This blog entry was actually posted on December 3, 2015.
This article is from WLUFA Advocate 1.1 October 2012.
Academic Programs & IPRM Reviews
“Two Kinds of Reviews”
I attended an IPRM “workshop” with the consultant in late August, where he dismissed periodic reviews of academic programs as largely matters of accreditation. Not only is such minimization of the large amounts of faculty labour that go into these reviews crass but it is also misleading. Periodic reviews concern resources in exactly the way that any IPRM would concern resources. The dismissive attitude and misrepresentation occurs no doubt because periodic review reports almost inevitably ask for increased resources for the programs they examine, and this is not what the administration wants to hear. A reasonable response to a request for an IPRM is that Laurier does not need one. Instead of engaging the faculty in pointless labour, the administration should use the existing resources reports in periodic reviews to lobby the Ontario government for fair and adequate funding for academic programs in the province.
“A Misinformed Consultant”
The consultant at the IPRM would have it that university employees are good at creating programs and not very good at winding them down when this seems necessary. Not true. The Arts Faculty has been proactive about scrutinizing its programs. Several programs have been restructured and some even wound down in the twelve years that I have been at Laurier. Furthermore, we’ve constantly had to re-design, re-structure, and adapt courses, programs, and even whole departments at WLU during this last decade, largely due to massive increases in enrollments without matching increases in resources. Our morale is bad enough without having our abilities mischaracterized by expensive and patronizing consultants who can only push a simplistic agenda that does not in the least suit Laurier’s various missions.
Two Moments of the IPRM Workshop at Brantford
One of the faculty members asked a question about how the IPRM process works in connection with the processes outlined in the Collective Agreement. The point was made that IPRM might go against articles in the collective agreement. The facilitator’s response to this was to suggest eventually those articles will be opened up during negotiations and altered accordingly. Essentially it seemed to me he was telling us what we would be negotiating away and where we would be making concessions.
The second moment that stuck with me was an example the facilitator used to demonstrate the value of the IPRM process in helping us to reassess where we would want to allocate resources. He suggested that when the faculty go through the process they might come to realize the program they are affiliated with is under-performing. He used an example where a faculty member did come to this realization and agreed that his program should be phased out, but then the facilitator went on to say that this particular faculty member was on the verge of retiring.
Concerns for WLUFA Participation in the IPRM Initiative
Fellow members, I would like to address the serious flaws in the IPRM process which was initiated on May 1, 2012, by Wilfrid Laurier University President, Max Blouw.
As members of the Wilfrid Laurier University Senate, we are not responsible to a committee or body that lies outside of the Senate. According to Section 19(k) of the Wilfrid Laurier University Act (1973), the Senate has the power to “create councils and committees to exercise its powers.” These committees and councils must be created according to Senate by-law 5.1, paragraph 2: “All Senate committees, unless otherwise decided by Senate, shall reflect as far as possible the composition of the Senate as established by the Act.” So, according to the WLU Act (1973), 50 percent +1 must be faculty who are elected, and if there are other members on the commit-tee, it must be decided upon by the WLU Senate and not by the University President, as has been the case with the IPRM.
The University President’s unilateral creation of the President’s IPRM Task Force body and membership on such committees deems it as a Board or Administration committee. It follows that it is not a Senate committee, given that it was not created by Senate, nor does it follow Senate by-laws. Consequently, as faculty we are only required to participate on committees that are part of the Senate, not on Board or Administration committees.
It is interesting to note that an article was published in the CAUT bulletin in 2003 by Tim Quigley titled, “A Study in Top-Down Mismanagement,” where the same consultants were used in a similar IPRM plan at the University of Saskatchewan. After seeking a legal opinion, the union found the process designed by the administration to be illegal.
There is already in existence a process for program cuts, known as Financial Exigency or Program Redundancy, and this process is clearly and fairly outlined in the Collective Agreement. This is a careful process, which takes a while to complete. Furthermore, we already have a method of program review which takes place every seven years and is carried out under the authority of the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Why would we short cut this process? The IPRM is a duplication of these processes and is using funds that could be applied to support current programs.
The University President has stated that this IPRM plan is about the reallocation of resources, which can include cutting or “phasing out” programs. This is thinly veiled rhetoric for what amounts to job cuts within the WLU community. As faculty, if we were to participate in the IPRM plan, we would be placing fellow members at risk of losing their jobs. Although promoters of the IPRM are trying to reassure WLUFA members that they are not in danger of losing their jobs, there is no guarantee given the nature of the IPRM plan. We are also putting our fellow Contract Academic Faculty (CAF) (also known as CAS) and other WLU support staff members, including members of CUPE and OSSTF at risk of losing their jobs. It is well known that the loss of a job can cause major disruption in people’s lives and the lives of their families. This can include loss of a home, divorce, mental health issues, and even possibly suicide. As members of a union, it is our responsibility to help protect the jobs of our fellow members and members of the WLU community, as this is the reciprocal nature – and strength – of a union.