Last updated March 22, 2022.
Current member concerns and questions
Here's what we know about some of the key questions you've been asking. The Lecturers Committee also prepared a COVID FAQ for its January 27 town hall meeting.
Full answers to the 24 questions we forwarded to the administration in mid-February are available here: Answers to faculty members' COVID questions, February 2022.
Teaching/working in person
- If you have a health condition that puts you at risk, you need to go to Occupational Health to get a medical accommodation.
- For accommodations based on Family Status (e.g., if you're caring for a high-risk family/household member), you need to submit a request to your dean.
- There is a work refusal process to address unresolved concerns where work is thought to be unsafe after consulting with your chair.
Outside of these processes, all of the legal information we have from CAUT and OCUFA indicates that you can’t refuse to teach in person as long as the University is following public health guidelines.
Classroom guidelines and safety measures
Students missing classes
At the President’s Forum on February 2, it was made clear in the Q&A and by the Provost that when students who need to self-isolate, the accommodation from instructors should be the same as normal for missed classes due to illness:
“For most instructors in most courses, their plans for accommodation due to students self-isolating will be similar to the accommodation that would be provided to students who have to miss some classes due to illness, family emergency, or other legitimate reasons. Waterloo instructors and student support staff routinely show compassion and caring for their students and provide means for such students to succeed in their courses when these events beyond their control happen to them. We encourage everyone to be compassionate during this period of transition.”
It was also made clear that there is no expectation or obligation for instructors to accommodate students who are not specifically self-isolating or ill, but who are otherwise unable or unwilling to attend classes in person as of February 7. The Provost said that such students should talk to their academic advisor about their options, but that students are expected to return to campus.
Planning for your own absence
The Registrar’s Office guidelines say that if an instructor has symptoms, “generally, in-person classes do not need to be cancelled if it is possible for you and your supervisor to arrange a replacement instructor.” The University has confirmed that other arrangements are also acceptable and "will depend on the nature of the course and the particular sessions that need to be replaced" and that you should "discuss contingencies with the academic leadership of your program."
If you're not sick but fail the daily screening or otherwise need to self-isolate, you "may choose to teach a few classes remotely or provide materials and instructions for students learning."
If you are sick, you should refer to the disability management guide to learn about the sick leave process.
Vaccination, screening, contact tracing
As of March 1, the daily Campus Check-In screening is no longer required. Anyone who connects to the campus Wi-FI will still be sent an email reminder to stay home if they have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Vaccination requirement and accommodations
Everyone must provide proof of vaccination before coming to campus. You can submit your proof of vaccination or start the process for accommodation by visiting Campus Check-In.
As of May 1, proof of vaccination will no longer be required to visit campus. The University will continue to require students and employees to provide information on their up to date vaccination status in case the requirement needs to be reinstated.
- Full details about the vaccine requirement
- University memo about the consequences of non-compliance.
- Ontario Human Rights Commission's statement on vaccine mandates
There is a progressive discipline process for employees failing to meet the vaccination/disclosure mandate. As we do with all faculty undergoing discipline, the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee will work with members who approach us to assure a fair and unbiased disciplinary process including examining the appropriateness of any disciplinary measure.
Student disclosure of COVID-19
If a student tells you they have COVID, instruct the student to contact the Health Services’ COVID-19 Support and Advice service by completing this web form. As per communication from the University on April 8, 2021, you cannot legally tell anyone else about the disclosure. University and/or public health personnel will determine the level of contact tracing and communication that is appropriate, while maintaining the individual’s health privacy.
Please refer to page 8 of the COVID-19 Health and Safety Guide for more information.
Instructors and TAs generally won’t be informed if a student in their class has COVID-19, unless the situation is found to be high risk for the instructor or other students in the class. High risk contacts are defined by Public Health and include anyone with COVID-19 or symptoms who you were less than two metres away from for at least 15 minutes, or multiple shorter lengths of time, without personal protective equipment, in the past 48 hours.
