According to its formal mandate, the UPEIFA Research and Advocacy Committee is: “tasked by the Executive with completing research and making recommendations on issues being discussed by the Executive. In addition, the Committee serves an advocacy function to external groups and organizations, and to governments.” In practice, the Committee has generally focussed on its research role, supporting the FA Executive (and the Negotiating Team, in years when negotiation positions are being prepared), and this continued in 2021-2022.
The main area of Committee activity over the past year has been to assist the Executive in crafting and delivering a number FA membership surveys on issues of interest and concern.
As noted elsewhere, it has, unfortunately, been necessary for the FA to apply considerable pressure on the employer over the past year to ensure any action on the University’s responsibility to provide safe and fair working conditions for our members, and the UPEI community at large. To inform and guide these efforts, a number of membership surveys have been conducted, including:
- June 2021 survey on members’ experiences and expectations in preparing for the Fall 2021 semester, after the University announced plans for more “in-person” [on-campus] learning in the 2021-2022 academic year.
- August 2021 survey on a campus vaccination requirement [vaccine mandate].
- September 2021 survey on members’ experiences of the start of the Fall 2021 semester.
- October-November 2021 survey, “Improving Access to Physical Activity for Members” (survey developed by UPEI researcher Dr. Travis Saunders)
- January 2022 survey on members’ experiences and expectations regarding UPEI supports for their work as the University reverted to primarily online learning, in response to the Omicron surge.
- February-March 2022 “mini-survey” on the experiences of any members who requested extensions to online course deliver, as the University reverted to predominantly in-person learning at the end of February.
- March 2022 survey on members’ expectations on continuing UPEI COVID precautions, in the context of the PEI Government’s stated intention to end most provincial pandemic measures on April 7th.
Further, as reported in detail at the FA’s December 2021 AGM, detailed bargaining surveys were also sent to members of both bargaining units in late October 2021.
Great appreciation is due to the many members who took time to provide such careful and considered responses to the above surveys: the quantity and quality of feedback provided in all surveys was very good, and the more impressive in light of all the extra burdens our members have continued to carry over the past year. Members’ survey responses have been absolutely critical for the FA Executive’s ongoing efforts to engage with the employer on issues of concern.
Thanks are also due, of course, to the Research and Advocacy Committee’s members, including Nino Antadze, Jean Mitchell, Rebecca Reed-Jones, and Javier Sanchez — as well as former members Andy Trivett and Tess Miller (who had to finish their terms early to take up other appointments) — for their readiness to assist and advise. Unfortunately, the focus on preparing and analyzing surveys, often on very tight time-lines, has meant that there has been far less opportunity for consultation with the Committee than I would have liked, but Committee members were nevertheless been most helpful and supportive when called upon, and this was appreciated.
Looking to the coming year, I am (cautiously) hopeful that there will be opportunity for a more deliberative and proactive approach to the Committee’s research mandate. While we must remain ready to deal with time-sensitive issues as they arise, the development of a planned research agenda has the potential to ease the heavy workload of the Executive — and especially our President and Vice-President —and better draw on the collective wisdom of the Research and Advocacy Committee’s members. In this context, I am especially thankful to those who are remaining on the Committee, and those who will be joining us at the AGM. We have an exciting year of learning ahead.
By Simon Lloyd (Co-Chair)