Dear UWSA members,
I recently took a week off to recharge. When I wasn’t gardening, beekeeping, canoeing, or birdwatching, I was building a garden shed. The building project really helped me get out of my head. As the week passed and the shed took shape, I gained scratches, bruises, and achy muscles from the task. I felt the tension fade into the background, and I enjoyed the sun and the heat and the work. It was a great week! But things were still percolating in the back of my mind.
The uncertainty and anxiety so many of us are experiencing right now is something I feel both personally and in the context of my role as President of the UWSA. I find myself wondering, will I be able to go back* to the way things were? How long will it take for me to feel “normal” in situations with people outside my circle? And I wonder how many of my colleagues are wondering these things, and other things that aren’t even on my radar. With such a diversity of realities among our community members, things will be hitting each of us differently: those who are currently working on campus, and those who are working remotely; those who are juggling caregiver responsibilities with remote work, and those who are living alone; those who have management responsibilities; those in student-facing roles, and those who work more independently; those who are excited to return to campus, and those who are apprehensive; those who have faced losses over the past 18 months; those who are at greater risk due to COVID or have household members who are; those who are feeling at their wit’s end juggling work and life responsibilities with the realities of a pandemic, and aren’t sure how they will accommodate a change in working conditions. Reflecting on these realities has led me to tell colleagues that I’m feeling a bit terrified for all of us right now, but if I start to look ahead to the future, there are feelings of optimism.
When incoming UW President Vivek Goel attended Area Reps earlier this month, he acknowledged that we’re facing a time of transition and uncertainty that won’t be easy. But he spoke with enthusiasm about the future, about the opportunities this transition brings, and about the value he places on the wellness of all our community members. With President Goel at the helm, and with your UWSA helping to ensure that compassion and equity are applied to the decisions being made about the future of our workplace, I feel my optimism is justified! I’ve also seen firsthand that everyone, at all levels, is doing their very best to make this difficult transitional period as smooth and as safe as possible for employees and students alike. Will there be missteps in this unruly, complicated transition? Undoubtedly. So I encourage us all to apply a lens of compassion to our UW colleagues, who are doing their very best to bring us all through this once-in-a-century transition.
Alongside these larger pandemic-related considerations, the more traditional areas of the UWSA’s work continue. This includes the updated Memorandum of Agreement, the (equitable) application of the new Policy 14 – Pregnancy and Parental Leaves (including Adoption), and the Return to Work, the revision of Policy 33 – Ethical Behaviour, the perennial concerns around Job Evaluation, the work to enhance the UWSA’s governance and operations, providing individual member advocacy, and the many organizational changes taking place as our workplaces adjust to this new reality. Your UWSA is supporting meaningful progress, and we’re excited for what the future will bring.
So, in this time of adjustment and anticipation, I leave you with three friendly reminders:
- it’s critical that you carve out some time to do the things that fill you up,
- we’re all in this together, and
- everyone - including you - is doing their best.
Take good care,
*I’m not fond of the way “go back” is used these days. For those of us who have been away for some time, we won’t find the same campus we left. We’ll find plexiglass and masks and distancing. We’ll find that the colleagues we haven’t seen in many months are changed - I don’t know many folks who have remained untouched by recent events. Only when we recognize that we can’t “go back” to the way things were will we be able to start reimagining our working reality and building what’s to come!