“Best in North America”:

VCCFA Collective Agreement Provisions for Non-regulars

By Diane Walsh, Member-At-Large (Contact)

The February 2013 edition of University Affairs highlights Vancouver Community College Faculty Association (one of our fellow FPSE members) because of their working conditions for non-regular faculty. In the Editor’s note, the VCC faculty collective agreement is called “the best in North America,” and in a feature article it is called “the gold standard” for sessionals.

The article, “Sessionals, up close,” provides a comparison of sessionals’ working conditions in selected universities in Canada. The working conditions are compared with the VCC faculty collective agreement terms, and the comparison makes it pretty clear that sessionals, who comprise a significant proportion of faculty members in postsecondary institutions across Canada, are doing better at VCC. Most of the terms of the VCC Faculty Collective Agreement are the same as the Kwantlen Faculty Collective Agreement, with a few exceptions. Salary scale provisions are one of the notable exceptions because all VCC faculty members enjoy a single salary scale while Kwantlen faculty members do not.

While there appear to be no definitive statistics available on the use of non-regular faculty in Canada, the article suggests that there has been an increase in use of non-regulars across North America. This increase is tied directly to declines in funding as, according to the article, non-regulars are seen as “a cheaper and more flexible work force.” It is little wonder that poor working conditions for non-regulars are also tied to low morale, according to the article.

It’s interesting to note that an ongoing research project, The Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, is looking at the nature of changes in the professoriate in the U.S. and what effects the changes are having on student outcomes. Positive effects on student learning outcomes are associated with some characteristics of a supportive workplace and institutional climate. These characteristics include better defined hiring practices, increased job security, and greater equity in compensation.  (The study is a partnership between the University of Southern California and the AAC&U and includes more than thirty participants from across higher education. It is funded by The Spencer Foundation, The Teagle Foundation and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.)

So in other words, better working conditions for non-regulars are not just of benefit to non-regular faculty members. Better conditions for non-regulars means a better climate in the institution as well as better educational outcomes for students.

One of these things is very much like the other:

Kwantlen’s Senate under the University Act and Education Councils under the Colleges & Institutes Act

By Diane Walsh, Member-At-Large (Contact)

Since Kwantlen became KPU, there has been some confusion about the function of the various governance structures within Kwantlen, particularly about the Kwantlen Senate.

In function though not in name, Kwantlen’s senate closely resembles an education council as that body is defined under the Colleges & Institutes Act. Even though the name of the body was changed to “senate,” the senates of the other institutions named under the University Act are quite different from the senates of Kwantlen and the other special purpose, teaching universities.

Composition. The composition of the Kwantlen Senate, found under section 35.2 (2) of the University Act, is somewhat different from that of an education council in that education councils have defined ratios for various types of members and half of those must be faculty members. Furthermore, the president and the board appointee are both non-voting members of education councils, while the president is a voting member and designated chair of the senate of a special purpose, teaching university.  There are much greater differences in the composition of the special purpose, teaching university’s senates and that of the senates of all other institutions designated as universities under the University Act. The others require that faculty members outnumber the designated administrators on their senates by a ratio of 2 to 1, but this is not the case for the special purpose, teaching universities.

Powers and Duties.  The powers and duties of the Kwantlen Senate under the University Act section 35.2 (5) and (6) closely resemble those of education councils under the Colleges & Institutes Act, and the wording in the articles is almost exactly the same in most parts. There are just three slight differences. The first two differences are the power and duty to “set qualifications for admission,” and to “set policies on curriculum evaluation.” The first is from the part of the Colleges & Institutes  Act referring to matters upon which education councils should advise the board (section 23 of the Colleges & Institutes Act) and the other is from matters for joint approval (section 25 of the Colleges & Institutes Act).  All the other powers and duties are taken directly from the powers and duties of education councils.  The other item that is different is one item listed under the matters upon which senate must advise the board and the board must seek advice. This additional item is the duty to advise on “the establishment or discontinuance of faculties” which resembles 37 (1) (i), “to recommend to the board the establishment or discontinuance of any faculty (…).”

The wording in the two acts, the Colleges & Institutes Act and the University Act, makes it obvious that the Kwantlen Senate far more closely resembles an education council than it does the senates of SFU, UBC, UNBC, or UVic.