QSERAP Members Discuss Planning with Principal Woolf (23 June 2010)

Dear Queen’s Community,

As representatives of Queen’s Students and Employees for Real Academic Planning, we met with Principal Woolf on June 23 to discuss the academic planning exercise. In the spring, over 1100 members of the Queen’s community signed petitions to the Board of Trustees expressing concerns about the one-year timeline, the process, and the potential effects of specific administrative proposals on educational quality at Queen’s. The petitions’ signatories asked in particular for more time, a less divisive approach, and greater transparency. Our recent meeting with the Principal was one outcome of the petitions. Six key points emerged from our discussion.

1) THE TIMELINE
The Principal emphasized that the timeline is NOT immovable and is “under review.” He said: “If it looks like there needs to be more time for fermentation, then we will have it.”

2) TRANSPARENCY
The Principal declined to support the project of making all departmental and Faculty responses to his vision statement “Where Next?” public on TransparentU, noting that the respondents had not been advised beforehand that their responses would be published. The choice to publish was, he said, therefore up to the authors of the responses. But he did promise to “encourage the Provost” to investigate ways of making all planning documents public. He also announced plans for Town Hall meetings in July and August and is encouraging the Academic Writing Team to make their website (which is still in preparation) open to comments that will be visible to the public.

3) STUDENT PARTICIPATION
The delegation was pleased to learn that a student coalition comprising elected representatives from the AMS, the SGPS, and the Office of the Rector will be consulting with the academic writing team over the summer. Concerns still remain about how and how much consultation with the student body will be possible given that most students are away for the summer.

4) ARTS AND SCIENCE
In response to the community’s concern that the Faculty of Arts and Science plan and process was particularly flawed (drafts 1-3 of the Arts and Science response were overwhelmingly rejected by its own Faculty Board, but the response was sent forward anyway), the Principal acknowledged that discussions will be held about the possibility of “reworking” it.

5) THE SILO MENTALITY
In the face of worries about the implicitly competitive department-by-department structure of the process, the Principal offered to work with Queen’s Students and Employees for Real Academic Planning on devising a process to facilitate cross-departmental, interdisciplinary planning.

6) THE SENATE
The Principal asked if the delegation thought it would be wise to get the Senate involved in the drafting process (as opposed to mere “discussion and approval” as provided in “Where Next?”). We agreed that it would.

Queen’s Students and Employees for Real Academic Planning will remain in communication with the Principal’s office in order to follow up on this discussion. In the meantime, we invite your questions and comments on these six points and your further ideas about how the academic planning process is working and how it might be improved.

Sincerely,
Mark Jones
Samantha King
Lauren McNicol
Robbie Millington

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