FAQ: Impacts of COVID-19 for YUFA members

Dear colleagues,

YUFA has prepared the following Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQ) document about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the academic workplace at York University. The document was last updated on March 24, 2020.

This FAQ also includes a list of unresolved issues, for which YUFA is awaiting a response from the Employer.

As the situation develops, and as the Employer responds to YUFA’s inquiries, we will be updating and expanding this FAQ. Please visit this page frequently for regular updates.

Please also see this general FAQ prepared by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

1) Where can I get the latest updates?

Information about the COVID-19 pandemic is changing rapidly. We encourage YUFA members to check these websites frequently, as updates are posted regularly.

Health resources

York University

YUFA

CAUT

2) Is the University still open?

In response to the province-wide state of emergency in Ontario, the University has shifted operations to provide only required services. Most campus buildings on Keele campus and at Glendon College are now closed. There is only limited access to campus buildings for required services.

Closures include all libraries, child care centres, and most dine-in food facilities (only take-out or delivery is available). According to this March 19, 2020 update, food services in Stong, Winters, and Glendon cafeterias remain open, along with the Tim Hortons in William Small on Keele campus.

Further closures may be announced.

The University is following the latest public health guidelines, which encourage working from home and social distancing and discourage in-person interaction.

3) Am I permitted on campus, even if most buildings are closed?

For most YUFA members, there is no need to be on campus. The University has moved to required services only, so faculty members should generally not be going to their offices or otherwise attending on campus unless it is required to complete courses.

Committee meetings and other normal business are proceeding remotely and should not require in-person attendance.

However, some members may need to be on campus—for example, to care for animals in a laboratory. In situations like these, members should communicate with their Dean’s Office/Principal’s Office to make arrangements to have access to the facilities they need, as most buildings on campus will be completely closed.

More information about access to buildings during this period is available here.

4) How do I complete my courses?

In discussions with the Employer, YUFA has received the following assurances about course completions:

Course completion plans: The Employer expects YUFA members to develop course completion plans, based on their own academic judgment. The Employer is mainly interested in whether members need any support or resources to complete their courses or whether any aspect of their courses cannot be remediated. Members who require any support whatsoever should email their Dean’s Office or Principal’s Office.

Course Directors: The Employer recognizes that Course Directors—and only Course Directors—have the right to determine how to complete their courses, based on their own academic judgment.

Timelines: The Employer recognizes that members will require sufficient time to determine how to complete their courses. The Employer will therefore show flexibility as members develop course completion plans. In this update, the Employer refers to two deadlines: 

  • Our instructors will communicate with you no later than Friday, March 20, 2020 to indicate how they will make course materials available and complete course activities.”
  • “Your instructors will communicate with you no later than Friday, March 27, 2020 about any adjustments to evaluation and grading schemes.”

Members who are unable to meet these deadlines should contact their Dean’s Office/Principal’s Office.

Online: The Employer acknowledges that the completion of courses does not have to be online. It is up to members to determine how to complete their courses. Some members may choose to move everything online; others may choose to move some things online; and others may choose to rely only on email to communicate course completion instructions to students. The only requirement is that instruction must not be in-person.

Interim grades: There is currently no deadline to submit interim grades. The Employer is simply encouraging members to update grades, where necessary, and/or request grades from Teaching Assistants, in case anyone has had to take sick leave or return home.

Exam cancellations: All in-person examinations have been cancelled. The Employer is encouraging members to offer students take-home examinations, online examinations, or alternate assignments. Faculty members are strongly discouraged from deferring exams. The University is exploring software options for the secure proctoring of remote exams. If you cannot complete your course with academic integrity without a final exam, and need assistance for secure remote proctoring of exams, you should identify this issue in your course completion plan and contact your Dean’s Office/Principal’s Office to determine what arrangements can be made. 

Accommodations for students: The Employer has committed significant resources to providing accommodations for students, especially those who lack computer technology or Internet access at home. The Employer will respond directly to students who request accommodations. Students who require accommodations should visit the website of Student Accessibility Services or phone 416-736-5755.

5) What if I need support to complete my courses?

Members who require any support whatsoever should email their Dean’s Office or Principal’s Office.

Members should keep in mind that their course completion plans are at their discretion, based on their own academic judgment. Courses do not have to be completed online, unless members choose this option.

6) What if I need accommodations?

Members who require health-related or disability-related accommodations should contact the Employee Well-being Office.

The implementation of new accommodations, in response to the University’s shift in operations, may take longer than usual. The Employer has indicated that all accommodation requests will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis and as expeditiously as possible.

