Message from MUFA President

window with ivy

Dear MUFA members,

Let me echo the statements we’ve been seeing from our university leaders: THANK YOU for all that you are doing during this crisis. The last week has not been easy. It definitely feels much longer than a week, and so much has changed in that time. But the McMaster community remains strong and supportive, and I know that will continue as we work through these crises.

But now it’s the weekend (in case you’d lost track of the days like I had). It’s time to pause and look after yourself for a couple of days. Sleep in. Read a book (for fun). Get outside in the sunshine that’s forecast. Hang out with your family, or maybe get some alone time if you’ve had too much family lately. Cook a meal. Listen to music. Play some music! Dance like no one is watching…. it’s just your kids, and they’re embarrassed of you anyway, so you might as well milk it.

We’ll be back at this on Monday, from our homes, in our new configurations and with our newly-found expertise in technology. Let’s get ourselves rested and relaxed and ready for the new week.

And, as usual, go wash your hands.

Alison Sills
MUFA President


COVID-19: The fast-moving crisis and response at McMaster

The fast-moving crisis and response at McMaster

Alison Sills, MUFA President

I started planning this article in the morning of Thursday March 12th. At that point, the word at McMaster was the university was working in a ‘business as usual’ mode, but please wash your hands a lot. By lunch time, I was providing comments on a plan to cancel classes and exams a few weeks hence, and before dinner, the Ontario government closed all elementary and secondary schools until April 5th and our prime minister was in self-isolation. And this morning, we learned that all face-to-face classes and exams are cancelled for this term.

No matter where we are in this crisis, there are a few overarching principles that should guide our response, both individually and as an institution. Here is my personal summary:

  1. Panic isn’t helpful. Vigilance and preparedness are. Extra toilet paper won’t help, unless you run out of Kleenex. Soap and water are really good ideas.
  2. The health of our community is the top priority. We’ll need to be flexible in a whole bunch of ways to keep that community healthy. It isn’t ideal to cancel exams and reweight marks in a course at the last minute. But it can be done carefully and thoughtfully. We can find a way to provide students with a reasonably accurate assessment of their performance in our courses, without being unduly proscriptive or hard on the students. Fortunately this flexibility is already built into our course outlines with the Extreme Circumstances clause. You should do whatever makes the most sense for your course and your students.
  3. Communication is key. This is always true, but even more so during a crisis. Communicate with your students and colleagues often, and make sure that your information is accurate and up to date. Reach out to people you trust and ask questions (…. Just saying).
  4. All changes will likely increase our workload in the short term, and may pose additional problems for anyone with a need for accommodations. In addition, many of us are now juggling child care needs at a time when groups are not recommended. Or we have aging parents who may be hit harder by this virus, and who may not live near Hamilton. A crisis is a stressful time. Remember point #2: the health of our community includes YOUR health. Give yourself the permission to also be flexible in your own life. Do what you need to get through this, and make use of the many resources that McMaster can provide.
  5. After this crisis is over, we will need to continue to be flexible. Our research may suffer as we turn our attention to other things right now – our chairs know they may need to provide a little more support when they’re writing up our tenure report. Our students may not have quite the background you expect when they appear in your course next year – spend a little more time bringing them up to speed.

On the positive side, maybe we’re learning some useful things during this crisis. Maybe we’ll find some cute online resources that will help our teaching. Maybe we’ll finally work up those notes in PowerPoint. Maybe we’ll discover that WebEx meetings are great and we can reduce our carbon footprint. I know we’ll find that the McMaster community is tight-knit and supportive, and that we’ll get through this together.

Now go wash your hands.



SMA3 Town Hall

SMA3 Town Hall

On Monday, February 10th MUFA hosted a SMA3 Town Hall with special guests President David Farrar, Acting Provost Susan Searls-Giroux, Associate Vice-President Linda Coslovi, and Acting Vice-President Research Karen Mossman.

The Ontario government is moving to a system which ties funding to our performance on specific metrics, and away from a funding model that was primarily based on the number of students. Many people joined us for an information session about the new model, the metrics and implementation, and what impact these changes could have on the look-and-feel of the university.

If you were unable to attend the session in person, you can now access the presentation online.

New External Tuition Bursary Process

New External Tuition Bursary Process

The new external tuition bursary process is now live. Please see the these documents from HR for details. The summary is that there is a two-stage process: you must submit an application by *MARCH 30, 2020* and then final receipts by September 30, 2020. If you miss the March deadline, you will not be eligible for the benefit for the 2019/20 academic year.

The submission happens through Mosaic (Employee Self Serve –> External Tuition Bursary Form –> a specific Microsoft Form with additional login) and at this stage, requires proof of registration of your dependent/spouse in a university or college program. Proof of payment and payment information will be requested later.

If you have any questions, please contact

MUFA ad-hoc Committee on Student Evaluation of Teaching Report

MUFA ad-hoc Committee on Student Evaluation of Teaching Report

In 2019 the McMaster University Faculty Association created a committee to perform a student evaluation of teaching. The committee, comprised of faculty and students (undergraduates and graduates) met in the first months of 2019, circulated a draft report early spring, sought feedback from various groups on campus and published a final version in December.

This exercise provided important feedback from faculty and students on the evaluations used to assess teaching and learning outcomes at McMaster University and suggested to replace the current quantitative questionnaire by three tools to assess the learning experience of students: a formative tool to be used during the term (preferably mid-term), known as “stop-start-continue”, a summative tool, based on focus groups, collecting qualitative comments through a collective discussion at the end of the course, and reflexive tool, based on a survey questionnaire addressed to graduates to collect information at the program level.