Masks, rapid tests, and air quality
As of May 1, masks will no longer be required anywhere on campus, but the University still recommends wearing them in crowded areas. Te administration issued a statement on March 22 that they "expect everyone to respect the personal choices made by members of our community. Many individuals will have personal or family reasons for continuing to wear masks in public places." The University will continue to provide masks through Central Stores.
Mask supplies: The University currently provides “appropriate options for face coverings available centrally at no cost to units for employees performing essential in-person work (including teaching)", including a limited supply of N95 respirators for "individuals who may require the additional protection of an N95 respirator for source control." Departments can order non-medical masks, disposable filters, and medical masks from the Central Stores catalogue. N95s and KN95s do not need to be fit-tested unless they are required in your workplace (in other words, you can bring your own and don't need get fit-tested). You cannot use your FPER to purchase masks, but your department can order them for free.
Masks in the classroom: Masks are required at all times in classrooms. The Registrar's Office guidelines say that beverages are allowed only if a straw is used, while the COVID-19 FAQ says no drinking is allowed. References to students lowering their masks briefly to ask questions have been removed from University websites. The University has told us that mask accommodations are very rare, and that "while it is possible in theory for a student to be granted an accommodation to attend classes in-person while not wearing a mask, [they] have not granted any such accommodation to this point."
Rapid tests: The University has committed to making tests more available, including to those teaching in person, when the supply improves. They’ve also noted that rapid tests are designed to be used in frequent, serial testing programs.
Ventilation: The University has added a Ventilation Strategy page to the COVID website and says they have “implemented all recommendations for use of the air systems that are possible without fully replacing our ventilation infrastructure. The University has identified some classroom spaces with fewer than four air exchanges per hour and are rebooking classes in those rooms while doing further analysis. HEPA filter units have been ordered for use in these rooms.
Tenure and performance review
All tenure-track faculty members who started probationary appointments prior to July 1, 2021, have the option to extend their tenure clock by one year. You may make the decision to take the COVID-19 extension at any point up until your original tenure application date. We've confirmed that the COVID-19 extension is in addition to any other probationary contract extension you may be entitled to (e.g., parental or medical leave). You get the usual tenure clock extension for your leave and the one-year COVID extension.
When asked about faculty members starting on or after July 1, 2021, the administration noted that "there were few limitations to in-person research activity during the most recent lockdown. Campus access has been possible for researchers for the majority of this period."
For 2020 only, Faculty Relations Committee agreed to develop an agreement between the University and FAUW to allow faculty to choose between a regular performance review process and the process spelled out in MOA 13.5.4 (b), whereby a performance review process that does not involve evaluation of the year 2020 can be applied according to pre-established methods. MOA 13.5.4(b) outlines how performance ratings are to be assigned when it is not possible to assess performance during the evaluation period The precise details of this agreement are available on the university's Employee Communication website and were emailed to members on October 9, 2020.
The University did not agree to any pandemic provisions for 2021 and believes a case-by-case approach is sufficient. We encourage all faculty members on review committees to help ensure that the ongoing effects of the pandemic (on workload, mental health, the ability to conduct research, the teaching environment, and so on) are meaningfully accounted for in performance reviews.
Responses from the University to our recent demands
We recently asked for nine conditions to be met before more classes resumed in person. The University's email titled "Updating you on our plans to return to in-person experiences" is essentially a response to this. Here are the highlights, with some additional information from the February 2 President's Forum.
FAUW asked "that an adequate supply of N95 or KN95 respirators be provided for our members and for all members of the UWaterloo community who must be on campus."
The University has committed to “pursuing options to obtain N95 or KN95 masks and we will provide them on a limited basis for those that request them when available.”
The University currently provides “appropriate options for face coverings available centrally at no cost to units for employees performing essential in-person work (including teaching).” Departments can order non-medical masks, disposable filters and medical masks from the Central Stores catalogue.
At the February 2 President’s Forum, President Goel explained why N95s are not a panacea and other masks may be more suitable for many people.
Rapid Antigen Testing
FAUW asked "that Rapid Antigen Tests be provided to faculty who are required to be on campus as soon as they are available."
The University has committed to making tests more available, including to those teaching in person, when the supply improves. They’ve also noted that rapid tests are designed to be used in frequent, serial testing programs.
