We Request Open Planning Meetings on Specific Issues: An Open Letter to Principal Daniel Woolf and Dr. Susan Cole (Deputy Provost and SCAD Chair) (20 October 2010)

Dear Principal Woolf and Dr. Cole:

As announced by Queen’s News Centre (QNC), 27 September 2010, the “Academic Planning” process has been referred to the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD). To all appearances there has been little activity since that referral, though QNC also reports that “over the fall and winter terms” Senate “is expected to consult across the campus on the plan’s content,” and the Principal too has promised that the referral to Senate should “provide the community with further opportunities to comment.”

We therefore write, at this important juncture between the publication of “Imagining the Future” and the beginning of Senate’s (or SCAD’s) drafting of Queen’s Academic Plan, to request that the community-wide discussion of “academic planning” resume, and that this be facilitated by the Administration’s scheduling of some open meetings.   More specifically, given that many ideas have been put on the table and that many have met with criticism (see, e.g., documents by QUFA, Bénard, Jessup, Mackey, and Robertson, Jones, Burke, Lamb, Jones, Jones, and Jones), we suggest that the most reasonable next step would be to hold town hall meetings that specifically target, one by one, some of the academic-planning issues that have begun to be discussed, including:

  • teaching writing: how important is it? in which units is it important? is our commitment to it consistent with initiatives to expand and/or virtualize year 1 and 2 classrooms? how can we best plan to excel in it?
  • unit downsizings, amalgamations, and closures: since Principal Woolf’s vision statement clearly warns that Queen’s may have to do “less” in some areas, we obviously need more specification about which areas are threatened so there can be discussion in the academic planning phase concerning implications, options, and viability.
  • the various specific recommendations made by the units’ Responses to Where Next? and/or in “Imagining the Future.” For instance, we need to have targeted discussions of the initiatives:
  1. to expand year 1 and 2 classrooms in order to protect upper-year class sizes;
  2. to virtualize classrooms;
  3. to re-weight course credits;
  4. to expand (or maintain recent expansions in) graduate enrolments;
  5. to reduce the numbers of degree offerings; and
  6. to reduce “complexity” in degree requirements.

    These are just preliminary suggestions; we expect and hope that other members of our community will come forth with others.

    Canvassing the academic community for its views on specific issues is a critical stage in the “academic planning” process. The targeted meetings will (if scheduled well and announced widely) enable students and faculty to contribute in those areas where they have expertise and interest. And they will provide an invaluable body of issue-specific information and reflection for the use of the writing committee.

    In this connection, we also ask if any thought has been given to hiring research assistants to provide historical, theoretical, and contextual information for planning on specific issues.

    Sincerely,

    Frank Burke, Mark Jones, Roberta Lamb, Susan Lord, Lauren McNicol, and Andrea Phillipson

    for Queen’s Students and Employees for Real Academic Planning

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    This entry was posted in Open Letters, Process, Teaching of Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

    2 Responses to We Request Open Planning Meetings on Specific Issues: An Open Letter to Principal Daniel Woolf and Dr. Susan Cole (Deputy Provost and SCAD Chair) (20 October 2010)

    1. Elizabeth Hanson says:

      Targeted open discussions seems the logical next step in the planning process and should elicit expertise as well as opinion. In fact, the involvement of individuals with specific expertise might be solicited by Academic Writing Team.

      In particular, the teaching of writing is something that must be addressed. Over the two decades I have taught at Queen’s I have seen considerable decline in students’ ability to write. There are two obvious developments that account for this: one is the rise of electronic media and its impact on our modes and rhythms of communication. The other is the abolition of Grade 13. The teaching of writing seems irreducibly labor intensive, and so the coincidence of the increasing need and declining resources means that it represents a particularly challenging academic problem. It should be confronted rather than swept under the rug.

      Elizabeth Hanson
      Professor
      Department of English

    2. Mary Louise Adams says:

      Open discussions focused on the specific issues raised in the academic planning process would allow people to give input where they feel most affected and/or most qualified to weigh in. They would also permit the kind of in-depth discussions that will be necessary if we want to address these issues creatively.

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