course, WLUFA had its challenges here: of the approximately one thousand faculty members registered with WLUFA, only a very small handful offered their services –and so the Committee was convened mainly by acclamation. It was, however, this acclamation, and the criticisms of it, that lead to the committee’s inaugural town-hall mediated by York University’s Carl James which, overall, has been seen as an enormous success.

Though the town hall was originally called in order to discuss how, exactly, the WLUFA E&D Committee should come together, its focus quickly shifted to why the committee really needs to be an essential part of our Association’s mandate. Numerous faculty members stepped up to the microphone in order to discuss their (often painful) struggles and the need for change, rather than to debate the details about the structure of the committee. For WLUFA, this fact alone reinforces the notion that it’s not who is on the committee that matters, it’s that the committee is seen as a needed resource for WLUFA members.

According to Laurie Jacklin, a member of the WLUFA Equity and Diversity Committee, the WLUFA E&D members are now, “invigorated and enthusiastic about the success of our Town Hall meeting. We also realize the enormity of the initiative(s) required to transform WLU attitudes, policies, and cultures into a positive environment that is welcoming for all faculty, regardless of our race/ethnicity, gender identity/expressions, age, (dis) ability, creed, sex, sexual orientation, and employment status”.

WLUFA is looking forward to hearing about the recommendations that our Equity and Diversity Committee brings to our Executive table.

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Full-time faculty and Librarians meet your Negotiating Team!

(This article is from the WLUFA Advocate April 2017 5.2.)

  • Azim Essaji, Economics, Co-chair
  • Sheila McKee-Protopapas, ED, Co-chair
  • Andrew Herman, Communications
  • Glenda Wall, Sociology
  • Joanne Oud, Library

With the June 30th expiry of the Collective Agreement (CA) for Full-Time Faculty and Librarians and negotiations expected to begin in the spring, your negotiating team is already hard at work. The first members’ survey was sent out at the beginning of March (thank you to those who completed it), Faculty-based meetings are in the final planning stages and work on developing proposals to take to the table is underway.

While earlier employee group negotiations were particularly challenging and the team is ready for that, WLUFA is hopeful that this round of contract talks for Full-Time Faculty and Librarians will be constructive and mutually beneficial.

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