Dear colleagues, 

Before the break begins, I wanted to take this opportunity to extend my best wishes to you over the holidays, and thank those of you who have taken the time this year to reach out to me with your feedback, thoughts, and questions. Your voices make our union stronger, and I greatly appreciate the conversations we’ve had and how they’ve helped shape AASUA’s actions.

I want to especially thank all those who attended our Annual General Meeting in November. As President, I treasure the AGM as an opportunity to hear your diverse opinions, and to reflect on what Executive can do to better serve members. AASUA’s Officers, our Executive, and I take the points you raise seriously.

This is what we are carrying forward into the new year based on feedback we heard at the AGM:

  • In-person events
    Though many at the AGM said they appreciate the ease of attendance for virtual meetings, there is an appetite for more in-person events. AASUA is working on in-person events to take place in the new year, including events in collaboration with the Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA), to bring all of us together more frequently. We look forward to these opportunities to connect face-to-face next year.

  • Student opinion surveys
    We heard concerns about the implementation of the new student opinion surveys, known as Student Perspectives on Teaching (SPOT). Namely, the role instructors will have to play in encouraging the completion of these student opinion surveys, which have historically been proven to be discriminatory. Based on “evidence…which came in the form of expert testimony and peer reviewed publications,” Arbitrator William Kaplan has held that “[i]nsofar as assessing teaching effectiveness is concerned — especially in the context of tenure and promotion — SETs [student evaluations of teaching] are imperfect at best and downright biased and unreliable at worst,” and that “numerous factors, especially personal characteristics … such as race, gender, accent, age and ‘attractiveness’ skew SET results.”  This new survey iteration has not yet been proven to be any different in practice. AASUA will bring instructor concerns about SPOT forward in the upcoming policy review. 
  • Academic Freedom
    Members raised concerns about their Academic Freedom rights in the midst of ongoing geopolitical conflict. AASUA will always staunchly defend our members’ Academic Freedom rights. We are preparing materials to equip members with the best knowledge about their rights. Further, our Negotiating Team is looking at contract language we can push for in our next round of bargaining to strengthen our Collective Agreement’s Academic Freedom protections. If your Academic Freedom rights have been compromised, please reach out a Labour Relations Officer here.

I wish you all a restful end of year, and I look forward to the next, when we will begin the challenging but vital work of bargaining for a Renewal Collective Agreement.


Gordon Swaters
AASUA President