Letter 3 (Political Science Graduate Students’ Association)

Political Science Graduate Students’ Association

Department of Political Science

10-16 Henry Marshall Tory Building

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta

T6G 2H4

Tel: 780-884-8437

Faculty of Arts

6-33 Humanities Centre

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta

T6G 2E5

9 November 2011

RE: PSGSA’s CONCERNS ABOUT AdPReP: FOLLOW-UP TO NOVEMBER 7, 2011 MEETING

Dear Dean Cormack,

Thank you for meeting with the University of Alberta Political Science Graduate Students’ Association (PSGSA) on November 7, 2011, to discuss our concerns about the University of Alberta Faculty of Arts Administrative Process Review Project (AdPReP). We have carbon copied this message to Dean Shirvani of the University of Alberta Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR), who is listed as a major stakeholder in the AdPReP Charter, as well as Provost Amrhein, in order to broaden the dialogue on a process in desperate need of more transparency, inclusion and diverse voices.

In our meeting, we acknowledged that budget cuts do not originate in the Faculty of Arts, and we expressed mutual hope for more stable and generous provincial support in the future. Projects, such as AdPReP, emerge as reactions to externally imposed crises. In this respect, we sympathize with the difficult position you are in as a result of the financial challenges confronting the University of Alberta.

The PSGSA expressed support for the following principles, goals and objectives outlined in the AdPReP Charter: to “support the integrity of academic programs, understanding the nuanced requirements of each discipline”; to “continue to provide effective service”; to “continue to support the core activities of teaching and research”; to “consider revenue generation ideas”; to “protect quality/integrity of the academic programs with effective administrative support”; to “increase the overall efficiency of the faculty’s administrative processes”; and to “provide evidence-based recommendations.”

Notwithstanding these shared priorities, the PSGSA contends that AdPReP has not lived up to these principles, goals and objectives to date. These are the PSGSA’s ethical, administrative and procedural objections to AdPReP:

(1)  AdPReP proceeds from an incomplete stakeholder analysis, failing to account for major stakeholders such as graduate students, undergraduate students, and a wider spectrum of faculty and department chairs who are affected by AdPReP. This top-down process has sought little or no input from these relevant stakeholders. The PSGSA suggests that the inclusion of these stakeholders would both create a more complete picture of departmental needs and result in the proposition of alternative solutions that would not require the termination of 15 administrative staff positions.

(2)  The short project timeframe causes undue stress to administrative personnel who do not feel that they have been granted the opportunity to sufficiently explain the indispensable and department-specific functions of their jobs. This staff anxiety resonates throughout Arts’ departments, distressing faculty and students.

(3)  The AdPReP questionnaires given to support staff require them to quantify unquantifiable tasks. The questionnaires provide no means to explain extensive and department-specific duties over and above their job descriptions, including services that our departments depend upon to operate efficiently.

(4)  The narrow focus on staff cuts—visible in available interdepartmental correspondence since June—has led to a myopic process, one unreceptive to alternative proposals by Administrative and Professional Officers (APOs) and other excluded stakeholders.

(5)  The attempt to hasten the process and limit dialogue is exclusionary and undemocratic, fomenting discontent at a time when the Faculty of Arts should be working to increase cooperation, open and transparent dialogue, and solidarity amongst diverse stakeholders who compose the University of Alberta community.

(6)  While revenue generation is prioritized in the AdPReP Charter, dialogue and innovative ideas to achieve it seem absent from the process. At the 26 October 2011 meeting between AdPReP Project Manager, Tiz Benvenuto, and the PSGSA, Ms. Benvenuto could not speak to revenue generation as a priority and described it as an issue outside of the project’s scope.

These issues undermine the many laudable principles and objectives outlined in the AdPReP Charter. Moreover, they contradict the general principles of the University of Alberta, including the institution’s aim to “nurture a responsive, compassionate, fair and inclusive academic community, one that embraces diverse viewpoints and backgrounds, supports academic freedom and open inquiry, and seizes opportunities with passion and creativity”, as recently articulated in Dare to Deliver 2011-2015: The Academic Plan for the University of Alberta (2011: 14).[1]

The PSGSA brought three specific requests to its November 7, 2011 meeting with you.