We are now seeking feedback on these recommendations through a series of town hall meetings, to take place this month (January 21 and 29). Please see the information at the following link:

External Tuition Bursary for dependents & spouses of MUFA members, effective July 1, 2019

External Tuition Bursary for dependents & spouses of MUFA members, effective July 1, 2019

The Joint Administration/Faculty Association Committee Remuneration Agreement of March 13, 2019 included the creation of a fund to be used to reimburse tuition payments for dependents & spouses of MUFA members. MUFA has been working with Human Resources to formalize the administration of this pool. We expect the details to be finalized shortly after July 1, and therefore would like to provide the following information to our members at this time:

  • This is a tuition reimbursement program. Payments will be made once a year for the previous academic year. Payments from the fund for the 2019/20 academic year will likely be made in late 2020. Eligible tuition paid on or after July 1, 2019 will be included in the 2019/20 payment.
  • Documents such as receipts for tuition payment or the student’s university/college statement of account will be required. The due date for such documents for the 2019/20 academic year will likely be in Fall 2020.
  • There will be a maximum cap on the amount of tuition that can be reimbursed to an individual student in an academic year, likely $2000. The amount that will be reimbursed to each student will depend on how many applications are received, and could be less than the maximum cap.
  • Eligible tuition payments will likely include: university courses taken for credit leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree at an accredited Canadian university other than McMaster, and courses in a formal program of study leading to a degree or diploma at an accredited Canadian community college.
  • Many of the other eligibility requirements will follow those of the internal McMaster tuition bursary program where relevant.

MUFA and Human Resources apologize for the delay in finalizing the administration of this fund, and will provide full details of the process as soon as possible.

MUFA Award for Outstanding Service Winners

MUFA Award Winners

MUFA Award for Outstanding Service Winners

Following the Annual General Meeting, a special reception was held in honour of the recipients of the MUFA Award for Outstanding Service.  The award was presented to Catherine Anderson and Ellen Amster in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the University.  The selection committee, chaired by the Past-President Laura Parker, included Michelle Dion (Associate Professor, Political Science), Sarah Robinson (TMG) Denise Smith (MUALA), Stephanie Bertolo (VP Education, MSU) and Beth Couchman (Unifor). Michel Grignon read the following citations on behalf of the selection committee.

Dr. Catherine Anderson is this year’s recipient of the MUFA Award for Outstanding Service. Reviewing her dossier, the Selection Committee was unanimous in its endorsement. Catherine, a Teaching Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Languages, has established an impressive record of service at McMaster and shows a genuine commitment to her peers and students.

Catherine is known for her creative and innovative approach to teaching and curriculum development as well as her willingness to serve her department, Faculty and the University in countless ways. The committee was particularly  impressed with Catherine’s commitment to education through the development of a free, open access textbook. This text is accessible for free to students at McMaster and beyond, as well as to anyone interested in learning about the science of language. In March 2018, Catherine’s teaching innovations were recognized with the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance Teaching Award.

Catherine is also an active researcher and has made significant contributions to graduate education in linguistics serving on many graduate thesis committees. As one of nominators noted: “Dr. Anderson’s broadness of expertise is one of the pillars that the department’s undergraduate, and later graduate, programs in Cognitive Science of Language could be built on.” Catherine is also known for her sincere and deep commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion at McMaster and she is a frequent mentor to students and colleagues.

Beyond her impressive contributions to education Catherine is an active member of the McMaster community, serving on numerous committees within the Faculty of Humanities as well as on the University Senate and various Senate committees, including the Senate Executive. No consideration of Catherine’s commitment to service would be complete without an acknowledgement of her years of dedicated service on behalf of MUFA. Catherine has been an active member of the executive for two separate terms, and is currently our Grievances & Special Enquiries officer. Given Catherine’s commitment to fairness there is no one better suited to this role.  On behalf of the 2019 MUFA Service Award Committee, it is a great honour to present this award to Catherine Anderson in recognition of her distinguished record of service to the University.

Dr. Ellen Amster is this year’s recipient of the MUFA Award for Outstanding Service. Reviewing her dossier, the Selection Committee was unanimous in its endorsement. Ellen has gone beyond expectations in her role as the Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine and is building bridges between the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Health Sciences. Through her teaching, research, and service activities, Ellen has enhanced the reputation of McMaster and made significant impacts on our campus and beyond.

Ellen is known for having created a History of Medicine and Medical Humanities web portal for students, which brings together many resources from libraries, archives and museum collections around the world, as well as practical information on grants and scholarship. In just a few short years this comprehensive resource has become widely used and enables students to explore the medical humanities, especially the history of medicine. 

The Selection Committee was impressed by Ellen’s development of a field course on Maternal and Infant Health in Morocco. This course gave students a culturally-contextualized education experience and led to a follow-up research meeting benefiting many researchers. Ellen’s commitment to diversity was clear to the committee, particularly through the topics covered in the lecture series she organizes as well as a new course developed for the Bachelor of Health Sciences and the Arts & Science Programs.

Collectively, these activities contribute to McMaster’s research mission and international reputation. Ellen “enriches the McMaster community, and exemplifies the contributions the MUFA Outstanding Service Award is intended to recognize.” On behalf of the 2019 MUFA Service Award Committee, it is a great honour to present this award to Ellen Amster in recognition of her distinguished record of service to the University.