Jordan Morelli, Urgent Message to Queen’s Senators (13 November 2011)

As emailed by Professor Jordan Morelli (Queen’s Senator from Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy) to Faculty Senators on 13 November 2011):

Dear Colleagues,

As you may recall, last year Queen’s Senate reviewed, updated, and approved the “Purpose and Functions of Senate” document.

In its preamble to the Motion to approve this document (April 28, 2011), the Senate Operations Review Committee (SORC) explained that “Senate needs to execute its authority effectively through a defined set of activities that are appropriate to the current context.”  For this reason,  SORC explained that it had “added a new function to make explicit Senate’s authority for ‘university-level’ policies relating to the academic mission and academic services (New #8).”  The same preamble also explained that SORC had “asked University Legal Counsel about the use of the term ‘approve’ (in relation to New [Functions] #5, 6 and 7) and concurred with the opinion received that it is a more accurate description [than was the previous phrasing, “establish or close”] of Senate’s role in these circumstances” (Appendix Ga, p. 60).

The new function #8 in the document approved by Senate affirms Senate’s authority to “approve university-level policies relating to the academic mission and academic services including but not limited to policies related to admissions…” [emphasis added].

It has recently been announced that the University “is suspending admission and upper-year transfers to the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program for the 2012-2013 academic year based on an assessment of the faculty resources available to support the program.”

It is my view that this decision comes under the “policies related to admissions” that Senate has, according to its “Purpose and Functions” document, the authority and responsibility to approve or disapprove.

I would also point out that at the September meeting of Senate, the Provost stated that “The new budget model is in its early stages and will go through a consultative process involving members of the University community” (Minutes, p. 2).  Yet in his Financial Update of October 24, 2011, the Provost states that:

The new budget model will be implemented for the 2013–2014 budget year, and will be driven by the principles of responsibility-centred [sic] management:

  • All costs and income attributable to each faculty and other academic unit should be assigned to that unit.
  • Appropriate incentives should exist for each academic unit to increase income and reduce costs to further a clear set of academic priorities.
  • All costs of other units will be allocated to the academic units.

I don’t know what others may recall, but I don’t recall that this “new budget model” has gone through any “consultative process involving members of the University community.”

More troubling than the lack of consultation is that this new budget model, which makes each academic unit responsible for its own financial maintenance, is already being used to justify the elimination of programs, even fully enrolled programs such as the BFA program.

Like many units at Queen’s, the BFA program has suffered from a complete absence of faculty renewal in recent years. As we heard at Senate last year through the Internal Academic Review process, there are many units on campus that are a retirement away from collapse.

At the next meeting of Senate, we are asked to consider approving an Academic Plan for Queen’s.  In the course of three drafts since September, the Academic Planning Task Force (APTF) has removed nearly every objectionable recommendation.  But where gaps were noticed,  for instance in the treatment of graduate and professional education, it has not filled them.  Among the many topics that are not included in the draft Plan, one of the most critical in the current context is Faculty Renewal.

The Administration at Queen’s University is, in my view, taking advantage of global financial uncertainty to justify cutting programs one by one without appropriate academic consideration. As Senators, we have an obligation to protect the academic integrity of the great institution that we love so much.  Queen’s University in my view is headed in the wrong direction.  We must demand that our leadership direct the University towards maintaining and enhancing its strengths rather than selling it out to become the equivalent of a fast-food chain.  For the “Queen’s Brand” to mean anything, we must take the lead in resisting the easy way forward of cutting programs and becoming a commercial entity that turns out degree-bearing individuals, and instead maintain the principles of higher learning that embrace broad education and critical thinking.

In sum, I suggest that as Senators we take the following actions:

  1. Let us vote to DISAPPROVE the recent decision to suspend admission to the BFA program.
  2. Let us vote to request that the Board of Trustees reconsider its demand that the university deliver a balanced budget for the 2012-2013.  Let us ask it to permit the university to run a 3 million dollar deficit for each of the next three academic years.  Let us make it clear to the Board of Trustees that their budget demand is resulting in a serious deterioration of academic quality.  Let us further require that at least two thirds of this additional 3 million dollars be used exclusively to fund faculty renewal with a priority to those programs and units that are in the most desperate need.
  3. Let us demand that the Provost reconsider his every-unit-for-itself budget model, since it will only further the dismantling of Queen’s, program by program, and unit by unit.
  4. Let us demand that the Principal and Provost disclose which programs and units will be cut, closed, or have admission suspended during the next three years.

I welcome all comments and feedback in regards to these very important matters.  I personally feel that Senate is the last bastion protecting the values and the tradition of excellence in higher education that Queen’s University has built its reputation upon.  If Senate fails to act now we risk becoming irrelevant and will lose all credibility.  Our students, our colleagues, and our University need our collective action; let us not fail them.  The time to act is now.  It is my intention to bring these matters before the Senate at the November 22, 2011 meeting (before the December 2011 Board of Trustees meeting).

Yours sincerely,

Jordan Morelli

This entry was posted in Cuts to Programs, Financial Constraints, Open Letters. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Jordan Morelli, Urgent Message to Queen’s Senators (13 November 2011)

  1. Anon. faculty member says:

    The administration is clearly flexing its muscles. If we let it, it will continue to assume greater and greater powers it does not have a right to. Senator Morelli’s discussion is absolutely correct: if the decision is not based on financial considerations, then it is the senate’s to make. If it is financial, then the administration has to admit it and offer up the details for all to see.

  2. Dhian Upiek says:

    What you write is very useful for me and adds insight. thank you

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