First, keeping in mind both the fact that an administrative unit review recommended a staff increase for the Department of Political Science only a few years ago and that we already lost one member of our support staff last year, we asked for assurance that none of our remaining 4.5 staff members would be cut. Based on a comprehensive understanding of our department’s needs and the indispensable roles of our administrative support staff, we affirmed that any staff loss in the Department of Political Science would be detrimental to the integrity of our program and the quality of graduate education. You rejected this request.

Second, we asked that graduate students across the Faculty of Arts be incorporated into the decision-making process as integral—and hitherto excluded—stakeholders. We also suggested that other stakeholders, such as a broader spectrum of faculty and graduate chairs from across the Faculty of Arts, be accounted for and incorporated into the decision-making process. You agreed to take this request into consideration, thereby demonstrating that you see problems and inadequacies with the AdPReP process and that you are open to process modification. We thank you for this; the PSGSA is anticipating that changes to the current AdPReP will be made immediately, and that a more inclusive process and dialogue will begin shortly as a result of your consideration of this request.

Third, in light of AdPReP’s numerous existing deficiencies—particularly its exclusionary, undemocratic nature which ultimately renders it antithetical to core values of the University of Alberta, such as “collegial governance”—we asked that you slow down, reflect on and re-evaluate the process altogether (University of Alberta, 2011: 2).[2] In keeping with the principle that “the University of Alberta is fundamentally about people,” and the institution’s intention that changes occurring from 2011-2015 will be enabled by “[i]nviting everyone to reflect on and articulate ideas for making the University an even better place to live, work and study”, we urged that a broader range of diverse stakeholders be involved so that innovative ideas and possible alternatives can be considered (University of Alberta, 2011: 12).[3] With regards to this request, your reply was non-committal.

The many problems within the existing AdPReP process could have been averted with a more complete initial stakeholder analysis and inclusive faculty-wide dialogue on the best response to the latest round of budget cuts. Staff lay-offs based upon an incomplete understanding of the vital and often department-specific tasks that our administrative staff perform would be analogous to tearing down walls before determining how much and in what ways they buttress our houses. At this critical juncture, it would be imprudent to proceed with AdPReP unchanged.

Following our meeting on November 7 and your response to our requests, the PSGSA has voted to oppose AdPReP in its current form. We are confident that you will encounter similar opposition as you consult with other relevant stakeholders. If you reconsider your position vis-à-vis our interrelated requests, allowing for comprehensive evidence-based decision making, we believe you will find that administrative staff cuts in Political Science and other departments would be damaging to our programs and irreconcilable with the principles and objectives of the University of Alberta and the AdPReP Charter. If your position changes at a later date, the PSGSA will re-evaluate its current position regarding AdPReP.

The Dare to Deliver 2011-2015 report states the following:

Collegial governance is another crucial characteristic of major universities, one that rests on the fundamental concept of academic freedom. Anchored in collaboration and consultation, it allows the University to incorporate and harness the various ways the academy pursues its teaching, learning, research, and service missions. We all benefit from collegial governance; it is at the heart of our success as an institution. (2011: 2)[4]

It is important for The Faculty of Arts, and University of Alberta as a whole, to uphold the very principles of “collegial governance”, “collaboration” and “consultation” which the institution has recently championed. We, the PSGSA, are willing to work with you, and other integral stakeholders who are involved and who ought to be involved in the AdPReP process, to ensure that these principles are adhered to, even in the most trying of times. Together, the Faculty of Arts can, and must, do better.

The PSGSA would be more than happy to meet with you again to further discuss how we can work together to foster a more comprehensive AdPReP process, one that is premised on principles of inclusive and open consultations, diverse dialogue, and democracy. Please do not hesitate to contact us. We thank you again for taking the time to meet with the PSGSA on Nov. 7, 2011.

Sincerely,

The Political Science Graduate Students’ Association.


[1] University of Alberta. 2011 (January 26). Dare to Deliver 2011-2015: The Academic Plan for the University of Alberta. Governance Review Draft. 1-15. Accessed at: http://www.president.ualberta.ca/en/~/media/University%20of%20Alberta/Administration/Office%20of%20the%20President/Documents/D2DAcademicPlan-2011-2015.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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