York to merge two largest faculties
Written by Carl Meyer, Assistant News Editor
Tuesday, 15 May 2007
Concerns raised over �forced marriage'
York University plans to merge two of its largest faculties over the next two years, pending approval by the Board of Governors.
On April 26, following a lively debate, the York University senate voted to approve a restructuring plan endorsed by its Academic Policy and Planning Committee (APPC) that calls for the establishment of a new faculty.
This faculty will encompass all the units and programs in the faculty of arts and in the Atkinson faculty of liberal and professional studies - effectively merging the two faculties. The restructuring plan is projected to be complete by September 2009.
"It would be unprecedented for (the board) to go against a recommendation from senate on something like this," said Matthew Hayes, a board member.
"I doubt very much that the board is going to nix it."
During a speech in the senate, York's president Lorna Marsden was in favour of the restructuring plan, insisting that "change is going to occur."
APPC's plan now goes to the Academic Resources Committee (ARC) on the Board of Governors, who will meet on June 5.
Harriet Lewis, university secretary and general counsel, expects ARC to forward the plan to the board for their June 25 meeting. "The plan and the hope is that it will go forward to the next meeting," Lewis said. "That's the anticipated time frame."
In a speech in senate, Ian Greene, master of McLaughlin College, spoke to the fact that the restructuring will "remove artificial barriers" that have been inhibiting students from taking courses across faculties. "Currently if you're a student in the Atkinson faculty, and you want to take an elective course somewhere in the faculty of arts, it may be almost impossible to get in," he stated in a later interview. "There are limits put on the seats in the faculty of arts courses. That means that preference has to be given to the faculty of arts students and students in particular programs."
But not everyone is in favour of overall academic restructuring.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) local 3903, representing contract faculty at York, have been arguing that job cuts are occurring due to ongoing restructuring. While they are not commenting directly on the APPC plan, CUPE 3903's Political Action and Research Committee called for strike action to be implemented if their concerns about contract faculty job losses to incoming masters students are not addressed.
"This ongoing restructuring of York University has a direct affect on the quality of education for its students," stated CUPE 3903 member Mike Ma. "The quality of education at York U has begun a downward spiral to a depth from which it may never recover."
Robert Drummond, dean of arts, argued that the restructuring plan will be given sufficient time to be considered and implemented. "The proposal will take at least another two years to be implemented, so there will be lots of opportunity to address issues of detail," he stated.
There have also been concerns that Atkinson will be swallowed up by arts, or that the merging of units and programs is akin to a "forced marriage" that is doomed to failure. "I understand the concerns of small units being merged with large units," said Drummond. "But I believe the arts chairs have signalled their openness to a process that respects the academic judgment of their colleagues in Atkinson."
Vice-President Academic Sheila Embleton, Dean of Arts Robert Drummond and Dean of Atkinson Rhonda Lenton prepared a report to senate in January entitled Restructuring Options on the Keele Campus: The Way Forward. This report, endorsed by the APPC at the time, called for "the creation of two new faculties, one centred around the humanities and social sciences and one around programming in policy studies, information systems and management." On March 22, however, after extensive consultation, the APPC withdrew its motion to senate to establish two new faculties and instead presented a statutory motion to create a single new faculty.
The office of the vice president academic has faculty restructuring documents online dating back to September.
Copied from Excalibur May 16th online edition: http://www.excal.on.ca/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3497&Itemid=2