Welcome to our second online AGM, and our second AGM held during the COVID pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge this and recognize how this has affected APSA as an organization and you as APSA members.
In your professional capacities at SFU, some of you have been responsible for adjusting to the changing provincial directives and developing and implementing SFU’s organizational response. Some of you have been tasked with managing change and developing the direct operational responses for your departments or faculties due to COVID.
Many of you had to do both. All of you had to do this in addition to your regular roles and responsibilities.
Some of you still had to come to work every day during the pandemic because your work was essential. Some of you had to adjust to working from home and maintaining that work-life balance.
Many of you had to figure out a way to do both. All of you had to do this in addition to dealing with personal and familial physical and emotional challenges brought on by this pandemic.
While APSA is your professional association and not your employer, it is important to me that you know that all your extra effort is seen and recognized. That it has gone on for over a year, that you’ve laboured and put in hours above and beyond, all because of your dedication to SFU.
At our last AGM, I explained how my goal, the board’s goal, and the goal of APSA staff had been to expand awareness of our organization and its roles and responsibilities amongst our membership.
APSA is a member-driven professional organization registered as a society under the BC Societies Act. We work to negotiate, advocate, and educate on behalf of and for our members. We all have a much better understanding and sense of self than we did two or three years ago.
APSA has improved at communicating out to you, our members. You have rewarded your organization by communicating back to us and giving us feedback on how we can better advocate, negotiate, and educate on your behalf.
Throughout this past year, we conducted many surveys on the changing COVID environment. In the spirit of collaboration, we shared that information with the University.
We have continued to provide educational offerings, albeit via Zoom, and have adjusted those offerings based on your feedback.
We have continued with our contract negotiations, our joint compensation discussions on market surveys and job evaluations, and our advocacy on various items. I will leave the detail of those items to the committee chairs, who will speak later in our meeting.
While we have raised awareness amongst APSA members, we continue to have challenges with the University – especially when it comes to the broader theme of relationships.
We still struggle with having the University understand that we are a professional association and not a union. This means that we should be agreeing on the problems and collaborating on solutions. We can’t seem to agree on the problems.
What do I mean by this? As an example, APSA believes that APSA members are under-compensated and that this results in recruitment and retention challenges for the University. We both feel that pain because it is APSA members that have to recruit for other APSA positions. Our role is to collaborate with the University to advocate for increased funding.
Instead of working together, we keep hitting roadblocks where the University won’t acknowledge the problem or will acknowledge it in words but not actions: compensation, negotiations, employment standards, bullying and harassment; it’s across the board.
This is concerning because it is APSA members in their professional roles that are helping this University expand student satisfaction beyond the classroom. The Sustainability Office, EDI, Reconciliation, Sexual Violence Support & Prevention, and many other departments and initiatives did not exist five or ten years ago.
I am working to improve this relationship with the University while maintaining my fiduciary responsibilities towards this organization to advocate, negotiate, and educate on your behalf. I know that the board, APSA staff, and the various APSA members who volunteer on our committees feel that same commitment – we want to have a collaborative relationship. Still, we can only do so when the University is willing to agree on the problems and work with us on solutions.
Collaboration is not impossible. We saw some of this during the Spring and Summer regarding COVID. The University did not have the hard data we had from our surveys. We presented that to them, and they acted on some of your feedback.
We have also had some good initial informal discussions with some members of the administration, specifically on building back that relationship and recognizing the contributions of APSA members along with that of faculty and other staff.
We do continue to need your help.
Our AGM coincides with much of the budget preparation for the University. As professional staff, if you are overworked or your department is under-resourced with new COVID requirements and initiatives, now is the time to ask for more resources. If job descriptions need to be re-written or re-evaluated, now is the time to speak to HR. If your department or faculty needs more funding, now is the time to raise that.
There is no doubt that 2022 will continue to see change. Hopefully, that change will be for the better: in terms of health, in terms of funding, and in terms of relationships.
As president of APSA, I look forward to embracing that change and improving all aspects of the work environment for APSA members.