Faculty Association announces tenure-clock extensions, ability to cancel study leave amid COVID-19

In the wake of COVID-19, the UBC Faculty Association (FA) has negotiated a one-year tenure-clock extension for tenure-track faculty and the ability for faculty to cancel upcoming study leaves.

As faculty members have adapted to online learning environments, many also face uncertainty with regard to research interruptions and deadlines in the tenure promotion process.

“As is the case at other Canadian universities, the FA has been focused these past six weeks on addressing the impacts on members resulting from the pandemic,” said FA President Bronwen Sprout in a statement to The Ubyssey.

“COVID-19 has disrupted faculty members’ work and personal lives, including their study leave and research plans,” she wrote.

In response to these concerns, the FA and UBC Faculty Relations negotiated a one-year tenure-clock extension which will automatically apply to faculty promotion schedules effective July 1. Faculty have the option of adding the extension to the end of their tenure review cycle or forgoing the extension entirely by notifying their unit head by June 1. These changes do not apply to faculty currently undergoing a promotion review.

The FA also announced that faculty can now cancel and defer study leaves set to begin July 1 or September 1. Faculty who choose to cancel can maintain the terms of their leave and accumulate time toward eligibility for a future leave. If faculty choose to cancel a study leave originally scheduled with a lower salary rate, they can accrue time for future leave at a higher salary level.

COVID-19 puts stress on faculty

The pandemic has interrupted research for faculty like Sauder School of Business Assistant Professor Ken Kikkawa, who called the extension a “good decision.”

Between taking care of his children and the stress of transitioning to online teaching, performing research as part of the tenure process has been difficult.

“That prohibited us from doing any kind of research, which is our main job if you are a research faculty,” he said. “With all of the travel bans, I cannot do anything like that anymore so my research has been effectively stopped for a while.”

These new agreements have relieved stress from faculty members and have made them feel supported during this world-wide pandemic.

“The Faculty Association has been there from the very beginning,” said Sam Rocha, associate professor in the Faculty of Education and coordinator of society, culture and politics in the Education Program.

Rocha was supposed to leave July 1 for his study leave but due to COVID-19, postponed his study leave for a full year. The ability to change his study leave has ensured that the experience that he originally signed up for is what he will be receiving when he partakes in his study leave at a later date.

“I don’t get … stuck taking my study leave in a way that is completely different than what I intended and what I applied for a year ago,” he said.

Both Kikkawa and Rocha said the tenure-clock extension was needed to accommodate faculty members in many different situations, and Kikkawa said the decision aligned with “many universities around the world.”

Rocha said that the extension was “fair” and will be helpful as the pandemic progresses.

“I think it’s going to allow for the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 upon people’s productivity, but also their access to the kind of resources they need to do their work,” he said.