The “Academic Planning exercise” initiated by Principal Daniel Woolf’s document “Where Next? Toward a University Academic Plan” has different implications for different segments of the Queen’s community. For instance, it may well be that some disciplines with professional programs that require external accreditation will suffer less than others from the budget-cutting that the Principal’s exercise is designed to achieve, precisely because any significant cuts would endanger their professional standing. Conversely, units in the Faculty of Arts and Science, where this protection is lacking, seem especially vulnerable to the Principal’s program for “doing less with less.”
For this reason, we, the employees of Queen’s University at large, feel that if Queen’s is to survive and prosper as a University in the full sense of this term, it is especially important that the restructuring exercise contemplated by “Where Next?” should proceed with intellectual rigour and represent genuinely academic planning in its treatment of all sectors, whether or not they are protected by external accreditation requirements.
We submit to the Board of Trustees that the “Academic Planning exercise” as it presently stands does not represent real academic planning in all sectors, insofar as it puts financial considerations ahead of academic considerations.
And we object, more specifically:
- that the overly compressed time-line of the process thus far has excluded true or adequate consultation of all stake-holders, faculty, librarians/archivists, staff, and students alike;
- that its divisive approach (e.g., in beginning with individual reports by schools, faculties, and departments) undermines its own stated objectives of fostering community and interdisciplinarity; and
- that several specific proposals being presented at the administrative level as summaries of staff, student and faculty proposals—e.g. for increasing class sizes, expanding virtualization, diminishing student-faculty contact, and pursuing administrative centralization—do not reflect staff, student, and faculty wishes, and are not shaped by collectively determined scholarly principles and objectives, but reflect an administrative preoccupation with cost cutting.
We object that where faculty and students have strongly objected to proposals and representations being made in their name (e.g., in the Faculty Board’s rejection of Drafts 1-3 of the Faculty of Arts and Science Response, 26 Mar. 2010), the Administration has simply refused to listen to their objections.
We also submit that the financial crisis invoked by Principal Woolf and Queen’s Administration in justification of this process has been exaggerated. In March 2010 the financial report to the Board projected that Queen’s 2009-2010 deficit had been reduced from $8.3 million to $4.7 million. Recently, Queen’s received a further $1.97 million from the province as its share of year-end monies announced in the Ontario budget. The June 2009 DBRS credit rating report on Queen’s identifies “access to over $300 million in expendable resources (more than 3.0 times debt).” Queen’s would in fact have a surplus for 2009-10 were the Board of Trustees not taking over $10 million from the operating budget to fund capital projects, costs that should be covered by Queen’s ample financial resources rather than by cuts to the learning environment. These figures indicate that Queen’s has means to support a well-resourced and properly structured academic planning process, a process that will improve, rather than undermine, the quality of teaching, research, and service at Queen’s.
With these considerations in mind, we urge the Board of Trustees to put an immediate stop to the current academic planning exercise and the budget cuts by which it is driven.