Dr. Lesley Cormack, Dean of Arts
Faculty of Arts
6-33 Humanities Centre
University of Alberta
December 8, 2011
Dear Dean Cormack,
Thank you for your letter dated December 1, 2011. This letter responds to that correspondence, to your November 29 AdPReP FAQs, and to your brief remarks on AdPReP at the November Arts Faculty Council meeting. We welcome a second forum in a question and answer format. In order to decide on a date for the forum, it would help for us to know where you will be in the AdPReP process both the week of December 19 and the week of January 9. Your assertion that either date would allow time for substantial input into the process conflicts with earlier comments regarding the timeline for implementation by you and Tiz Benvenuto as well as our sources. After you are able to clear up the project timeline, we will respond immediately to confirm a date for the second forum.
FASS is aware that the Alternative Solutions Working Group emerged as part of the AdPReP process. Staff supporters of FASS have expressed frustration that the working group has been directed to focus more on identifying the least detrimental staff cuts than on strategies to limit the total number of staff cuts, which they originally considered their mandate. FASS continues to affirm that all of the proposals of the Alternative Solutions Working Group should be made public at your earliest convenience and before the next public forum, permitting both departments and student organizations to review and endorse them. This issue was not addressed in your letter or in your AdPReP FAQs.
FASS members understand that AdPReP aims to increase administrative efficiency.
However, we do not accept that the proponents of AdPReP can make informed decisions on functions as essential as graduate and undergraduate advising, budgeting, and human resources without more complete consultations with graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff. Neither the Graduate Student Association nor departmental graduate students associations within the Faculty of Arts were directly engaged in this process and informed of potential changes to graduate advising. The mostly undergraduate and few graduate students who were consulted had no effective mechanisms for informing the students they purportedly represent and soliciting their feedback. Furthermore, one of the most frequent and constant objections of staff supporters of FASS has been the poor construction of AdPReP questionnaires that did not allow staff to adequately explain their job functions. We understand that a review of respondents’ comments on the questionnaires is pending and we welcome that decision.
You alluded to the need for a body similar to the Collective Body of Arts Students (CBAS) for Arts’ graduate students at the November Arts Faculty Council meeting. FASS concurs that some sort of graduate student organization within the Faculty of Arts should be formed to work with the Dean’s office in the future. Perhaps the fastest and most effective way to address this would be through the creation of a caucus of Arts’ graduate student councillors within the existing university GSA structure, representing all Faculty of Arts’ departmental graduate student associations. FASS is actively pursuing this option with the GSA and such a caucus could exist in time for discussions about the next likely round of budget cuts in April 2012.
When you have made positive changes to the AdPReP process and corrected earlier disconcerting affirmations of the Project Manager, FASS has praised those changes and acknowledged your corrections. On points of continued disagreement—such as the proper level of departmental and student association consultation and involvement in AdPReP, the reliability of AdPReP staff questionnaires as a basis of decision-making and the need for a supplementary input-feedback mechanism, and the need to make all recommendations of the Alternative Solutions Working Group public to give departments and student, staff, and faculty associations the opportunity to endorse them—FASS will continue to be publicly critical of AdPReP. These criticisms stem from legitimate grievances, but they are also framed by the understanding that FASS and the Dean’s office share long term interests and could both benefit from identifying ways to work together in the future and avoid the tension that arises from strategic planning errors.
While FASS formed as a coalition of concerned graduate and undergraduate students, staff, and faculty because of mostly procedural objections to the AdPReP process, our coalition has larger concerns about the discourse and management of budgeting at the University of Alberta and more long term objectives. Your affirmation that you see yourself not only as responsible to the Board of Governors but as an advocate for the Arts, representing the Arts community’s collective interests, is reassuring. Your acknowledgement that “budget reallocation has affected Arts more seriously than other faculties” gives us hope that we will be able to work together in the coming months.
FASS believes that both a faculty-wide mobilization and collaboration with other arguably disadvantaged faculties, such as Education and Science, will be necessary to defend the Faculty of Arts’ interests to the central administration and the Government of Alberta moving forward.
We welcome and look forward to further dialogue.
The Faculty of Arts Staff Solidarity Coalition