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FAQs During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to change the normal trajectory of the academic year.  It will impact each of us differently and so it is important to assess and account for that impact in your annual or sabbatical reports.  Please keep NUFA apprised if you need to discuss terms with your Dean.

FAQs last updated Friday, July 9, 2021

COVID-19 Bulletin 1

1. Is the NUFA Office open?

No.  The NUFA Office will remain closed until provincial restrictions are lifted and the university reopens.  In the meantime, we may be reached at [email protected].

2. What can I do if I haven’t been able to spend my Professional Expenses Reimbursement (PER) and the carry-over period is over?

While professional expenses reimbursement funds for full-time faculty will be disbursed as usual, it will be subject to an additional 12 month carry-over period extending the carry-over currently outlined in the FASBU Collective Agreement from three years to four years. While this exception ended June 2021, NUFA signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Employer regarding PER, which may be found at  https://nufa.ca/collective-bargaining/memoranda-of-understanding/

3. Have Student Opinion Surveys been cancelled for all fall/winter and spring/summer courses?

Yes.  The SOS (see Appendix R of the FASBU CA) and Teaching and Learning Committees have been tasked with coming up with an alternative to SOS.  Any alternative will need to have JCAA and Senate approval before it can be used.

4.  When and how can we get access to offices?

The employer sent out an e-mail to the University Community on April 23rd through Nipissing University Communications, outlining steps that must be taken for access to the campus.  This will be reassessed after the May 12 government update.

5. I am currently on sabbatical and the inaccessibility to my office, the library and the university has compromised my research during this time.  What, if anything, can be done?

Faculty currently on sabbatical or who are scheduled to begin sabbatical on July 1, 2020 should contact their Dean immediately to discuss options regarding the completion of their sabbatical plans.  In June 2021, NUFA signed an Memorandum of Agreement with the employer regarding sabbaticals which may be found at https://nufa.ca/collective-bargaining/memoranda-of-understanding/

6. I am planning to apply for tenure and/or promotion this year.  The COVID-19 closure of the university has affected my teaching, service and research productivity.  How will this be viewed in my application and what is being done regarding tenure and promotion and its deadlines?

Members who are planning to apply for tenure and/or promotion should be discussing the impacts on their application with their respective Dean.   This is particularly important for  faculty who may not be applying for tenure soon, but are worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their application over the long-term.  Please be sure to outline the specific ways in which your file will be or has been compromised in terms of teaching, research and service, including identifying the shift in workload from time for research to time for teaching as a result of changing delivery mode.  As well, note lost or delayed opportunities to engage in or disseminate research, including the cancellation of conferences, lack of library resources, closed lab and fieldwork opportunities, and the disruption of collaborations.  NUFA renewed a Memorandum of Agreement with the employer in June 2021 regarding tenure and promotion which may be found at https://nufa.ca/collective-bargaining/memoranda-of-understanding/

7.  I am a part-time instructor who has been asked to change my on-campus course to an alternative delivery and online course.  Where can I get help?

Contact the Dean of Teaching and Learning, and the Dean of your faculty, for support in online delivery.  NUFA would ask you to please track the added workload involved in preparing an online course and contact us if you feel it significantly exceeds the workload of an in-the-classroom course.

8.  Are annual reports still due on June 30 from full-time Members?

Yes they are, and it will be especially important this year and in June 2021 to identify specifically and in detail the impacts of COVID-19 on your teaching, research and service for the year.  Keep track of projects, publications and presentations that have been delayed or opportunities lost due to the effects of COVID-related closures and cancellations.  As well, make sure to report the way in which your workload has shifted from the normal distribution between teaching, research and service.  We need to be clear that changing delivery mode constitutes a major increase in teaching preparation which will necessarily displace the work of research and/or service.  For faculty who may have primary care duties for children or elders at home, it is also important to note that your capacity for working from home is significantly affected by these duties, and that what often gets lost in that situation is sustained time for research.  make sure you do not suffer a career disadvantage because of your caretaking roles at home.

9.  When will we know how our courses will be run in the fall?

If only we knew the answer to that one!  The Provost, Deans, Registrar and Chairs/Directors are in ongoing conversations about this question and developing contingency plans based on different scenarios.  The best strategy for faculty is for departments/schools to be engaged in a similar process, so that faculty have maximum input into whatever changes might be put in place for the fall (also see #12 below).

10.  Can the employer tell us which platforms to use?

In the winter term, many of us moved our course material into different platforms, such as Zoom or YouTube because Blackboard simply could not accommodate the sudden surge in content and activity.  If delivery continues to be largely or partially online for the fall term, NUFA anticipates that Blackboard’s capacity will be enhanced and that faculty will have much more direct and timely support for their alternative delivery of content.  While there is nothing to preclude faculty from moving outside of Blackboard, there are compelling reasons to be careful about how, where and how often you might do that.  Blackboard is the best means of maintaining accessibility for students who have accommodations, and it is much more secure than many other platforms.  As well, NUFA strongly encourages all faculty to take the cyber security training module offered through the university.

