As the newly elected president of the StFXAUT, I would like to begin with a brief introduction. I am a Full Professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. I graduated from StFX in 1988 and completed both my Masters in 1990 and my Ph.D. in 1996 at the University of Waterloo. I was a part-time instructor at StFX in 1990-1991 and held a full-time limited-term appointment at StFX in 1991-1992. I returned to a tenure-track appointment at StFX in 1995 and was Chair of the Department from 2004-2009. For the AUT, I served on the Contracts and Benefits Committee and as Chair of the Handbook Committee from 2006 to 2009, at the time we were negotiating our First Collective Agreement, and I served as Treasurer from 2015 to 2019.
We are definitely in interesting times. As I take a very short break between meetings via conference calls, BlueJeans, Teams, Zoom, etc., I realize how much I miss face-to-face (not FaceTime) contact without the worry of social distancing. I vividly recall the Friday the 13th in March when I expressed to my students in my afternoon Sports Analytics class that this was likely their last on-campus class for the term and outlined my contingency plans for the remainder of the course. Little did I know then exactly how events were going to unfold, and how quickly we could move the majority of our students out of campus, return from our own excursions, shift most of our operations into our homes, and complete the term online. Yes, there were major obstacles to overcome, and the overall quality of the final product was not quite the same, but I applaud everyone for going above and beyond in such trying times. We do have to admit that online convocation is just not the same.
As we adjust to our new reality and try to figure out what lies ahead, most of us take consolation in the fact that we can continue to work from home. Others, however, have lost access to their workspaces, labs, reference materials, etc. and are left trying to make do. The StFXAUT is working with the University to ensure everyone’s health and safety are at the forefront as we plan our eventual return to on-campus teaching, research, and service activities, and that no one is punished for their change in productivity due to circumstances beyond their control. One of the many challenges most of us are facing at this time includes the necessity to prepare for the many possible scenarios we may encounter, and trying to achieve the highest quality educational experience regardless of the situation. This is especially difficult for our Librarians, Lab and Learning Skills Instructors, Nurse and Dietetic Educators, Coady Institute Teaching Staff, Part-Time Academic Instructors, and LTAs between or starting new contracts, and our new hires starting mid-to-late August or even into September,
As summer begins, we must not forget the achievements of the past academic year. I would like to extend my congratulations to all those who achieved tenure, earned promotions, qualified for new or renewed research or project grants, were recognized for outstanding teaching, research, outreach, or service, fought for, established, or maintained our rights and privileges, and made new discoveries or innovations in the labs, classrooms, and other spaces across campus and beyond. A special recognition and thank you to all of those involved in the negotiation of our Fifth Collective Agreement and its LOUs and MOUs. It appears that negotiations never cease.
I hope this summer avails each of you the opportunity to recharge and the upcoming academic year exceeds all expectations.
Martin van Bommel