Mark Jones, “Business Case” to be Released under FIPPA (23 April 2012)

On 18 April, Queen’s Access and Privacy Coordinator Diane Kelly responded to a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) for the “business case” regarding the expansion of Continuing and Distance Studies (CDS).

The Provost’s office had refused access to the business case in early March.

The FIPPA Request, filed on 26 March, sought release of the business case and “information about the dates and circumstances of the business case’s creation:   (a) when and by whom it was commissioned, (b) when and by whom it was created, and (c) when it was completed and presented to the Provost.”

Ms. Kelly responds that “Queen’s University has decided to make [the business case] available to the public” and that it “will be posted on the Department [sic] of Arts and Science website sometime in the next 60 days, along with some explanatory materials to provide context.”[1]  Within 60 days means by 17 June.

In the meantime, Ms. Kelly attaches two memos.  One is an email of November 2010 from then Provost Bob Silverman to Brenda Ravenscroft, commissioning the business case.  Brenda Ravenscroft is now Associate Dean-Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Science and is in charge of the CDS expansion.

The email from Provost Silverman begins:

We were impressed by the case for CDS as one vehicle that can help A$S [sic] [i.e., the Faculty of Arts and Science] generate revenue.  We would like to support your effort to develop a plan to move it forward in a big way.  Think Big!!

The other memo is an email sent by Associate Dean Ravenscroft to Provost Harrison in August 2011, attaching the business case with her “Final Report” and a “market research summary.”

The documents so far received confirm (a) that Queen’s “business case” for expanding CDS is mainly about revenue generation, and (b) that development of the “business case” was concurrent with the University’s exclusion of online learning from its Academic Planning process.  Senate approved the “Queen’s University Academic Plan 2011″ in November.

A draft section “On Virtualization, Blended Learning, On-line Learning, and the ‘Greater Differentiation’ of Ontario Universities” was submitted for inclusion in the Academic Plan in July 2011.  When the first complete draft of the Academic Plan appeared in September, it omitted this section entirely and devoted less than a page to an endorsement of blended and online learning.

In response to objections to this oversight, given “strong statements of opposition to increased virtualization signed by over 1100 community members last year,”[2] the Academic Planning Task Force (APTF) merely removed all references to virtualization and online learning from the draft it submitted to Senate for approval in November.[3]

In sum, even though virtualization and the pre-emption of academic planning by financial planning[4] were two of the most hotly contested issues on campus at the outset of Queen’s  Academic Planning process, the University has managed to produce a “business case” to explore, as a “revenue-generating idea,” “the feasibility of offering Queen’s degrees and certificates through distance on-line learning”[5] even while suppressing all critical consideration of the subject from its “Academic Plan.”


[2] See the student and employee petitions to the Board of Trustees of 1 May 2010.

[3] For the objections, see here, here, or here.  In its preamble to the Senate motion to approve the Academic Plan (22 November 2011), the APTF notes that “References to virtualization and on-line learning have been removed.”

[4] See the Faculty Board Motion of 26 March 2010.

This entry was posted in Academic Plan (Drafts), Academic Planning Task Force, Announcements, History of the "Academic Planning" Process, Queen's Administration Documents, Virtualization / Online learning. Bookmark the permalink.

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