Senate Approves APTF Draft of Academic Plan with an Amended Motion (22 November 2011)

At its meeting of 22 November 2011, Senate considered the following motion from the Academic Planning Task Force (APTF):

(a) that the Senate approve the Queen’s University Academic Plan 2011 and its supporting Four Pillars;

(b) that the Senate publish and disseminate these documents as a guide for the entire academic community: the students, the staff, the faculty, alumni and friends;

(c) that the Senate encourage the academic leadership, including the Provost, the Vice-Principals, the Deans and the Department Heads, to be guided by the principles of the Plan in planning decisions and to implement the recommendations when possible and practicable within the resources available.

(d) that the Senate endorse a continuous cycle of Planning, Implementation, and Monitoring under the leadership of the Provost.

In view of objections to parts (a) and (d), Senator J. Morelli moved and Senator P. Fachinger seconded the following amendment to this motion.

(a)   that the Senate approve the Queen’s University Academic Plan 2011, which consists of a 13-page Academic Plan summary and its supporting Fourfour Pillars, and will serve as a first and more comprehensive [sic] in a series of Senate Academic Planning documents;

(b)  that the Senate publish and disseminate these documents this document as a guide for the entire academic community: the students, the staff, the faculty, alumni and friends;

(c)   that the Senate encourage the academic leadership, including the Provost, the Vice-Principals, the Deans and the Department Heads, to be guided by the principles of the Plan in planning decisions and to implement the recommendations when possible and practicable within the resources available;

(d)            that the Senate endorse a continuous cycle of Planning, Implementation, and Monitoring under the leadership of the Provostby:

(i)           striking each fall a task force of students, staff, and faculty who, using the consultation process established by the 2010-2011 APTF, shall consider a new planning issue or set of issues to be recommended by the task force of the previous year.  As a starting point for the 2011-2012 academic year the 2010-2011 APTF recommends that consideration be given to the issues of (1) virtualization and online learning, and (2) faculty renewal.

(ii)         [sic]  each such task force shall submit its Report, including recommendations and observations concerning the implementation of previous recommendations, to Senate for approval.

The amended motion passed unanimously. Two positive points about the amendment:

(1) The amended motion ensures that the phrase “Queen’s University Academic Plan” must refer to the whole document, whereas the previous wording designated only the opening summary, pp. 2-13, as the plan proper.

(2) It also provides that the ongoing process be under the auspices of Senate, not “the leadership of the Provost.” This is a critical point, since the Provost is an officer of the Board of Trustees. At this very meeting of Senate, the Administration invited university lawyer Diane Kelly to read Senate her opinion that the Board’s responsibility for finances means that Administrators, as the Board’s “officers,” can make financial decisions that have academic repercussions as a matter of “managerial” authority, without consulting Senate or the Faculty Boards. In other words, the Board, Provost, and Deans have the managerial right to pre-empt and override all academic consultation when they can produce a financial justification for decisions (such as freezing admissions to the BFA), even when those actions have pronounced academic consequences. To give academic planning explicitly into the hands of an Administration and a Board of Trustees that take this view of their own authority would have been to reduce academic planning entirely to financial planning. Since Senate has authority (at least officially) over the academic welfare of the University, and since it has mostly academic (student and faculty) members, it is the proper authority for supervising academic planning.

One less positive point: Senate has approved a document under the title “Queen’s University Academic Plan” that is very far from being a complete or comprehensive academic plan. It deals well with a few issues, but says little or nothing about many others that loom large for the university: e.g., graduate and professional studies (see the Senate discussion from September), research and its relation to teaching (for instance, should the university be willing to de-link research and teaching positions?), virtualization and online learning, faculty renewal. As a matter of truth in advertising, the APTF should have borrowed one more thing from the Principal’s Where Next: its subtitle.

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3 Responses to Senate Approves APTF Draft of Academic Plan with an Amended Motion (22 November 2011)

  1. Untenured anon. says:

    “At this very meeting of Senate, the Administration invited university lawyer Diane Kelly to read Senate her opinion that the Board’s responsibility for finances means that Administrators, as the Board’s “officers,” can make financial decisions that have academic repercussions as a matter of “managerial” authority, without consulting Senate or the Faculty Boards. In other words, the Board, Provost, and Deans have the managerial right to pre-empt and override all academic consultation when they can produce a financial justification for decisions (such as freezing admissions to the BFA), even when those actions have pronounced academic consequences. To give academic planning explicitly into the hands of an Administration and a Board of Trustees that take this view of their own authority would have been to reduce academic planning entirely to financial planning.”

    This is exceptionally worrying, but all too typical of the current administration. How outside the spirit of true academic inquiry: bring in a lawyer to give her interpretation as fact and allow for no debate. If the administration gets its way on this, it will be able to close units at will, eliminate courses at will (and by picking the right courses in effect emasculate programs), and end a pattern of university governance that was established when universities were first founded. It is clear at this point that faculty are faced with a power-hungry, uncaring administration that must be opposed on almost every front. We can start by letting Principal Woolf know that he has lost the confidence of the majority of faculty (perhaps someone can start a petition on ipetitions.com urging the Board of Trustees not to reappoint him) and that a second term from him will bring hell to this university.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have to say that I’m very disappointed that no faculty senators voted against approving the academic plan. I thought that all the discussion had made clear just how bad it is and how much it proposes to interfere with faculty’s academic freedom. I feel a little bit betrayed by senators I thought were going to stand up against it.

  3. Elizabeth Hanson, says:

    I arrived late at the Senate meeting because of another commitment and so may have missed some crucial discussion of the Academic Plan, along with Diane Kelly’s all-too-predictable legal opinion in effect re-classifying all university activities short of breathing as under the jurisdiction of the Board of Trustees. With that caveat, I want to say that I was concerned about what transpired which appeared to me to be a vote on the Academic plan without any discussion of it. There had been some commentary of the now-deleted recommendations at the September meeting and vigorous discussion of the plan in other fora (electronic and some departmental) by other people. But the process in Senate at no point revealed to me that all the assembled Senators had read and thought about it (though clearly many had) and thus were making a principled and informed decision as opposed to the rubber stamping Senate has gotten in the habit of, or what they thought they were endorsing in voting for it, especially insofar as the plan is rather soft and general in places.

    In identifying virtualization and faculty renewal as the issues for the 2011-12 task force to consider the APTF correctly identified the most urgent academic planning issues faces us. But I am uncertain about what such a recommendation means. Does it ensure that the task force will be adequately resourced? What is the status of the considerable work already done by the APTF on virtualization which was not included in the current plan? Crucially, will there be a moratorium on current “blended learning initiatives” so that the findings of the task force are not impeded or shaped by “facts on the ground”? Since faculty renewal is clearly a matter of resources, what will the value of any recommendations be in view of Diane Kelly’s legal opinion? Quaeritur.

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