Planning document sets faculties against each other, professor says
By Madison Bettle, Opinions Editor, Queen’s Journal, 1 April 2010
More than 300 students, staff and faculty gathered in Chernoff Auditorium on March 25 for the Arts and Science Faculty Board meeting to protest Faculty of Arts and Science Dean Alistair Maclean’s Draft Response to Principal Daniel Woolf’s vision statement.
The document is the third draft circulated by the dean’s office. The first was sent on March 11 and the second on March 18.
Principal Woolf released his “What’s Next?” vision statement on Jan. 15.
Before the meeting began, music professor Roberta Lamb and English professor Mark Jones handed out a document entitled “Objections to the Faculty of Arts and Science Draft Response to Principal’s Vision Statement.”
Referencing the document, Lamb put forward a motion to reject the dean’s draft reply.
Jones said the motion was created out of a frustration at the financial bias of a process that was promised to be about academic planning and the unrealistic time frame the faculty were expected to respond in.
Jones said he thinks Woolf’s planning document has created conflict within faculties.
“This sets units against units, faculties against faculties, for limited spoils,” he said. “If there’s anyone in favour of either Principal Woolf’s plan or the [Faculty of Arts and Science] draft replies, it may be attributable not to their sense of the communal goal, but to their ambition for the survival or advancement of their own units at the cost of others.”
The motion document cites that Woolf reported to the Board of Trustees last month that Queen’s 2009-10 deficit had been reduced from $8.3 million to $4.7 million and that the Dominion Bond Rating Service June 2009 report on Queen’s identifies “access to over $300 million in expendable resources (more than 3.0 times debt).”
Jones and Lamb said this shows that funds are available to support an appropriate and meaningful academic planning exercise.
During discussion period, a number of students, staff and faculty members expressed their support and concern about the motion to reject the third draft.
Gender Studies Department Student Council Co-Chair Kelly Cole said she was disappointed she received MacLean’s third draft less than 24 hours before the meeting, which prevented her from having adequate time to respond.
“This timeline oversight is an injustice to students and makes the assumption that we don’t care,” she said. “I believe that we do care and this would show if we were given the appropriate time.”
The motion passed after the discussion period with an overwhelming majority.
MacLean said it’s clear the administration’s intention to gather student opinion at the departmental level hasn’t been effective.
“I regret this and I am considering ways to assure students that their views are heard and valued and continue to encourage their input,” he said. “It’s clear that more work needs to be done.”
Despite this, MacLean said the motion to reject the third draft doesn’t absolve him of his responsibility to respond to Woolf’s request. He said a fourth draft of the Faculty response will be made available on the Arts and Science website by April 5.
MacLean said there will be further opportunities for Faculty members to provide input for the draft University-level academic plan when it’s released in the fall.
MacLean said the plan is being written by a committee of academics including three professors from Arts and Science. The final plan will include input from students, staff and faculty members, he added.
On March 31, MacLean sent an e-mail to Arts and Science Faculty members, inviting faculty, staff and students to attend three town hall meetings on April 6, 8 and 9 to share their views with him and the Faculty Office on the Faculty’s submission to Woolf’s planning committee.
In an e-mail to the Journal, Woolf said he’s been made aware of the motion.
“I acknowledge the concerns expressed by some of the faculty members and students in Arts and Science,” he said. “I know the Dean is working to finalize a faculty response that will be submitted to the VP Academic by April 15 and he continues to invite feedback.”
Woolf said the date marks an end to only the initial phase of planning discussions.
“There will be ongoing opportunities for student, faculty and staff input over the rest of the year-long exercise,” he said. “In the meantime, it’s clear that there’s a great deal of debate and discussion going on across campus, which is good.”