FAUW asked "that the University conduct an assessment to determine when COVID-19 booster shots should be mandatory."
The University is following public health guidance on this: “The Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH) instructions of October 5, 2021, requiring a vaccine mandate are still in effect, but the definition of fully vaccinated has not changed to include a third dose. We understand that the provincial and federal governments and the OCMOH are closely monitoring the relevant data and evidence and will continue to advise the PSE sector on this issue.”
Information about ventilation
FAUW asked "that the University provide an update about safety upgrades to campus infrastructure, including air exchange rates and carbon dioxide levels in offices, classrooms, and other spaces that have taken place since July 2021, and information about how air quality will continue to be monitored and reported to the campus community."
The University has added a Ventilation Strategy page to the COVID website.
The University says they have “implemented all recommendations for use of the air systems that are possible without fully replacing our ventilation infrastructure.
The University has identified some classroom spaces with fewer than four air exchanges per hour and are rebooking classes in those rooms while doing further analysis.
Decision making and consultation
FAUW asked "that faculty have the autonomy to consult with their students and to decide whether their courses should continue online or in-person."
The University has responded directly to this, saying: “While faculty may wish to consult with students about their preferences to understand their needs and how to address their concerns, the decision for whether courses originally scheduled to be taught in-person must be made by appropriate University officers. This is to ensure that the overall student and program level needs are considered in the decision process.”
FAUW asked "that Faculty Councils and Senate have robust discussions of the conditions required for a safe return to campus; that faculty be meaningfully consulted on decisions related to a safe return to campus and our pedagogical duties; and that until such meaningful consultation with faculty takes place, the administration stop claiming it is occurring.
The University said this about its current decision-making approach:
“This approach is also a necessity born of the pandemic, which has frequently required us to make decisions under a rapidly changing set of circumstances. Timelines and procedures for normal long-term planning – where we can consult very broadly in open forum discussion and where planning decisions can be widely known before coming effective – are not well suited to decision-making in this environment. Where conditions have allowed, we have opted to communicate our decisions as early as possible and with clarity on when the next decision must be made. We hope that this approach provides time for appropriate faculty-level planning and debate to take place.”
At the President’s Forum on Februrary 2, Provost Jim Rush admitted that much of the flow of information up to the administration probably hasn’t been visible to employees, but he insisted that they are hearing what faculty are saying, through campus leaders.
Employee survey results
FAUW asked "that the results of the recent survey asking employees how they feel about returning to campus be released to the campus community, and any parallel survey results for students."
The University has shared aggregate results from this survey. We are asking for results for faculty specifically. We have not heard anything about surveys of students or evidence of students’ desire to return to campus.
PUBLIC HEALTH: The University's coronavirus website has links to major public health sites (under "Important links" on the main page). If you want information faster, consider following those organizations on Twitter.
UNIVERSITY COMMUNICATIONS: Visit the News section of the Universty's coronavirus website for past messages to students, staff, and faculty, or the repository of mass communications to students and instructors on the Registrar's Office website.
REMOTE COURSE DELIVERY: Visit the Keep Learning website for options. You can direct questions about teaching not answered there to your associate dean.
WORKING REMOTELY: Visit the IST knowledge base for information about connecting to the campus network, your email, voicemail, and colleagues from home.
SUPPORT FOR MEMBERS: If you are struggling and need support, we encourage you to use the Employee & Family Assistance Program. Counselling is available by phone and online.
If you need help with your own working conditions, contact our Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee.
Some of this information might be out of date.
On-campus COVID-19 testing
To book a COVID-19 test on campus, fill out the online COVID-19 Assessment Registration Form and someone will contact you with an appointment time.
As of November 9, 2020, your familiy members (living at the same address) can also get tested at the campus COVID-19 testing centre at Health Services.
The University has provided T2200 tax forms, as applicable, so that employees can claim work-space-in-the-home expenses as a tax deduction. There is information about T2200s on the Human Resources website: Claiming Employment Related Expenses via a T2200 Declaration of Conditions of Employment. You can also refer to the Canada Revenue Agency page on work-space-in-the-home expenses.
