At the General Membership meeting on December 11th, members passed a motion requesting that the Ad-hoc Committee on the IPRM draft a ‘Statement of Concern’ to be read to the Board of Governors the next morning. This is the text as drafted.

‘STATEMENT OF CONCERN’

We would like to alert the Wilfrid Laurier University Board of Governors to the serious concerns of the faculty regarding the IPRM, also known as ‘Program Prioritization’. Faculty are disturbed by the IPRM process at present, and as presented on November 21, 2013, to the WLU Senate, since it appears to be a violation of the WLU Act and governance processes. This includes a lack of transparency on the IPRM committees, which have not conformed with the WLU Act, or Senate By-laws. It should be noted that committees that do not keep minutes or follow rules of quorum, in effect, do not exist and are open to potential problems in the future as they attempt to pass recommendations through the Senate. 

The IPRM model of ‘Program Prioritization’ was founded by Robert C. Dickeson, who is the consultant hired by the Administration to start the initiative here.* Dickeson first created his version of Program Prioritization when he was President of the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) from the early 1980s to the early 1990s. 

This plan caused havoc at the University, where the plan was viewed as methodologically flawed, and inherently divisive among the faculty. As such, there were investigations by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which concluded that the Program Prioritization was not in compliance with the UNC’s governance system, and resulted in the unnecessary closure of academic programs and the termination of 39 permanent faculty positions.

It should be mentioned that none of the administrative units were closed. Most of these faculty launched lawsuits, which cost the UNC a great deal of money (Elliot & Steuben, 1984).  To this day, the University of Northern Colorado faculty and staff feel the fractious effects of the Dickeson plan. 

Since the early 1990s, Dickeson has been selling his plan to U.S. universities, and most recently to Canadian universities.  In the US, in case after case where a university employed the Dickeson plan, universities were left in shambles, and resulted in AAUP investigations and faculty lawsuits (Elliot & Steuben, 1984). These lawsuits have cost universities using the Dickeson plan enormously. It is interesting to note that in many cases these ‘Program Prioritization’ plans were initiated by Dickeson. 

It is curious that Dickeson is selling his plan to Canadian universities, when the US has roughly 6,400 higher education institutions to a mere 200 here in Canada. Indeed, the US holds approximately three times more Universities and Colleges per capita than in Canada, which amounts to 1 in 49,000 in the US vs. 1 in 165,000 in Canada. With such a large market available in the US to Dickeson, why is he selling it up here when there is a great many more opportunities in the US than in Canada?  

It should be noted, that in the US where there is greater competition for fewer students, and therefore there are more post-secondary institutions likely to experience declining enrollments, the Dickeson plan is better suited than for Canadian higher education. 

Indeed, Dickeson’s book has been analyzed by Craig Heron at York University, who found his methodology to be extremely flawed, and focused on cutting academic programs, but not expensive administrative costs. 

As a faculty we are alarmed at the apparent violation of governance processes at Wilfrid Laurier University, consistent with the Dickeson plan, and would like to bring this to your attention as a member of the Board of Governors.

We trust that you will consider this information, which is just the tip of the iceberg of what this Program Prioritization could (will?) bring about at Laurier. It has already been divisive and created a level of morale, amongst many faculty, that is at its lowest in years. 

Please consider all the evidence, seriously and carefully, as we do not want this University to repeat what has occurred at many Universities in the US. Thank you for taking the time to listen to a statement of concern from faculty members and for considering our views on this matter. 

*CORRECTION: Sentence should have read: ‘… C. Dickeson, whose work forms the basis of the process promoted by the consultant hired by the Administration”. The consultancy hired is Campus Strategies.

 References  

Elliot, J.E., & Steuben, N.L., (May-Jun., 1984).  Academic Freedom and Tenure:  University of Northern Colorado, Academe, 70(2).

 

Heron, C., (2013) Robert Dickeson: Right for Ontario? OCUFA.

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Editor’s Note: The ‘Statement of Concern’  expresses faculty concerns about possible or potential violations to the BoG. I would like to note that there are differing opinions on the ‘legality’ of the IPRM in terms of violations of the Act and/or the CA, which stems, in part, from differing interpretations (at present) over the boundaries in the bicameral form of governance at Laurier and other universities. Please also see box on OCUFA’s advice on page 7.

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