Report of the Chair of the Membership Committee, 2015–2016

April 26, 2016
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As Chair of the Membership Committee, I strive to support the work of UTFA Council and Executive in new ways, to increase dialogue with members, and to circulate ideas that matter to all of us within the membership and beyond. Some of our activities relate broadly to UTFA’s mission and the broader landscape of collegial governance, and others concern decisions we need to make at UTFA and at U of T. The broad goal of our outreach is to ensure colleagues come together during the academic year to think across divisions, departments, and fields about the common good. 

At last year’s AGM, we hosted former Toronto Mayor David Miller to discuss linkages between the University and the city. He outlined several key policy issues to which he believed researchers at U of T could contribute expertise. This year, Linda Kohn, our Vice-President, University and External Affairs, and I worked with UTFA staff to bring Professor Martha Nussbaum (University of Chicago) to deliver our annual C.B. Macpherson Lecture. The talk, Anger and Revolutionary Justice, generated an amazing turnout, bringing faculty, librarians, and graduate students together to think about emotions and social change. Each of these talks enables us to think expansively about the work we collectively do. 

This year the Membership Committee has enthusiastically supported the work of the Librarians Committee, recognizing the significance of its campaign for a new Policies for Librarians and a greater understanding among all our members of the meaning and practice of academic librarianship. To this end, with Aylwin Lo, our Campaign and Communications Support Officer, we created two postcards, one that emphasized the paralysis of librarians’ policies and the need for a shared commitment with the Administration to meaningfully revise them, and another that featured the intellectual work of some very accomplished librarians. As curators, authors, composers, musicians, and archivists, librarians deserve policies that better reflect their extensive expertise and training. We will continue to feature more of them on the UTFA website as the campaign continues. 

The Membership Committee has also worked with the Equity Committee, chaired by Terezia Zoric, to focus on sexual assault and pay equity. Last spring, in the wake of provincial mandates on sexual assault on university campuses, UTFA co-sponsored an event hosted by the Women & Gender Studies Institute and campus undergraduate groups, thinking through the role of universities vis-a-vis enduring social problems. UTFA followed up with a presentation to Council by Connie Guberman, a member of the Advisory Committee to the President and Provost on Preventing and Responding to Sexual Violence, to learn more about the process and outcome of that committee’s work so Council members could report and engage the membership on these important matters. We also invited Michelle Dion, President of the McMaster University Faculty Association, to speak on MUFA’s recent gender pay equity agreement. This promises to be a topic of conversation among our members and research for our Council in the coming months. 

Additionally, the Membership Committee is working with Paul Downes, Vice-President, Salaries, Benefits, Pensions and Workload, to reach members in academic units whose Council constituency seats are vacant to ensure they understand the recent negotiations and settlement, and to get feedback from these members. Member engagement is key to this Committee, as is ensuring no one is left out of the communication loop. Even if you do have a Council representative, please reach out if you would like us to visit with members of your department. More generally, UTFA Executive members are available to consult with you and your colleagues upon request. 

This spring the Membership Committee is also working with Michael Attridge, Chair of the Appointments Committee, to create a podcast on promotion to full Professor. Michael Attridge surveyed Associate Professors on their interest in and understanding of the process. By engaging librarians, faculty mentors, new full Professors, and scholars studying the process of promotion, we hope to bring the survey results to life and to use a new format to reach members concerning University processes. 

Finally, UTFA has created a new Academic Citizenship Award, with applications adjudicated by the Membership Committee. Award recipients will be announced at the AGM each spring beginning in 2016. This award honours members of UTFA who have made a significant contribution to our understanding of the relationship between the University and public life. We are grateful when our colleagues do work that engages with University practices within and outside of our campuses; now we have an award to recognize such contributions. 

None of this work could be achieved without the expert advice and participation of Membership Committee members whose wisdom and interests animate all the work of this portfolio. I encourage all UTFA members to be in touch with ideas about what we have taken up, and what we might do next to more effectively connect UTFA’s members. 

Judith Taylor
Chair, Membership Committee