Jordan Morelli, On the Proposal for Faculty Board Restructuring (8 March 2012)

As emailed to Associate Dean Robert Lemieux, 8 March 2012, in response to the “Discussion Paper” distributed to faculty on 28 February.

The Discussion Paper: “A Review of the Structure of Faculty Board” circulated by Associate Dean Robert Lemieux is based on a false premise; namely, that “the Faculty Board, as it is presently formed, is not sufficiently representative.”

The proposals suggested in the discussion paper only serve to reduce the representation of faculty board from its current form.  Presently, the Faculty Board includes “all faculty members in Arts and Science and members of other faculties who teach FAS students, approximately 35 student representatives, 4 elected non-academic staff members, and the Dean and Associate Deans of the Faculty.”  With the exception of direct representation by graduate students in Faculty Board, which is currently absent, and of the undergraduates’ current representation by delegates, the present form permits full and direct representation.  The proposals suggested severely limit the representation.  For example Faculty members would be reduced from several hundred to around 80, and undergraduate representation would be reduced from 35 to 9.  Staff would remain steady at 4 representatives, and only graduate student representation would increase, from the current zero members to 3.

It should also be pointed out that Unit representation within the Faculty governance already exists in the form of the Committee of Heads, which meets periodically, as illustrated by the Head’s Retreat mentioned in the Discussion Paper.

The real reason for the suggestion of modifying the composition and structure of Faculty Board would therefore seem to be the concern on the part of the Administration that “the Full Membership structure of Faculty Board leaves open the possibility of meetings being dominated by special interest groups”.  This type of “unbalance” has happened only rarely in recent years, [I would not concede even this. The fact of increased numbers attending on two occasions (April 2009, Mar. 2010) does not in itself indicate imbalance vis a vis the current of feeling across the faculty.] and only in response to highly objectionable or questionable decisions being made by the Administration without the due consultation of the Faculty Board.  The most recent example of this [in this case the attendance was not even higher than usual—it was lower than the average for the year—and there is no evidence of imbalance] concerns the suspension of admissions to the BFA program, which was a decision made unilaterally by the Dean and without any prior consultation by the Faculty Board despite the fact that by the Dean’s own admission the problems within that program were of long standing.  This would suggest that what needs to change is not the composition of Faculty Board, but rather the disturbing trend on the part of the Administration to avoid making difficult decisions until potential problems turn into crises and then relying on the purported urgency to justify their lack of consultation.  At the February 2012 Senate meeting Queen’s Law Professor Bill Flanagan noted that it was his opinion “that ultimately the suspension of enrolment is a decision to be made by the Dean, with a due consultative process.”  But in the case of the BFA Admissions freeze, the problem was that there was no “due consultative process” prior to the decision being made, and only after the fact was a committee struck to consult; and even then the consultation was not about the decision to suspend the admissions, but rather about what to do with the program in light of the reality that its admissions had been suspended.

The unilateral decisions being made by the administration and the unwillingness on the part of the administration to comply with duly passed motions of the Faculty Board have resulted in distrust of Administration on the part of faculty.  This was well illustrated at the February Faculty Board meeting where several faculty members expressed serious concern about the recent announcement that Research Initiation Grants were going to be ‘clawed-back’ by the Central Administration if they weren’t spent within approximately one week.  While the Dean’s assurances that this was not the intention were very welcome, the level of mistrust and the high attendance at that Faculty Board meeting likely went hand-in-hand.

It is disheartening to see that now that Faculty Board attendance is on the rise and faculty members are being engaged in governance issues, the Administration is seeking to disenfranchise the Faculty members of Faculty Board.  Associate Dean Lemieux states that the representation models he proposes “could reinvigorate interest and faculty engagement in FB business”.  It seems to me that the high level of mistrust by the faculty in the Administration has already done exactly that.  As Associate Dean Lemieux accurately states: “Faculty Board, as it currently stands, is the only forum for faculty members and student representatives to voice their opinions”.  It is therefore hard to imagine why he would propose composition and structural changes that would serve only to curtail the ability of faculty members to participate directly in the governance of Faculty Board.

The aims of the ‘Faculty Assembly’ suggested by Associate Dean Lemieux are laudable, but there is no reason whatsoever that the Faculty Board in its current structure and composition couldn’t hold ‘special meetings’ “once in the Fall term and once in the Winter term” “to provide a forum for faculty members and students to express their views … and debate issues of current interest in the Faculty”.  In fact, such ‘special meetings’ of Faculty Board would be a great step forward for the Faculty and would go a long way to both reducing the level of mistrust in the Administration and to proactively determining a way forward for the Faculty in the current fiscal climate.  The Discussion Paper suggests that the “Faculty Assembly may ask Faculty Board to call a special meeting at any time”; however, there is no indication that the Faculty Board as envisioned under the proposed governance structure would be bound to comply with such a request.  Perhaps this skepticism is a by-product of the mistrust of the Administration, but it is genuine nonetheless.

