Why WUFA Matters
Advocacy, fairness, support, collectivity: when WUFA Council members describe the organization, these terms arise over and over again: advocacy, not only for WUFA members, but for the educational quality of the institution and its students; fairness and balance in negotiating contracts, mediating between faculty and administration, and disseminating information to the public; support for members in their academic and research pursuits, for sessional and tenured instructors, for individuals facing workplace grievances; and a collective voice that demands to be heard. Strength in numbers.
While they may have come to WUFA Council through different channels, and from a range of faculties and programs, Council members emphasize the vital importance of the Faculty Association for the wellness and betterment of the University of Windsor.
Associate Professor of French, Judith Sinanga-Ohlmann, became involved with WUFA as a junior faculty member during the 2008 faculty strike. “I saw WUFA as an organization whose purpose was to look after and protect faculty members’ interests,” she says. “I see WUFA as a social justice driven organization.”
"I saw WUFA as an organization whose purpose was to look after and protect faculty members' interests"
Boubakeur Boufama of the School of Computer Science also joined WUFA Council as a junior faculty member. “I was motivated to learn how WUFA can help faculty members and how I can, myself, help,” he says. “The most important role of WUFA is to make and keep a healthy environment in the university. Happy faculty means happy university. ”
Reference Librarian, Vicki Jay Leung came to the organization through the Status of Women, Diversity, Equity and Action Committee (SWDEAC) shortly after being hired at the Law Library. “Over the time, my motivations to get involved evolved to being more invested in the causes that WUFA stands for,” she says, “not only representing the interests of a privileged few in the Association, but all workers on campus.”
Positive first-hand experiences with WUFA encouraged several members to increase their involvement with WUFA and join the Council. “A number of years ago, I needed the support of WUFA, and that experience increased my awareness and appreciation of what the Faculty Association does for its members,” explains Kathryn Lafreniere of the Department of Psychology. “I’ve been happy to return the favour by participating actively on WUFA executive and council in recent years.”
Professor Brian Brown of the School of Creative Arts and Past-President of WUFA also called upon WUFA for assistance as a sessional instructor in 1978. “It became apparent to me the sessional instructors needed a voice to improve working conditions at the U of W,” he says. Brown went on to help change the WUFA constitution to include a standing committee for Sessional Instructors, and to work with the full-time faculty to involve Sessional Instructors in contract negotiations and improve their rights.
Other Council members found themselves taking on larger roles within WUFA after being involved in strikes and collective bargaining. “I was motivated both by my strong general belief that unions are needed for even a minimally just society, and by my specific perception that the University Administration was trying to neutralize all campus unions, including WUFA,” explains Academic Director of the Windsor Research Data Centre, Dan Edelstein.
Jamey Essex of the Political Science Department became active through WUFA’s strike action in 2008. “I served as a picket captain, and met many people who were already active in the union, and saw how important it was to be involved so that we can protect and improve our rights and work conditions.”
While WUFA may be most visible to the public during strike actions, Nancy McNevin of the Kinesiology Department notes that the organization maintains an important role year-round. “WUFA is under-appreciated by most members because the important work it does is only seen during contract negotiations,” she says. “WUFA ensures our interests and concerns as faculty are heard by Administration. In conjunction with other faculty associations across Canada, WUFA also ensures that equitable and fair practices are maintained.”
"WUFA’s most important role is advocacy...WUFA members teach the students…and understand how academic programs operate and the resources they require. This knowledge is important for the long term viability of the university. Our students would not be receiving the same type of educational experience if WUFA was not around"
Maintaining fair practices is vital to the quality of education at the University of Windsor. “WUFA’s most important role is advocacy,” says Andrew Hubberstey of the Department of Biological Sciences. “WUFA members teach the students…and understand how academic programs operate and the resources they require. This knowledge is important for the long term viability of the university. Our students would not be receiving the same type of educational experience if WUFA was not around.”
WUFA’s broad membership is key to its collective success, and Council members emphasize the importance of recognizing this. “WUFA is not just the Executive or the Council but all of its members and their shared efforts to secure our collective workplace rights,” explains Lafreniere. “WUFA is a diverse organization made up of different groups who may have different priorities. WUFA’s leadership has to bridge these differences and try to bring the members together to engage in collective efforts to achieve gains and protect the rights of workers.”
"Faculty Associations like WUFA are critical to maintaining and expanding the rights and improving the work conditions of faculty members."
Essex echoes this sentiment: “WUFA is what its members make of it. Universities in Ontario and beyond are shifting toward models of governance that reduce the ability of faculty, students, and staff to participate fully and meaningfully in decision making on campus. Windsor is no exception to this, and faculty associations like WUFA are critical to maintaining and expanding the rights and improving the work conditions of faculty members.”
These challenges by government and administration are at the forefront of WUFA’s advocacy for its membership and the quality of education at the University of Windsor. “WUFA matters more than ever right now,” says Lafreniere. “Our universities are facing new challenges related to university governance, including lack of transparency and erosion of faculty participation in collegial academic decision-making.” Brown sees WUFA’s role as a necessary leader on campus for fairness and transparency: “WUFA must continue to work in solidarity with the other campus unions, inform the public what is occurring inside the facades of our buildings, and take the lead in building a more positive campus community.”
(from interviews with members of WUFA Council)