Representing research professors

An ad-hoc FAUW committee, including three research professor colleagues, two members of the FAUW Executive, and the FAUW executive manager, met over a two-year period to understand the challenges that unrepresented research professors face and discuss the potential and possible pathways for FAUW to formally represent them. On the recommendation of this committee, the FAUW Board voted at its October 24, 2019 meeting to move forward with the process of seeking to represent research professors.

This project was put on hold during the pandemic, but the Board is eager to resume work on this.

FAUW position on research professor representation

  1. There are significant gaps and opportunities for improvement in the working conditions of research professors, and we believe that they would benefit from formal representation.
  2. Since research professors are full-time faculty appointments engaged (to varying degrees) in research, teaching, and service, it is consistent with FAUW’s mission and values to represent them.
  3. If FAUW represents research professors, it will:
    • seek to negotiate formal agreements with the University (via amendments to the Memorandum of Agreement and University policies, and other means) to address the issues identified below;
    • adopt internal governance measures to ensure that research professors are given the opportunity to participate in decisions made about them through both direct representation and broad consultation;
    • charge FAUW membership dues (our regular mil rate is 0.525% of base salary);
    • enable research professors to fully participate in FAUW’s member services and activities, including access to individual support via the Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee.

Approval process

  1. Completed: FAUW held a second research professors town hall to share the position statement and proposed process and will poll research professors re: their desire to join FAUW in principle.
    • Proceeds if a majority of the votes cast by research professors in a secure and confidential electronic voting process are in favour.
    • The required outcome was achieved.
  2. Completed: FAUW asked its membership to adopt the position statement and proposed process.
    • Proceeds if amajority of the members present at the Fall General Meeting on December 5, 2019, vote in favour.
    • The required outcome was achieved.
  3. In progress: FAUW will seek administration agreement that research professors should be represented by FAUW.
    • Proceedsuponagreement at the Faculty Relations Committee.
    • Discussions were disrupted by the pandemic, and the topic has been put on hold at FRC.
  4. Research professors will be presented with the position statement and asked to vote on whether they agree to “all research professors being represented by FAUW and to being bound by the terms of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA).”
    • Proceeds if a majority of research professors who vote in a secret ballot conducted in a manner acceptable to both FAUW and the University in accordance with MoA s.2.1.3 vote in favour.
  5. The MoA will be opened for the purpose of incorporating research professors under s.2.1.1 and making other amendments as necessary.
    • MoA changes are subject to approval by FAUW and the University Board of Governors in accordance with MoA s.12.10.3. For FAUW, this means ratification by a majority of member votes cast in a secure and confidential electronic voting process in accordance with s.15 of the FAUW Constitution. We recommend that a separate ratification vote on the MoA changes be held among research professors in this case.

Reasons for FAUW to represent research professors

Although research professors are identified in some University policies (e.g. Policy 76–Faculty Appointments) and their contributions to the research enterprise on campus are valued, there are gaps in their working conditions compared to other faculty and staff groups who have formal representation.

  1. Right to grieve. Research professors currently have no right to grieve or appeal decisions about their employment terms and conditions under any University policy.
  2. Academic freedom: It is unclear which aspects of academic freedom research faculty have and do not have, and whether they have some measure of independence to pursue their own research interests.
  3. Compensation. Research professors are the only group of employees we are aware of who do not have recognized salary floors, nor eligibility for salary or merit increases.
  4. Benefits and leaves. Research professors have inconsistent (and sometimes arbitrary) access to benefits such as Faculty Professional Expense Reimbursements, vacation entitlement, and employment leaves beyond statutory minimum requirements.
  5. Standing within departments. Research professors are recognized as faculty under Policy 76; however, their standing within departments varies across campus. Some departments encourage participation in department meetings and allow research professors to hold administrative appointments, while others do not.
  6. Supervision. Supervision relationships are inconsistent, with some research professors reporting to department chairs and others reporting only to principal investigators.
  7. Performance evaluations. Research faculty are subject to ongoing performance assessment required by funding agreements and implemented by principal investigators, but they should also have the right to performance review by their chair/department performance review committee like other faculty. Guidance is needed to help research professors to balance departmental and Faculty expectations with the requirements of external funders.
  8. Appointments. Research faculty lack standardized appointment letters, leading to confusion around weightings (between research, teaching, and service) and sometimes contradictions with the requirements of external funding contracts. They would also benefit from provisions around term lengths as these can impact the ability to qualify for research funding.
  9. Duties. Duties for research faculty vary widely. There is no minimum research weighting and, unlike for lecturers and tenure stream faculty, no limit to the number of courses that can be assigned (some research professors carry substantial teaching and service loads).
  10. Termination and layoff. Unlike for staff (Policy 18, Appendix E) and regular faculty (MoA, s.17), end of employment notice and severance provisions for research professors are undefined and there is no guidance on the conditions for layoff upon discontinuation of external funding. Further, it is unclear whether the University treats repeat appointments as continuous employment, which impacts notice and severance entitlements.