YUFA has emphasized to the Employer the need for flexibility and understanding in responding to members’ requests for accommodation, especially given the challenges of securing medical documentation at this time.

If you need assistance securing adequate accommodations, please email yufa@yorku.ca.

All other requests for support (see #5 above), including any issues related to family status, should be made to your Dean’s Office or Principal’s Office.

7) What if I already have accommodations?

YUFA members who already have accommodations, including anything described in a Workplace Accommodation Plan (WAP), should still be able to rely on them—unless they are no longer required when members are working remotely.

If the University’s shift in operations has affected your accommodations, please contact the Employee Well-being Office.

8) What if I need sick leave? Or leave to care for a family member?

Sick leave, compassionate leave, and bereavement leave—like all other forms of leave described in the YUFA Collective Agreement—remains available to YUFA members.

The Employer has confirmed that, for sick leaves of 15 days or fewer, no medical documentation is required.

Members who require sick leave or other forms of leave should inform the Employer in the usual way: by contacting your Dean’s Office or Principal’s Office.

9) Will committee work continue?

YUFA members involved in committee work will need to consult with the rest of their committees to determine whether their work may continue remotely. The Employer is expanding access to resources such as ZOOM in order to facilitate the shift to work conducted remotely.

Committee meetings and other normal business do not require in-person attendance.

10) What about search committees?

As above, YUFA members involved in committee work, including search committees, will need to consult with the rest of their committees to determine whether their work may continue remotely.

The Employer has indicated that searches that cannot continue remotely will be terminated or designated as failed.

YUFA has inquired whether searches that are terminated or designated as failed will automatically be authorized for the following year. As soon as the Employer communicates its response, YUFA will update this document.

11) What about tenure-and-promotion timelines?

The Employer has committed to facilitate remotely the completion of all current tenure-and-promotion files, although priority will be given to tenure files.

YUFA has indicated to the Employer that, where delays take place, the Employer must address any consequences for YUFA members. There is an understanding between the parties that files will not be prejudiced in any way, and that tenure files will be appropriately backdated to July 1, 2020.

Promotion files will also be appropriately backdated, to either July 1, 2020 or January 1, 2021 (depending on when the file cleared the Adjudicating Committee).

For pre-tenure YUFA members, YUFA has indicated to the Employer that pre-tenure candidates may require the following:

  • the option of a stop-out on tenure-and-promotion timelines; 
  • the option to exclude course evaluations from this academic year; 
  • consideration of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their research, such as  missed travel opportunities to conduct research or participate in conferences.

12) Are contracts still in effect for Post-Doctoral Visitors?

Yes, all contracts for Post-Doctoral Visitors remain in effect until the contract end date, regardless of the University’s shift in operations.

As such, Post-Doctoral Visitors should experience no interruption in their pay or benefits.

13) Is my health coverage affected if I am currently outside Canada?

The University’s Pension & Benefits Office has recently communicated to YUFA members the following message, which appears in the P & B Times (March 2020, Issue 67): 

“With rising concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic the Pension & Benefits Office has received an increase in calls and emails regarding benefit coverage. We would like to confirm there are no changes to current benefit coverage. As always if you have questions please refer to your on-line benefit booklet or contact Sun Life directly. Please be patient as Sun Life supports a number of organizations.”

Out of an abundance of caution, YUFA has asked the Employer for absolute clarity on whether members who cannot return to Canada are eligible for the same emergency health coverage as they normally would be, despite the government travel advisory to return to Canada.

On March 23, 2020, the Employer confirmed that health benefit coverage remains what it has always been and that there have been no changes to health benefit coverage as a result of COVID-19.

If members have further questions, we encourage them to contact Sun Life directly. Sun Life’s contact details are available here. The contract number of the benefits plan for YUFA members is 14098.

14) I am currently outside Canada. Should I return to Canada?

The Employer has drawn the attention of YUFA members to the latest travel advisories issued by the Government of Canada, which urge all Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents to return to Canada as soon as possible.

Please see the following Government of Canada resources:

15) Will scheduled Ph.D. defences still proceed?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) has provided this update to graduate students. Under the section on defences, FGS states: 

Graduate students have the right to choose to hold a thesis or dissertation defence in an electronically mediated, audio/visual, online format (via Zoom) or to defer the defence with no penalty until such time as the university recommends a return to in-person formats for classes and other program requirements. Students wishing to postpone a defence that has already been booked must promptly consult with their supervisor, supervisory committee, and Graduate Program Assistant via email. GPAs can then convey this information to FGS: gsthesis@yorku.ca

For more information, please read the update in full.