Finance has a chart that explains which work-from-home expenses are eligible for FPER, a tax deduction, or both. Note that chairs and other furniture are not eligible for either, but, as per an email from the provost and Finance on October 30, employees are welcome to take chairs, computer monitors, and other small furniture/equipment home, and we encourage you to do this!
Definite term contracts
FAUW remains committed to fair treatment for definite term lecturers. We will rigorously defend definite-term lecturers’ right to six months’ notice if their contract is not being renewed, or termination pay in lieu of this notice. We will also fight for the proportion of teaching done at UW by our members to remain consistent—we don’t want to see our members replaced en masse by sessional instructors.
We encourage definite-term lecturers who may have had their conversion to a continuing appointment affected by the pandemic to contact FAUW so we can work together to understand the impacts and try to help move that process forward.
Please see the Guidelines to access workplaces for more information.
Layoffs and financial exigency
Some of our members are concerned about faculty layoffs. Articles 16 and 17 of the Memorandum of Agreement between FAUW and the University set out the conditions under which FAUW members can be laid off due to financial exigency. Simply put, this would require a long-term situation with recurring deficits that threaten the financial viability of the University as a whole, and we're not there yet.
From the MoA: “The term financial exigency denotes the extraordinary and rare condition in which substantial and recurring financial deficits in the total University budget have occurred or, on the basis of generally accepted accounting principles, are projected to be ongoing, thereby placing the solvency of the University as a whole in serious jeopardy.”
Anyone with a planned sabbatical that has not yet started has an opportunity to cancel their sabbatical. This applies to both those who have an upcoming approved sabbatical and those who have applied for a sabbatical. If you have an upcoming sabbatical and the option to delay interests you, contact your Faculty Executive Officer.
Please note that FAUW is unable to provide advice on the merits of cancelling and thus delaying your sabbatical. The decision to cancel a planned sabbatical is a personal one fraught with incredible uncertainty. No one is currently able to say at what point your rescheduled sabbatical request will be approved, for example. What happens to your teaching assignments upon cancelling your sabbatical is a department-level decision.
We tried to discuss considerations for current sabbaticals with the University but were not successful on this front. Be sure to make note of the impacts of COVID-19 on your sabbatical in your sabbatical report and plan to do so for next year’s performance evaluation (and any other year that might be affected) as well.
We recognize that the amount of time you devote to teaching may increase as a result of the recent changes. If you are teaching additional courses, keep track as usual to account for this later. If the balance between your research/teaching/service changes significantly over multiple terms, contact our Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T).
Chairs and directors are responsible for the equitable assignment of teaching duties. Recognizing that workloads may vary over time and circumstances such as those we all currently face, if you feel that you are experiencing unreasonable increases to workload and/or inequitable workload assignments arising from the transition to remote delivery, approach AF&T.
What you are able to deliver may not be up to your usual high standards and that’s ok. Try to focus on the few core concepts or experiences that you want your students to have in the limited time available. Help your colleagues. Reach out and help others get to where you are if you have experience with or have figured out a workable remote platform.
- Keep Learning (UW)
- Remote Teaching Resources for Business Continuity (resources from hundreds of universities)
The University extended the 2019-20 FPER deadline to June 1, 2020. The 2020-21 deadline did not change.
Parking fees will resume in November 2021.
Health insurance coverage while travelling
We cannot provide travel advice. Please contact Canada Life directly at 1-800-957-9777 (our plan number is 57130).
At its most basic, physical distancing is about decreasing the contact you have with others, for example by staying at home as much as possible. Working from home is a key distancing strategy. Other advice is available from various public health organizations, and the links are on the University’s coronavirus website. If you want information faster, check the Twitter feeds for these organizations (e.g., @CPHO_Canada).
University pandemic management
We are taking steps to make sure our members feel supported and empowered to protect themselves and others according to the advice of public health officials and use their expertise to figure out how to best continue their academic endeavours. FAUW will advocate for a post-event assessment and for the results of the assessment to be shared widely with the UW community.
Looking for our older COVID-19 emails?