July 2020 president's update

A warm hello to all our members and staff!

It certainly has been quite hot.  I hope you've managed to take advantage of some of the fine weather we've had and enjoyed a pool, beach or other outside recreational activity!

Since my last blog in June, quite a lot has happened.  The University has announced it's Phase 2 Research Laboratory ramp-up, Waterloo Region is now moving into Stage 3 of the economic recovery plan and face coverings will be required when in indoor spaces on campus as of July 27th.  If you are going to be returning to campus, there is a mandatory 30-minute training course available.  If you wish to do a self-assessment, you can do that here.

The Board and I have been working to become more informed on issues of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).  We are taking the time to get education and reach out to others who are better informed about such issues.  We had a meeting with the Director of Equity, Gina Hickman, to get her perspective on what the UWSA can be doing to help foster EDI and support the work of her office.  Gina directed us to the page her team created "Statement of Action On Anti-Black Racism".  A number of us attended the session "Developing Equity-Informed Leadership" presented by Kike Ojo-Thompson.  We also attended the session "Unconscious Bias" hosted by Women in Computer Science, and "Indigenization in STEM - Community of Practice Event" hosted by the Faculty of Math.  These have all been very helpful in giving us a better perspective.  We have reached out to members of the UW community who have expressed concerns about how the issues of anti-racism are being handled on campus.  We have had some discussions within the UWSA Board and at the Staff Relations Committee.  Drawing on what we’ve heard from these discussions and conversations and webinars, we plan to update the UWSA Mission, Vision and Values. And we are considering ways to increase the diversity of voices on our Board. If you have feedback for us or would like to contribute your voice to our upcoming Mission, Vision and Values work, that would be most welcome.   Email me at uwsapres (or lfolland) or email the Staff Association general address (uwsa) @ uwaterloo.ca

We will soon be coming up to our next election for the Board.  We will be looking for new Directors and a President-Elect.  We can only be an effective voice for campus staff if we have a diversity of perspectives on our Board of Directors.  If you have an interest in social justice, equity and policy, please consider running, or reach out to us for more information.  Board work is very rewarding and will help broaden your professional network!

It seems a long time ago now, but we would like to thank the Provost, Dr. James Rush, for attending our Area Reps meeting on June 11th and being willing to address any questions we sent his way.  You can review the minutes from that meeting (PDF) including a summary of his presentation and the Q&A session.  Also, answers to the questions submitted for consideration at the President's Virtual Town Hall Meeting held on May 20 have now been posted online.

From the meeting with the Provost, a lively discussion around monthly pay being changed to bi-weekly or some other frequency took place. We were listening. Watch for a survey asking for your preference about this soon. 

As you may have seen, we ran a "COVID Campus Climate Survey" to better gauge how staff were doing during this pandemic and, especially with working from home.  We had 738 respondents, which is excellent, and have published some preliminary results.  As we work through the free text responses, we're noticing a few common themes. These include concerns about working from home with family responsibilities, the setup and ergonomics of working from home, and the uncertainty about jobs and the return-to-work process.  With September just around the corner, a lot of parents are concerned about the plans for the school year.  Another concern is that of "meeting fatigue" - all those online Teams and Zoom meetings can be exhausting!  One of our staff, Olivia Roth - a Student Advisor in CEE with 7 years experience working remotely, recently hosted a webinar on "Virtual Meeting Fatigue" which you may find helpful if you have found yourself struggling with those concerns.  If you missed the webinar, you might find the recording useful - I know I picked up a few tips!

I have had a number of staff contact me about the possibility of claiming Work-From-Expenses with Form T2200.  We have reached out to the Finance department and they will be having some information forthcoming shortly.

I have also had many staff ask about the two extra days off that some universities gave to employees around the Canada Day holiday.  I did inquire about that from the administration but heard that that was not happening at UW.  While I did not hear a reason, I might speculate that while other universities are having a fairly quiet summer when they would normally be running conferences, Waterloo is running a full slate of courses and students.  I have asked for further clarification, however.

You may have seen our recent exciting news that the Education Credit Union has agreed to increase their donation to our Member Student Awards Fund from $1,500 to $5,000 per year.  Look for updated information on those awards coming up this Fall.  I had the joy and privilege of accepting a ceremonial large cheque from ECU CEO Gary Renouf while maintaining appropriate social distancing!

UWSA President Lawrence Folland accepts a $5,000 cheque from ECU CEO Gary Renouf

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about any COVID-related issues, equity, diversity or inclusion, or general workplace issues, please reach out to us - we're here to help!

Your UWSA team,  

Lawrence Folland, President, lfolland@uwaterloo.ca 
Gail Spencer, Executive Manager, gspencer@uwaterloo.ca 
Catherine Bolger, Communications and Administrative Coordinator, lbolger@uwaterloo.ca
General mailbox, uwsa@uwaterloo.ca