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This entry was posted in Faculty Board Restructuring, FAS Faculty Board, Open Letters, Process, University Governance. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Jordan Morelli, On the Proposal for Faculty Board Restructuring (8 March 2012)

  1. Roberta Lamb says:

    Dear colleagues,

    My concern is that FB is perhaps the only body remaining, outside of our departmental meetings, where direct democracy is in action. Yet, the proposal from the deans’ office would replace that direct democracy with a format somewhat like Senate, where only elected representatives could participate. Granted, undergraduate students and staff already have representatives at FB, and many of us feel that graduate students who are doing their graduate work within departments of the Faculty of Arts and Science should have representatives at FB. However, all faculty should be able to attend FB, as has been the case for 99 years.

    The deans say that one-person-one-vote is old-fashioned and cumbersome and we should streamline our procedures. I respectfully disagree. In a society where democracy is threatened by low voter turnout and distinct lack of trust in politicians, it is even more important that our educational institutions foster participatory and direct democracy as an example for our students and to society in general of the value of the individual’s vote and responsibility to participate in civic matters. This is what is happening in FB: (a) Faculty are showing up to vote on concerns that are central to the academic health of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (b) Faculty are insisting that FB follow the procedures outlined in FB’s by-laws.

    Why do the deans wish to replace the right of all faculty to participate in FB with a few chosen representatives?

    The discussion paper suggests “special interests” can take over FB and then FB is not representative. This is not logical. If more faculty participate in FB, that cannot be a “special interest” because it is a larger group of faculty and, therefore, more representative of the faculty in general. It is inappropriate for the deans to label those of us who do not agree with their policies as “special interests.” We voice our dissent as it is our right to do in a democracy. When enough people voice dissent, the dissenters can form a majority, even though they do not hold the administrative power. Dissent is required in a democracy. If we do not hear dissent then it becomes obvious that the population is intimidated.

    The problem for the deans that they are not stating is that when there are issues that faculty have a great interest in–specifically the closure of degrees that had fewer than 25 students (and especially the majors in German, Spanish and Italian) (2009), the problems with the academic planning process (2010), and the “suspension” of the BFA (2011)–more faculty will attend and make their concerns known to FB. According to FB by-laws, a motion can be considered from the floor when 2/3 of those in attendance agree to allow it to be heard. In each of these 3 instances, the FB passed such a motion. In each of these 3 cases the motion from the floor was contrary to the wishes of the deans. With the exception of the academic planning process, the deans ignored the motion passed by FB.

    On this blog you can find Jordan Morelli’s analysis and Mark Jones’s alternative proposal. I have not written a full brief on my position, as discussed with others, but the basic points follow:

    1. The current basic structure of FB is a direct democracy with a division of labour. It works as a direct democracy.
    2. All faculty members are free to engage in continuous self-representation as members of FB who participate when they choose to do so, usually on issues of particular relevance to themselves or their departments.
    3. There is a group of faculty within FB who provide administrative service to all of us through the committees of FB and / or monthly attendance at FB. These faculty members provide continuous indirect representation of the entire population of faculty, students, and staff to carry out the routine “housekeeping” of the Faculty of Arts and Science and to provide information to and from the larger population.
    4. Removing the direct democracy of FB disenfranchises all but a few of the general population of the Faculty of Arts and Science.
    5. Graduate student representatives should be added to FB so that their concerns can be heard.

    Please think about these issues and participate in Faculty Board on Friday, March 16. No changes to FB can be made without the approval of FB as it is currently structured. Please feel free to share this with other FB members, DSC, staff and students.

  2. Anon. says:

    Since I came to Queen’s between ten and fifteen years ago, I have seen continuous attempts by the administration to assume more power at the expense of faculty. I was kind of excited to come here, but now I feel like the administration thinks I should have no say in the running of the university. The last negotiations for the Collective Agreement, the refusal of the administration to give faculty increases even equal to inflation, and its steadfast opposition to a multitude of minor improvements to the quality of life on campus, have convinced me that the administration is not a well-intentioned employer and that it distrusts and does not value faculty. When I read about this proposal for Faculty Board that was it: anything I owned with “Queen’s” on it went into the garbage. Faculty must resist Principal Woolf and his pack with all the energy we have.

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