11.  Can the employer make me teach online?

The answer is “it’s complicated”.  Our collective agreements have two provisions which cover this area – Academic Freedom and Rights and Responsibilities.  For full-time faculty, Article 18:  Rights and Responsibilities, affirms that the decision to move courses into online delivery lies with a faculty member’s department/school.  In the winter term 2019-2020, the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19, in which the Ontario government forced the sudden closure of the building, temporarily over-rode the collective agreement language and the collegial bi-cameral decision-making processes usually in place at the university.  As we contemplate the fall term of 2020-2021, we can make two assumptions:  1) that any specific directive from the government to the university will trump the specific language of the collective agreements, and 2) in the absence of any direct order, whatever circumstances might compel us to change our delivery modes need to be determined within the language of the collective agreements.  All that said, we imagine that we will all be balancing these things:  our best practices in teaching; some king of social gathering restrictions relating to COVID-19; the needs and desires of our students; the requirement to follow accommodations for both students and faculty; and our collegial decision-making processes.  Our recommendation to faculty is to begin consultations with your academic unit ASAP about delivery of courses in the fall and develop some contingency plans based on the notions that:  1) all our courses might be online; or 2) none will be; or, 3) the most likely scenario – course offerings will be altered in some way to accommodate social isolation or distancing.

12.  Will I be reimbursed for additional costs incurred by working from home?

For the remainder of the restricted access period, the employer will reimburse employees for any pre-approved office expense and internet connection assistance.  The equipment must be appropriate for the purpose of professional teaching, research or administrative activity.  The university will retain ownership of any supplies or equipment purchased.  For full-time faculty, please use your P-card for any purchases, and code expenses to object code 75640 in your cost centre.

13.  As a part-time Member who had to do additional work beyond my contract in the winter, due to COVID-19, will I be compensated for that additional work?

The employer has responded “no” to our requests that part-time members be compensated for additional work (late exams, assignments, INCs, etc.) related to COVID-19 completed beyond the dates of their contracts. The employer has also made clear that moving forward, contract faculty has the right to refuse this kind of additional work if it will mean that you will have to work beyond the dates of your contract. But if you agree to a student’s request to mark a late submission or exam that takes you beyond the dates of your contract, then there will be an expectation to do the work even though the contract has expired. In the future, we recommend that contract faculty forward all student requests for such extensions to their Dean to ensure that all student work can be graded. No contract faculty member should be expected to work for the university when they do not have an active contract. 

14.  As a part-time Member, will I be compensated for the additional work required to turn my onsite course into an online course?

The employer has responded “no” to our requests that part-time members receive a reasonable stipend for the additional work beyond their contracts and/or to obtain training to move their courses into alternative delivery. All training offered through the Teaching Hub is open to contract faculty, but participation is optional.

15.  Since we are working from home, are we able to obtain a signed Canada Revenue Agency T2200 form from the employer?

Since this answer was posted, NUFA has put out a Bulletin entitled COVID-19 Bulletin #3 – 2020 Taxes:  Working from Home Tax Deductions found at https://nufa.ca/news-and-events/nufa-news/

The answer to this question is a bit complicated.  From the CRA perspective, the use of the T2200 in the past was fairly restrictive.  It was used primarily under two conditions:   1) for those who met with clients regularly from home, and 2) for those whose principal place of employment was their home.  So, pre-pandemic, faculty would not have qualified, since most faculty meet with students on the campus which is the principal place of employment.  Since the pandemic, this has become a grey area and these rules don’t necessarily apply when we are all working from home.  Appreciating the situation, the CRA is set on clarifying the rules for all. Since the beginning of the pandemic, they have been bombarded with questions on this issue from all sectors of employment, and they expect to be coming out with more information on the T2200 and who may qualify, prior to the start of the tax season.  Here’s a link to employment expenses found on the CRA website: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/line-229-other-employment-expenses.html  Here’s a link to work space in the home expenses for salaried employees (found within the link to employment expenses above): https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/individuals/topics/about-your-tax-return/tax-return/completing-a-tax-return/deductions-credits-expenses/line-229-other-employment-expenses/salaried-employees/work-space-home-expenses.html

16. Are there any considerations for Tenure and/or Promotion Applications while in the pandemic and for probationary tenure-track Members?

The Faculty Association has signed a Memorandum of Agreement regarding Tenure and Promotion which may be found at https://nufa.ca/collective-bargaining/memoranda-of-understanding/

17.  For faculty who have agreed to, or for those who are considering, teaching on the campus in the winter term, what added protocols or procedures are there in place to protect both the faculty and the students?

The employer has responded that Members should be discussing these matters with their departments.  As the departments submit their Phase 2 Limited Campus Access plans, (https://www.nipissingu.ca/departments/human-resources/return-to-campus) which include the faculty who will be teaching on-campus, the employer will be reviewing and approving the plans.  Once the plans are approved, health and safety personnel will reach out to those teaching on-campus to provide training sessions. Our understanding is that documentation is also forthcoming.  At a recent Townhall meeting, it was suggested some of the added protocols and procedures may include:  teaching in classrooms with two doors with one to enter and one to exit; separating desks to allow for social distancing; restricting class size.

18.  What happens to faculty and students on-campus if the campus shuts down again in the Winter term?  How quickly can the situation change?

As we know, the situation can change very quickly, as it did in March.  The COVID-19 level response framework would have to jump from green to red (three levels) in order for the number of people who can meet indoors to change, and at the red level, the entire city would be affected.  Keep in mind that even with the recent outbreak on campus, the level did not change.  Nonetheless, faculty who plan to teach on the campus were told at the recent Townhall to prepare their courses for online delivery, should another shutdown occur.   For details on the COVID-19 level response framework, please see:  https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open#control