The University’s Faculty and Staff Union (UBFSU) voiced their concerns last week about new protocols that the University’s Board of Trustees had implemented without first consulting them. These protocols would directly affect the livelihoods of many of the faculty members as many were told their contracts would not be renewed while others were given the option of voluntary separation. The latter has been described by the president of the union as union busting, since members were approached individually rather than as a whole body. Another issue faced by faculty members include drastic workload increases and new policies and protocols that have not been finalized. As such, the Faculty members do not feel as if reopening the University next Monday is the best option. Rather, they have requested that the start date for the semester be moved to September 7. Dr Christopher De Shield, the General Secretary for UBFSU, explained why they feel that postponing the date will allow them to be better prepared. Additionally, he stated that it is their hope that the Board of Trustees will be able to work with them for the sake of the University.
Dr.Christopher De Shield, General Secretary, UBFSU: “There are several issues that the faculty and staff are facing among them work load increases and course assignments. So at present there’s faculty that are not sure what course is doable teaching and delivering this upcoming semester because for several reasons and one of them is to do with a new directive from the management that all lecturers are given five distinct courses. And so deans and other administrators, mid-level managers are trying as hard as they can to figure out how to meet the criteria of this directive and ensure that they can save as many people in their departments as possible. But what this means is that there is a rearranging of courses and lecturers lecturers need a certain amount of time to adequately prepare and ensure quality delivery with regard to courses and there’s the added dimension of needing to modify these for online delivery where they haven’t already been modified for that purpose. So there are several considerations that was one of them major ones for faculty especially. We reached out to the board with a request to negotiate as you may not know we had done this earlier and we we’re sort of rebuffed the president basically indicated that they are not ready to negotiate this time on the issues that we proposed and they reiterated our request for recommendations. So what we’ve done is submitted some recommendations that we would like to negotiate over because these are issues complex issues that work in tandem, in concert regarding the mitigating measures. And so we need to be to sit down at the table and discuss these things. This has been a refrain of the unions for a long time now that we need to work together collaboratively and that achieve some kind of mutual agreements on these issues.”
Union Representative, Dr June Young, explained further on the issue of online classes, and the difficulties that both teachers and students face.
Dr.June Young, Union Representative: “We believe that our students also need more time in terms of us as lecturers giving them more advising as to how the classes will work, what are the expectations and so on. So we feel that faculty we are not ready because for most of us it’s a challenge to find the five distinct courses to assign to lecturers and for most of us, these courses will be new in terms of just going online and putting a course online is not like what Dr. De Shield said just with the flip of a switch you say “Okay, I Take what I used to face to face and put it online.” No, you have to do voice over you have to set up forums, you have to set up groups online and it’s a skill. It’s competencies that lecturers still need to learn, they still need to come to terms with and then the only platform that we have at UB is Moodle. And since we have been doing some courses online, we know that Moodle is not the most reliable because we keep having challenges, especially when it’s loaded when you have a lot of people going online at the same time and a lot of courses there. So in terms of infrastructure we feel no. Lecturers at this point – because we did offer some summer courses online and we had to rely on Zoom and Google Meet and so on which I would say the lecturers themselves have to take that initiative to to learn to use these apps in order to communicate with the students more effectively than other than to rely on Moodle. So in terms of the infrastructure that UB has in place, no, it’s not enough. It’s not adequate it compromises quality in terms of competencies and teachers having the necessary knowledge and skills to transition online and make your learning as effective as it used to be face-to-face we are ready. And for our students, they have a lot of questions they have a lot of concerns, they don’t even know how to get into their portal and to choose the courses. We did online advising, some students were able to attend some weren’t able to attend and with online from my experience you have a lot of flexibility but at the same time as the students need to be responsible.”
The UBFSU is expecting a timely reply from the Board and is hopeful that negotiations can start promptly. Love News is following this story and will attempt to get the views of the university for tomorrow’s newscast.