Report to Faculty of Arts and Science: 21 April 2009

By Dean Alistair MacLean, 21 April 2009

Since the Faculty Board meeting on 3rd April 2009, there has been a considerable amount of discussion about both the intent and the effect of the motion that was passed with respect to programmes, degree types and concentrations. The gist of the motion was that changes to these must go through the appropriate departmental and faculty curriculum committees.

As I said at that meeting, I have no problem with the motion as it was expressed. It had always been my intention that programme changes be approved by the appropriate bodies. However, the actions that we have in fact been negotiating since my memorandum to heads in January involve denying admission for one year to certain concentrations pending a review of their academic and fiscal viability. The setting of admissions targets for specific concentrations is something that is done every year in consultation between the Faculty Office and undergraduate chairs.

However there may be a belief that the motion at Faculty Board has the effect of restricting the authority of the Faculty Office to set admissions targets. It is not only the long standing practice for the Faculty Office to make admissions decisions in consultation with Department heads, but the legal advice the University has received confirms that the setting of admissions targets falls under the authority of the Dean who has the responsibility for resource decisions. This responsibility derives from the fiscal authority of the Board of Trustees delegated through the Principal, and the Vice-Principal (Academic) to the Deans.

While the practice and legal position are clear, there remain a number of courses of action open to us. These are: (1) continue with the proposed restrictions on admission to certain concentrations; (2) revoke all the proposed restrictions on admission; or (3) take a middle course in which we continue to deny admission to selected concentrations for those departments who agree and continue negotiations with those departments who do not.

On Friday I sought further advice from the Committee of Departments who voiced unanimous support for the third option.

The associate deans and I also favour this course of action. This option gives more time to those departments which require it to plan for the future. It also allows those departments which have made progress towards streamlining their curriculum to move forward now. For more complete information on the issues that contributed to the discussion at Committee of Departments I suggest that you talk to your head of department.

I invite all members of the Faculty to contribute constructively to the critical discussions that will continue to take place on how we can deliver high-quality education in the current fiscal reality.

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