Steven Salaita to Speak at University of Alberta, January 13th

Salaita Talks University of Alberta jpg


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Docherty: For Sake of Democracy Academic Freedom Should Be “Extended As Widely As Possible”

A few days ago Thomas Docherty, Professor of English at the University of Warwick, published his most recent contribution to the UK’s Times Higher Education Supplement. The claims Docherty makes there are directly relevant to the culture of the University of Alberta, currently presided over by a President who asserted in the national platform of the Globe and Mail last spring (in the wake of what unfolded at the University of Saskatchewan) that the members of the senior administration of any Canadian university, including Deans, must act like a “cabinet” that cannot publicly criticize any administrative decision. If the Deans of a university are not free to express their views on administrative decisions and decision-making to their Faculties or the public, it is not just academic freedom that is at risk. As Docherty notes, democracy is threatened as well:

The scope of academic freedom reaches well beyond seminar rooms and laboratories. . . . and its value is diminished if it is circumscribed as merely a matter of academic procedures or protocols. It should be extended as widely as possible; yet, today, it is “managed” – managed, in fact, almost to death. The power of unconstrained knowledgeable dialogue is marginalised; and, potentially, democracy itself – based on authority given by free and open debate – is thereby weakened.

The threat is at its deepest, Docherty suggests, where the administrative ethos of an institution affects what its members permit themselves to think: Continue reading

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“Truly Extraordinary” “Third Pillar” of Alberta Research Funding Axed by Prentice Government

On Thursday, the Government of Alberta announced that it “is simplifying its savings plan by eliminating a special purpose fund and two endowment accounts that were established in spring 2014.”

The funds Eliminated include the Social Innovation Fund. Remember that?

The Government announced the creation of the Social Innovation Fund last spring. The Fund’s creation was met with effusive declarations from University of Alberta President Indira Samarasekera. These included the following statement published on the University of Alberta’s news page:

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Well, so much for that! A mere eight months after the Fund’s creation the Fund is axed.

And what does President Samarasekera’s weekly bulletin to the University community, issued yesterday, have to say abut this development? Well, nothing at all, it seems. The President’s Bulletin does, however, declare the last week “a relatively routine one” for the President. Continue reading

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President Samarasekera’s Answers to Questions from Arts Representatives to the General Faculties Council

Below are screenshots of President Indira Samarasekera’s official answers to questions posed by Arts representatives to the General Faculties Council for Monday’s meeting of that body. A pdf of the answers is here.

I welcome responses to the questions and President Samarasekera’s answers — especially from those able to respond before the start-time of Monday’s meeting, 2 pm. The “square” here is open to anyone who wishes to engage in discussion of how Canada’s public universities are run. 

Samarasekera to Question from Dueck and Caouette

Samarasekera Reply to Question From Sale


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Questions from Arts Reps for the Next Meeting of the General Faculties Council (24 November 2014)

The materials for the next meeting of the University of Alberta’s General Faculties Council (24 November 2014) have been posted on the University’s governance website. The materials include two questions from representatives of the Faculty of Arts.

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On “Society” — and Today’s Announcement that the Next President of the University of Alberta is Dr. David Turpin

Today the University of Alberta community learned that the University’s next President will be Dr. David Turpin, former President of the University of Victoria (2000–2013). A detailed biographical statement for Dr. Turpin is here

In his speech this morning at Convocation Hall, Dr. Turpin declared his belief that public universities are not just “fundamental to just and caring societies,” but shape a “virtuous circle” in which the community makes a “steadfast” investment in its members that allows them to “develop their talents and then use them for the betterment of society.” At the climactic moment in his speech, he turned to the Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education, Don Scott, to offer him the following assurance: “Minister Scott, my commitment to the people of Alberta is to steward their strong support for this institution and mobilize it for the public good.” (Full video footage here.)

Samarasekera on Thatch NewTrail Nov2014More than one of this morning’s speakers was keen to construe Dr. Turpin’s appointment as a continuation of the “legacy” of President Samarasekera. Dr. Turpin’s talk of “society” and the “public good” suggests, however, that we may have a situation of greater promise before us. Dr. Turpin’s choice to talk about the public university’s relation to “society” certainly makes for a startling contrast with a bit of news that the University community received in the Autumn edition of New Trail magazine, in which President Samarasekera declares that the leader she most admires is — wait for it! — Margaret Thatcher. *
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“Emancipation From Reliance on Government Funding” or, The Incredible Shrinking University?

Since the beginning of the term, those of us at the University of Alberta who are not part of one or another administrative enclave have been receiving intermittent and partial news about a major development underway, in which the means by which Faculties at the University are funded will be fundamentally altered. The news is that the University will be pursuing a budget system derived from the precepts of “responsibility centered management.” You won’t find any announcement about this on the University’s blog “Colloquy,” and there has been no information about it any of the President’s weekly bulletins. Instead, news has been filtering out through department chairs. The principal idea appears to be that the responsibility for funding their annual operating budgets will be downloaded to individual Faculties, and Faculties’ new financial responsibilities will include having to pay for their faculty members’ annual merit increments and benefits. Faculties that cannot generate their own revenue to meet their budget “responsibilities” will, we are told, go “into receivership.”  Continue reading

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