At this time, YUFA is encouraging members to proceed remotely with any scheduled Ph.D. defences. We are aware that some doctoral candidates have accepted faculty appointments that are contingent on the successful completion and conferral of their doctorates.

16) What happens if my research is interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

On its FAQ page, the University has provided the following update regarding research during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

York is committed to continuing ongoing research.

“Researchers are encouraged not to start, or submit, any new research protocols requiring on-campus activities. Researchers should also assess the needs for ongoing projects.

“Researchers, their staff, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars should ensure they have the necessary tools, materials and data to continue work remotely where possible.

“More information will follow as it becomes available. If you have questions not addressed on York’s dedicated COVID-19 website please email coronavirusinfo@yorku.ca”

In addition, the following research-related questions are answered on the CAUT FAQ page

  • Some of our members have had to cancel travel funded through a research grant. Will the grant cover cancellation fees?
  • Will the granting agencies make allowances for extensions to competition deadlines?
  • Some members received grants that required them to attend a conference as a condition of receiving funding. What should they do?

17) What if my Dean/Principal asks me to perform work normally performed by staff or graduate students?

Even in the current circumstances, YUFA members are only expected to meet the professional obligations of full-time faculty as they are described in the YUFA Collective Agreement.

If your Dean/Principal or any other Employer designate asks you to perform work normally performed by staff or graduate students, please email yufa@yorku.ca.

18) Is the YUFA Collective Agreement still in effect?

Yes, the YUFA Collective Agreement remains in effect.

As YUFA indicated in its March 14, 2020 statement:

The protections guaranteed by our Collective Agreement are of paramount importance, particularly in such extraordinary circumstances. YUFA continues to defend those protections and will hold the Employer to its obligation to respect them, as it responds to a rapidly evolving situation.

19) What if I need YUFA representation or support?

In the interest of our own health and that of all our members, YUFA will be suspending non-essential meetings and conducting more of its business via ZOOM, email, and/or telephone.

YUFA has also taken the preventative measures of closing the YUFA office, as of March 13, and of allowing YUFA staff members to work from home. While these measures are in place, YUFA staff will continue to represent and support YUFA members and otherwise conduct the normal business of the Association. As always, all telephone and email queries will be handled as expeditiously as possible.

If you require representation or support, or have any questions, please email yufa@yorku.ca. Queries by email will be processed more quickly than by telephone.

20) What will happen to course evaluations this semester?

The Employer has agreed that, although course evaluations will proceed, members have the option of excluding them for the purposes of their tenure-and-promotion files, if they so choose.

Unresolved issues

21) What if my sabbatical leave has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

YUFA has informed the Employer that many YUFA members on sabbatical leave have experienced disruptions, including having to return to Canada from research abroad, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some members have inquired whether their sabbatical leaves may be extended to make up for any disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The parties have agreed to discuss this matter further as we get a better sense of the nature and length of the disruption and the extent of its impact on sabbaticals.

22) Will scheduled sabbatical leaves still begin on July 1?

YUFA has informed the Employer that many YUFA members scheduled to begin sabbatical leave on July 1 are now experiencing disruptions, including cancelled travel plans, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some members have inquired whether their sabbatical leaves may be delayed or re-scheduled if their current research plans, including travel, have been disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The parties have agreed to discuss this matter further as we get a better sense of the nature and length of the disruption and the extent of its impact on sabbaticals.

23) Will new hires still start on July 1?

YUFA is of the view that all new hires should begin as originally scheduled, whether on July 1, 2020 or on another date. As such, new hires should receive pay and benefits on their original timelines, regardless of the University’s shift in operations or any delays new hires encounter, such as travelling or moving to Toronto, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

YUFA expects to receive confirmation from the Employer.

24) Is it still possible to borrow a laptop from the University?

The University recently indicated in this March 19, 2020 update that it had “secured 1,500 laptops for students, faculty and staff who don’t have a home computer to learn, teach or work remotely.”

YUFA has learned that the University received more requests for laptops than the number of laptops available. We have asked the Employer to clarify whether more laptops will be made available in response to the demand.

25) What is going to happen in the Summer semester?

The Employer has indicated to YUFA that it will soon announce its plans for the Summer 2020 semester and that it is currently considering various options for online learning, in light of the public health measures that are being taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

YUFA expects to receive an update from the Employer in the coming days.

26) Have we missed anything?

Please send your questions to yufa@yorku.ca. We will be adding more information to this document as it becomes available.

Thank you for your patience and support at this time.