By Savoula Stylianou. As published in Queen’s Journal, 13 December 2011.
The Arts and Science Faculty Board voted to reinstate admissions to the Fine Arts program for the next academic year, but University administrators say this vote won’t affect the suspension decision.
A motion was brought forward at a Faculty Board meeting on Dec. 9 and passed with two thirds of members in support.
“The fact that there was a majority is, in a sense, irrelevant because it is not in the authority of Faculty Board to rule in a resource issue,” Dean of Arts and Sciences Alistair MacLean said.
Along with resuming admissions, the motion requires that both the dean and associate dean of Arts and Science consult with Senate and Faculty Board in regards to the fate of programs.
The University has asked its lawyer, Diane Kelly, to provide her legal opinion on whether the dean does, in fact, have the overriding authority to suspend admissions to a program.
“This came up two or three years ago and the legal ruling is the same as Diane Kelly gave in Senate. The authority is not that of Faculty Board or Senate,” MacLean said.
A similar decision was made at a February 2009 Senate meeting where MacLean announced that due to financial restrictions, Arts and Science would cut programs with 25 or fewer student-concentrators.
When the decision was questioned by faculty members, it was brought to Senate in April 2009 and Kelly stated that the dean, as a managerial officer of the Board of Trustees, had the right to suspend admissions to an academic program.
“Deans have the authority and responsibility to take steps to ensure the faculty is fiscally sound,” she said to Senate.
Jordan Morelli, an associate professor in the department of physics, said the problem surrounding the suspension of the Fine Arts program is the lack of discussion between the Dean and Faculty Board.
“All of them speak of a collegiate atmosphere, not Draconian unilateral steps by administration. In my view, this is all about process,” he said.
Morelli said the opinion given by the University’s lawyer is very one-sided.
“It is her responsibility to her client to come out in favour of the administration here. Even if there are other genuine arguments against her, she is not paid to espouse those positions,” he said.
Morelli said ideally, Senate and Faculty Board would be able to hire a lawyer of their own to represent their opinion on whether the dean should have consulted both bodies before making the decision.
“Senate has no budget, so Senate can, at most, request that a lawyer be hired. It’s incumbent on the university administration to provide Senate and Faculty Board with a lawyer.”
Morelli said since Senate and Faculty Board are limited in their resources to hire a lawyer, the next step is to ask for help elsewhere, including the Queen’s University Faculty Association’s general meeting on Tuesday.
“The administration says ‘We don’t have to listen to you, we don’t have to respect democracy at all,’” he said, adding that the Fine Arts admissions suspension is leading to the collapse of the University’s academic integrity.