Balancing your assignment of duties

Some faculty members have already begun collegial discussions about assignment of duties in their units for the 2021-2022 academic year. 

Many members have contacted the Association about unfairness and inequitability in the workload assignment in recent years, and particularly during the lockdown. The major changes in teaching culture might be a good time to revisit the process in your unit, especially if you or people you know of are having challenges.

In most units, the unit leader (Department Head or Dean) assigns classes and administrative work, typically within the unit. However, your long-term success at the University depends on balancing this assignment with increasing expectations for research success as well as the contributions to the university at all levels outside your unit needed for promotion. The processes in the Agreement are there to ensure that workloads are fair and equitable. 

The Agreement defines a process whereby faculty members in a unit develop guidelines for assignment of duties in Article 11.5.2. The key feature of this article is that all members have input into the guidelines and that the guidelines are ratified by secret ballot. The guidelines require approval only by faculty in the unit. This process is in our Collective Agreement because the USFA and the Employer recognized faculty are in the best position to assess what is a fair and equitable distribution of duties within their unit.

No guidelines? Speak up. The Agreement is clear that all units shall have guidelines, and that all employees in the unit should have a copy of them. 

The guidelines must take into account all the different kinds of work done in your unit, and the requirements necessary to succeed at the collegial processes. The full range of demands associated with teaching must be considered including enrolment, and in the current setting, online delivery. It is important to avoid aspirations and express instead expectations. Aspirational statements undermine concrete guidelines for the distribution of work and when the USFA needs to challenge an assignment of duties, we need a document that shows concretely how duties are distributed.

Your guidelines for the assignment of duties must be taken into consideration by Department Heads and Deans when assigning duties and approving those assignments. In addition, at a recent JCMA meeting, the USFA confirmed with the Employer that guidelines will be followed.

Duties are assigned by Department Heads, and Deans in non-departmentalized colleges, following consultation and discussion with faculty at a meeting of faculty in the academic unit (Article 11.1). Best practice would be to have prospective duty assignments available for the meeting. This information allows faculty in the unit to see their, and their colleagues’, prospective duties for the upcoming year. It allows for true consultation and discussion and provides the transparency necessary to determine fairness and equitability of assignments across the unit. Discussion should include changing expectations as people progress through the ranks, enrolment shifts, and external circumstances such as caregiving responsibilities faced by some faculty. If there is no meeting on the horizon, request one. If a meeting does not happen, let the USFA know. 

Although the diversity of research and teaching cultures at the University of Saskatchewan between units and within units has been exacerbated by the pandemic, it is important that you advocate for yourself within the assignment of duties process. 

The Collective Agreement provides a comprehensive guide to this process, and the Association website has two helpful fact sheets entitled Assignment of Duties and Achieving Equitability. Each is a three-minute read and covers significant territory. Contact the Association if you have any concerns.