An important message concerning the Assignment of Duties

Last week faculty members received an email from the Office of the Vice-Provost Faculty Relations regarding the Assignment of Duties process, which is nearing deadlines for completion (Department Heads must complete assignments by March 31, and Deans must approve them by April 30 for the 2024–5 Academic year). You should be aware that, in the view of the Association, some of the instructions in this message contravene the Collective Agreement and do not follow established practice at the U of S. The following corrections are important for you to know concerning your rights and obligations as employees. We would like to hear from you if you encounter difficulties in this year’s process, so they can be raised at Joint Committee for the Management of the Agreement (JCMA) meetings as early as possible.


Authority to assign duties

The Office of the VPFR proposes that “final authority to approve and assign duties rests with the dean/executive directors.” While this is certainly the case for non-departmentalized colleges and schools, it is not so for departmentalized colleges. The University of Saskatchewan Act stipulates that the Head of each department of a college “shall [i.e., must] assign teaching duties to the members of the department.” Our Collective Agreement follows the Act by stipulating that in departmentalized colleges, “duties shall be assigned by the Department Head” while the Dean’s role is solely to approve those assigned duties: These are separate and discrete responsibilities specified for these roles and it is not appropriate to suggest that a Dean assigns teaching duties in departmentalized colleges.

If you as a Department Head are instructed that your role is not to assign duties or that the Dean’s role is anything other than to approve assigned duties, please contact the USFA.


Teaching load

The email from the Office of the VPFR correctly cites the Collective Agreement regarding teaching assignments for instructors and lecturers, which “shall not exceed 30 credit units per academic year” (Article 11.2.2(iv)). However, the following statement does not conform to current practice in all units:

in exceptional circumstances, it is advisable to assign less than 30 credit units of teaching to term and without term lecturers and instructors; however, normally it is expected that units make full use of available teaching resources.

Many full-time instructors and lecturers teach fewer than 30 cu’s per academic year as a matter of course, as was discussed in our negotiation of this language. In assigning duties, the Department Head or Dean should consider the full range of demands associated with teaching, including the nature of the course, the course level and its enrollment, and the methods of instruction and evaluation (see Article 11.5.2).

The email also states that the ranks of instructor and lecturer “are focused on meeting the teaching needs of the unit.” This implies instructors and lecturers do all of the teaching in a unit. The focus of instructors and lecturers is “on the delivery of instruction in support of academic programs offered by academic units” (Article 13.3.1). The teaching needs of a unit are met by faculty in the unit at every rank.

If you are being asked to teach more than your usual full-time teaching load with no reduction in other duties, please contact the USFA.


Teaching release

Lastly, the email also addresses “fair compensation” to units for teaching releases:

when external bodies such as funding agencies or other third parties ‘purchase’ or protect a portion of faculty time in the form of a teaching release, departments and colleges should expect fair compensation. For instance, the true replacement cost of the release time for a full professor is not the cost of hiring a sessional.

This statement relies in part on a formula recently devised by the Office of the VPFR that—contrary to existing practice—takes into account a faculty member’s salary and assigned teaching load. For example, the Office of the VPFR has proposed to USFA that a faculty member who makes $180,000 a year with an assignment of 40% teaching, 40% research, and 20% service, and who is assigned 12 credit units of teaching, would require $18,000 [($180,000*.4)/4] to be released from a 3-credit unit course.

This has not been the practice at the U of S, since several long-established options to address course releases already exist. These include, among other possibilities:

  • hiring a Sessional Lecturer to deliver the course(s)—currently a basic stipend ranging from $7,189 to $7,791 per three-credit-unit course;
  • paying another faculty member in the unit an overload stipend of $5,500 for each three-credit-unit course or equivalent (Article 18.5.1);
  • compensating another faculty member in the unit for taking on an extraordinary teaching assignment (Article 18.5.5);
  • hiring a TA to assist with delivering the course or with marking; or
  • trading teaching assignments with another faculty member in the unit from one term to another.

If you are finding it difficult to arrange a teaching release because there is an expectation of unusually high compensation to your unit, please contact the USFA.