“‘Truth, Faith and the IPRM’: Rhetorical Tactics and ‘Appalling’ Arguments”

This blog entry was actually posted on December 4, 2015.

This article is from the WLUFA Advocate 1.2 December 2012.

Herbert Pimlott,
Associate Professor, Communication Studies

How can something as dull and bureaucratic sounding as the “Integrated Planning and Resource Management” (IPRM) initiative stir such passions?

As you know, Senate passed the Administration’s IPRM initiative at the second of two Senate meetings (26 November 2012) devoted to discussing the IPRM. However, David Monod (History) was successful with a motion to increase the proportion of elected members on all IPRM committees to two-thirds, which passed (34-32) — to the apparent surprise of many.

Faculty concerns about the legality of the IPRM under the terms of the WLU Act of 1973 were confirmed, at least in part, at a recent WLUFA membership meeting.

For this reason, Brenda Murphy (Brantford) proposed a motion to seek outside legal counsel to provide clarification: ie independent of both the Administration and WLUFA.
Was it appropriate then for Max Blouw, who as President also acts as Chair, to turn it into an ad hominem attack on a member of the administration, and which (intentionally or not) also impugned Brenda’s motives? What if the positions had been reversed?
You might be aware of this approach as a rhetorical tactic for winning arguments by avoiding questions (similar to, but not exactly like, “shooting the messenger”). All of us at times do or say things in the heat of debate that we regret later. Yet, this was not an isolated example of such tactics at both Senate meetings.

A graduate student writing in The Cord characterized the President’s presentation at the October Senate meeting as “infantilizing senators and faculty alike for their apparent reluctance to unquestioningly accept the value” of the IPRM.

And, yet, it was the President who twice used the word “appalling” to describe the “lack of faith” that faculty members have in senior administration, in an apparent attempt to characterize criticism of the IPRM and genuine faculty confusion concerning the precise role of Senate in a prejudicial manner.

But, how can it be “appalling”, or even “disloyal”, to the University (let alone a personal attack on senior administrators), to read a document and come to a conclusion that differs from the IPRM proponents?

As a scholar, I am compelled by my profession to base my conclusions on evidence, much of which involves “close reading” (ie textual analysis) of documents. I expect the same of the students I teach.

Even Laurier’s motto, Veritas Omnia Vincit (“Truth Conquers All”), suggests the importance of truth, not faith, as the value at the heart of our University. (Or is it just another “marketing” or “branding” tactic?)

Nevertheless, let’s allow for a time when there might be a case to make an argument based on “faith”. Such arguments would have to be based upon some past record or history.
(Personally, I am not against having “faith” in the administration, if it is warranted. Trust, like respect, is a quality that has to be earned and can-not be accorded based upon one’s position.)

Should senior administrators and IPRM proponents be surprised then at the level of opposition and concern?

If you are looking for a place to start investigating whether faculty should have “faith” in the senior administration, then perhaps the best place to start is with the administration’s financial record as illuminated in Bill Salatka’s piece (pp1, 6). Or you could start with Gary Warwick’s column about the burden of the faculty service workload for faculty at Brantford (pp8, 5).

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