Dean to hold special meeting with Department of English & Film Studies

The Dean of Arts has not responded in writing to the letter sent to her in early December by faculty members in the department of English & Film Studies. This announcement has, however, just been sent out to all members of the department:

Special Department Council Meeting

 There will be a special meeting of the Department Council this Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 2:30p.m. in Lecture Theatre 3, Humanities Centre

All professors, full-time contract instructors, elected part-time contract instructors, Postdoctoral Fellows, elected G.S.E.C. and undergraduate student representatives, the Assistant Chair (Administration), and a representative from the support staff are eligible to attend.                                    

A G E N D A

This meeting has been called at the request of the Dean of Arts who will be present to discuss the Administrative Review Process. 

This meeting should, of course, have been held months ago — as soon as possible in September, when all faculty not on sabbatical were back on campus, to fulfill their teaching responsibilities. The faculty could then have begun to play, as early as possible in the process, the role of collective decision-makers in regard to the untenable proposition before us, to cut $1.5 million from the operating budget. We have already been informed (by the Vice-Dean, Heather Zwicker) that the cuts for this year are going ahead. Even if this is true, this special meeting of the council of the Department of English & Film Studies still offers us the opportunity (amongst other things) to object to the Dean’s choice not to proceed, in this matter of vital importance to the current and long-term health of the Faculty, according to the principles of collegial governance. This could serve as one step towards ensuring that the decision-making in regard to the next round of cuts will be what the Dean has stated the process this year could not be, a “democratic” one.  

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3 Responses to Dean to hold special meeting with Department of English & Film Studies

  1. Andrew Gow says:

    It is inaccurate to suggest that the Dean disregarded collegial governance in approaching the $1.5 million operating cut. She decided to consult instead of just firing 15 staff members last summer, which is what other Deans did. It’s legitimate to suggest that consultations could have been held earlier, that a different process might have been used, or that faculty members’ opinions could have been solicited–but ultimately, staff members don’t report to faculty members directly, they report to chairs and through them to the Dean. I’m not sure how much involvement I want as a faculty member in personnel issues regarding support staff. Let’s not confuse administrative and political avenues for dealing with budget cuts: I don’t want to be triangulated by administrators into being co-responsible for implementing budget cuts-especially since that could then make it difficult to make claims in public in a political process.

  2. Carolyn Sale says:

    I suppose we are indeed in a situation in which we need to differentiate between “administrative and political avenues.” I wish that were not the case, and if collegial governance were truly operative at the University, we would not need to do so. If it were operative, we would also not be in the situation that the Dean described yesterday, in which only very particular administrative responses are available to her, and, by extension, us.

    If I understand the Dean’s position correctly, she is saying that her own response cannot be anything other than administrative, and the political work must be left for others to do. And in my view we must do that work because more than “personnel issues” are at stake here. The proposed solution to the crisis before us is that we cut the jobs of the most vulnerable members of our Faculty, our support staff — mostly women, as many people have pointed out — and the loss of this staff affects us radically in many ways. But even if self-interest were in no way at stake for the rest of us we must understand that the situation has only come about because the Faculty’s place and contributions are not been appropriately valued, and in the interests of the long-term health and vitality of the Faculty we must do something. It is true that collegial governance — or in this case, political activity to attempt to resolve the situation — takes work and involves responsibility, but this is work we must do, and a responsibility to which we must rise.

  3. Christine Wiesenthal says:

    At this juncture, we do need to galvanize some sort of mass, faculty-wide (at least) “political response” to echo Carolyn’s last post. It should be aimed, as Kathleen Lowrey suggests, at opening a public discussion to re-evaluate funding priorities and management practices/cultures at the province’s flagship University. There is, as she said, “a basic disregard for fairness, accountability & transparency” at the central levels of this campus that needs to be nudged (shoved?) into the spotlight. It seems to me that a “political response” (ie one that is publicly voiced from a collective, if not also made publicly visible) might be the best traction we can give the Dean, as she moves forward with the immediate “administrative response” demanded by Central.

    Notably, so far, it’s been the graduate students in Arts who have done the best job of attempting such a political response; the quietism of the faculty by and large — whether due to resignation/abjection, cyncism, obedience, or just plain stressed-out-and-stretched-too-thin-already-over-work — has been as distressing/baffling to me as the actual budget crisis and the protracted “efficiency audit” that our support staff colleagues have been hauled through for the past several months.

    A petition to the government, yes; I would sign one to this end, and hope many more of my colleagues than have rallied so far would also do so. But I’ve also started having this utopian vision of a good-old fashioned mass picket of UHall. Close down all the department and program offices and cancel all Arts classes for one hour on a designated day. Mobilize our undergraduates to join faculty, support staff and grad students for a one-hour protest. Call over to Education where they’re facing a similar budget crisis and see if they want to join us. Try for local media coverage. Some sign of resistance, principles, pride enough in the value of what we do together to protest its endangerment to unsustainable levels. Or if not a campus rally, then one when a petition is presented/delivered to the Legislature.

    Unrealistic, I know, for various reasons, one being that we all belong to the already-way-over-extended category to actually be able to take on the task of organizing such a rally (which is the only reason I haven’t been active in this forum yet); a second being that this is, after all, the U of Eh–once described to me by a friend who served on the AASUA as “the most conservative and complacent campus in the country.” Thirdly, it’s January, and we’re about to hit the deep freeze. And fourthly, nothing is going to change the fact of the coming cuts anyway.

    Nevertheless, I throw it out there as a “visioning exercise” (to boomerang a hateful managerial phrase) because we do need to signal dissent in some tangible way, shape or form. It was bad management advice given by Central to the previous Arts dean which is apparently at least partially responsible for the fiscal situation Arts now finds itself in. We may have to mop it up, but our top administrators need to be made aware that we are aware this is a mess they’ve helped to make.

    BTW: Does anyone know how the cuts are being made in Education, and what the staff/student/faculty response has been? I’d be interested to know.

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