Open Letter to the Dean of Arts and Science (4 April 2010)

By Roberta Lamb, as posted in QUFA Forum, 4 April 2010

Dear Alistair,

Your responses to questions about the motion passed by Faculty Board trouble me. Granted, as you indicated at the meeting, you must provide the Principal with a response to his vision statement. That is your job. At the same time, you have a responsibility to report to the Principal the text of the motion, the nature of the discussion at Faculty Board and the passage of the motion. The Faculty of Arts and Science spoke strongly through that motion. It was not a minority presentation, a minority vote or a minority result. I do not know the occupancy of Chernoff Auditorium, but it was full. It appears that you are ignoring the fact that not only was the motion passed, but it was passed by an overwhelming majority of bona fide Faculty Board members.

Mark Jones and I know that your office had copies of it nearly as soon as we distributed it. The distribution was not secretive; rather, we distributed the motion as widely as possible before the meeting, not just to those individuals known to support it. One means of distribution was to a listerv with a representative from every department. The reason for such wide distribution is that the future of our Faculty of Arts and Science is at stake.

Faculty Board could have modified the motion. I fully expected that members would propose amendments. They did not. No one even floated the idea. The support for the motion was solid.

Further, the recent attempts to include undergraduates through hastily organized town halls does not validate Draft # 4, especially, since it will be posted before the town halls have been held. How can you respond to the issues that have been raised by going ahead before students have any say?

Further, how can students respond to what is happening to their education without participating in the departmental planning process?

Graduate students have been excluded from all fora. How do you justify this? Graduate students live their day-to-day academic lives within departments, not in some amorphous School of Graduate Studies. Why does the Faculty of Arts and Science not want a repeat of the March 26 Faculty Board? The discussion was polite, high quality and focused on the issues. Is that not how Faculty Board should function?

You could take the position that a couple hundred professors are behind you and supporting you to develop an appropriate academic plan, but the Faculty of Arts and Science office has not done so.

Telling individuals who email or phone you that you have told the Principal about the motion is not sufficient. What did you tell him? Share the documentation of that telling with those who are most concerned—faculty, staff and students in Arts & Science. Include the motion and the substance of the Faculty Board discussion within Draft #4.

The passage of the motion requires you, as the head of the Faculty of Arts & Science, to:

a. Acknowledge that Faculty Board has rejected the Draft Reply to Principal Woolf’s “Where Next”;

b. Acknowledge that Faculty Board rejects the current academic planning exercise as a budget-cutting exercise that gives insufficient consideration to the academic mission of the University;

c. Acknowledge that Faculty Board requires you, on behalf of the Faculty of Arts & Science, to initiate an academic planning process designed to support the academic mission of the University, a process that privileges academic principles and objectives and includes substantive interaction of all stakeholders (students, faculty, and staff) among all areas and disciplines; and

d. Requires you, on behalf of the Faculty of Arts and Science, to report to the Board of Trustees the rationale for an extended academic plan and to get financial provision for that process.

Ignoring the motion is not an option. To do so would invalidate all actions of Faculty Board and any semblance of university governance by rules of democracy, as well as giving the lie to transparency and consultation at Queen’s University.


Roberta Lamb, Associate Professor, Music (cross-appointments Gender Studies and Education), mover of the motion to reject the Draft Reply

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