PACC Report for the Spring General Meeting, 24 April (posted 16 April 2013)

As submitted on behalf of the Political Action and Communications Committee (PACC), 16 April 2013:

PACC Report for the QUFA Spring General Meeting of Wed., 24 April 2013

Respectfully submitted by Mark Jones, PACC co-chair

PACC members for 2012-13 are Emily Hill, Monika Holzschuh-Sator, Mark Jones (co-chair), Darko Matovic (co-chair), Robert May, Adele Mercier, Margaret Pappano, Nasser Saleh.

Cathy Christie (Education) and Jordan Morelli (Physics) will serve as PACC co-chairs in 2013-14.  Christie was President of QUFA in 2009-11; Morelli is a member of QUFA’s Budget Analysis Review Committee and has been an outspoken defender of faculty and student interests in Senate and Faculty Board.

This Report covers context, issues, and activities since PACC’s last AGM Report (December 2012).

Context: Government, etc.

  • Kathleen Wynne was sworn in as premier and Brad Duguid was appointed Minister of TCU in February.  Duguid announced a new 4-year tuition framework on 28 March.  As summarized by OCUFA, it caps yearly increases for undergrads at 3% (down from 5), graduate and professional fees at 5% (down from 8), and total institutional increases at 3%, without providing any increased per-student funding.   “OCUFA is concerned that the new policy continues the slow privatization of Ontario’s universities by shifting costs onto students and their families…. the Government of Ontario is actually cutting funding to Ontario’s universities and colleges ($40 million this year, and $81 million next year).”
  • Federal Budget (21 March).  As CAUT comments, it is “A bad budget for the future of post-secondary education, research and job training.”[1]
  • Private member’s Bill C-377, which would impose onerous reporting requirements on unions, passed commons in December and continues to be considered in Senate. Conservative Senator Hugh Segal denounced the Bill in Senate in February.
  • HEQCO, “Quality: Shifting the Focus” (4 April). HEQCO’s “expert panel” was supposed to help the MTCU adjudicate among Proposed Mandate Statements (PMSs) filed last October, thus mapping “differentiation” of institutions.  Instead, it finds the PMSs too similar to be useful and urges the MTCU to exert stronger central control of PSE.   It especially recommends using funding formulas and competition to steer institutions and urges development of online learning, credit transfer, exchangeable 1st and 2nd-year credits, and differentiation.  This program is much the same as HEQCO was pushing in October 2010.[2]
  • Ontario Conservative “white paper” on higher education, “Higher Learning for Better Jobs,” released 12 Feb., envisions more tiering, differentiating, and occupational-targeting of PSE; linking student financial support to “future employability”; more online learning; more teaching-only faculty; freezing public sector salaries, etc. (see OCUFA Response).
  • A new CAUT-commissioned Report on RMC (9 April) finds that RMC lacks autonomy vis-à-vis military authority and recommends “re-balancing.”
  • An unofficial referendum on Private-Public Hospitals (12 April) shows 96% support for public funding.

Academic issues and activities:  It has been a busy year, and PACC members have been involved in many issues and projects, including:

  • Academic Freedom Lecture (6 March).  David Mullan spoke on “The Academic Mission:  Principles and Institutional Responsibilities”; Len Findlay responded. Both address problems affecting collegial governance and academic freedom.  The précis and texts, available on QUFA Forum, are recommended.
  • Town-Hall on Universities and Austerity (11 April). Erika Shaker spoke for the CCPA, Constance Adamson for OCUFA, and Jim Turk for CAUT; Doug Nesbitt for graduate students, Isabel Duchaine for undergraduates, and Mark Jones for faculty at Queen’s.
  • Principalship:  In February QUFA conducted an anonymous version of the survey for review of the Principalship.  About 40 members participated.  Principal Woolf’s reappointment was announced in mid-March.  PACC is recommending to the Chancellor that future surveys on administrative performance allow anonymous submissions.
  • The Provost was asked to explain the recent pattern of Faculty attrition and administrative growth in Senate in March.  The question and his responses are on the SFC blog.  On PACC’s recommendation, this issue is now being examined by QUFA’s Budget Analysis Review Committee. 
  • The Strategic Enrolment Management Group (SEMG) submitted a draft Report on enrolment projections to Senate in March.  The Report purports to treat all enrolment factors but omits faculty complement.  Comments were submitted to the Provost on 22 March.  The Provost has not responded.
  • In connection with this neglect of faculty complement, it should be noted that faculty renewal is not discussed in the 2011 Academic Plan; and the 2012-13 SAPTF was asked to draft a Plan for faculty renewal but has not found time to do so.
  • Faculty including two PACC members discussed the Queen’s-Blyth program (QBW) with Vice Provost Jim Lee in January. Lee’s response to questions and several of the faculty statements have been posted.
  • QUFA consulted with the Senate Academic Planning Task Force (SAPTF) about virtualization and online issues in February and submitted QUFA’s “Propositions for Virtualization / Online Learning.”
  • The SAPTF released a draft Academic Plan for Virtualization and Online Learning (86 pp.) on 22 March.  Critical comments have been submitted to the SAPTF, including a recommendation that “the Draft needs a longer review period than has been suggested, and that it should not be considered for approval by Senate before September 2013.”
  • Course variants.  A motion to require that “course variants” (i.e., administrative variants of traditional courses for online, blended, or QBW delivery) be vetted by curriculum committees failed in Senate last October when several Administrators argued (fallaciously) that it would violate academic freedom.[3] A similar motion was presented to FAS Faculty Board in December and referred to the Curriculum Committee.  This matter was seriously misrepresented in a memo circulated to Departments this spring, and we have therefore posted a clarification. The matter is expected to be resolved in fall 2013.
  • Suspensions Procedure.  In March, the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD) submitted a second draft of its Recommended Procedures Concerning the Temporary Suspension of Admissions to Academic Programs to Senate with a notice of Motion. The draft is problematic, as has been explained to SCAD in a submission including ten proposed amendments. The main problem is that Senate mandated a “procedure,” but the draft hedges all procedures as merely “recommended.”  This matter has been deferred to the April meeting of Senate.
  • Faculty representation in Senate.  In March Senate, the Operations Review Committee (SORC) presented models for reducing membership from 68 to 60 or 50 members; there was much objection because SORC left ex officio numbers constant while reducing faculty and student complements. SORC was reminded of the tradition and importance of faculty majority.  Most comments in the discussion were against reducing Senate membership at all.  More positively, SORC also passed a motion to encourage members not to miss more than three meetings of Senate in a year.
  • Time-to-Completion issue. On 18 March, Dean of Graduate Studies Brenda Brouwer announced that the Graduate School Executive Committee (GSEC) approved a policy change on time limits for completion of Masters (2 years, down from 5) and PhD degrees (4 years, down from 7), effective Sept. 2013.  Graduate student resistance has been strong, including a petition with over 600 signatures (see “Open Letter”).  Faculty concerns include implications for supervision, quality, and lack of provisions for disciplinary difference and equity; many faculty signed the graduate student petition, and some have sent strong letters of protest to Dean Brouwer.  Two motions in opposition to this policy have been submitted for the April Senate.
  • Related to the T2C issue is the SGS Time to Completion Survey, which was conducted in fall 2012 but the results of which have been reported only partially. The SGS Report on preliminary results (Nov. 2012) quotes responses selectively to support shorter completion times and withholds numerical information on the range of responses.  Dean Brouwer has been asked to release a more transparent report, and has responded that one is forthcoming (when, she does not say).
  • Free Speech Wall and Michael Mason.  In early April, Queen’s Administration had the “free speech wall” (erected earlier the same day by Queen’s Students for Liberty) removed by campus security.  In his comments on this affair, Provost Alan Harrison charges “that the [Prof. Michael] Mason controversy was a ‘similar issue’ to the free speech wall.” The free-speech wall was removed because of alleged “hate speech and racial slurs” by an anonymous writer.[4]  A critical response to this entirely gratuitous, inappropriate, and injurious comparison is pending.

As this report amply suggests, faculty need to be more vigilant than ever to protect academic priorities, academic freedom, transparency, and democratic / collegial process.  We encourage all members to read this year’s Academic Freedom Lecture, to participate in ongoing discussions through QUFA, their Faculty Boards, and Senate, and to follow the issues on the following sites:

Notes:


[3] “Queen’s for-credit courses to pass Curriculum Committee Review, submitted by Senator Jones,” Senate Minutes, October 2012, pp. 10-12, http://www.queensu.ca/secretariat/senate/agendasminutes/Oct30_2012AppA.pdf.

[4] http://www.thewhig.com/2013/04/03/free-spech-wall-taken-down-at-queens.  For information, analysis, and coverage of the “Mason controversy,” i.e., the Administration’s violation of Professor Michael Mason’s academic freedom in fall 2010, see https://qufa.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/1638/#more-1638.

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