Kari Brozowski, Brantford Liaison Officer and Associate Professor Laurier Brantford
It has been reported to WLUFA that the ‘Integrated Planning & Resource Management’ (IPRM) committees are including a “programs to cut” category that would affect between 5 and 15 percent of the programs at Wilfrid Laurier University. This equates to between 12 and 35 programs in total. By all appearances, the University is in a surplus situation, so why would such a plan be required? Furthermore, the Wilfrid Laurier University Act provides the Senate, in section 19(k), the power to create councils and committees intended to exercise its powers over all educational policy, including the closure of programs. In spite of this law, the IPRM process (aka ‘Program Prioritization’), does not include the involvement of committees or councils created by Senate, and IPRM committees are not committees or councils of Senate. Furthermore, the Senate cannot delegate its authority over educational policy to an outside body or group. Ultimately, this appears to be an illegal process, and we have a responsibility as faculty to uphold the WLU Act, since the integrity of our departments and programs depend upon it. The strength of our programs are at risk, as the Senate on November 21, 2013, was told by the IPRM committee that templates were being distributed to programs that would assess the quality of programs. Senate, not the IPRM process, is responsible for all educational policy.
Furthermore, the Ontario Confederation of Faculty Associations (OCUFA) is against the IPRM (‘Program Prioritization for Ontario Universities’), and has stated in a November 27, 2013, newsletter that: “Program Prioritization usurps Senate authority for academic decision-making, and can be used as a justification for cutbacks and program closures. OCUFA is working closely with faculty across Ontario to resist and block program prioritization” (see OCUFA website & excerpts in this issue). Consequently, the IPRM will promote long term effects for the University, resulting in rifts and divisions between individual faculty members, as well as programs and departments that could endure long after the present University Administration has departed, and may never be repaired.
Indeed, American universities, such as the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), have continued to experience a fractured atmosphere long after ‘Program Prioritization’ processes were introduced. The effects of this toxic work atmosphere will be especially damaging for Contract Academic Staff (CAS) — faculty who are most vulnerable to the expected cuts from the IPRM. This process threatens to worsen working conditions for the remaining CAS, who may face fewer employment opportunities, increased class sizes, and fewer resources for teaching their classes, further undermining any job security and intensifying the precariousness of their working lives. Despite the promise of some programs being “enhanced” or “maintained,” all full-time faculty face a risk of diminishing salaries, benefits and working conditions. As a faculty we are primarily responsible for delivering a quality education to our students. We have a (bare) majority representation in Senate, and are the dominant force on all other committees related to Senate, including programs and departments, curriculum committees, and Divisional Councils. Given that the WLU Act gives the Senate power over all educational policy, faculty have a duty to create and maintain excellence in the education students receive. At the very least, we must sustain the current standards of education, which can only be accomplished by critically evaluating our participation in the IPRM process, and ensuring that we continue to promote a collegial environment for all WLU faculty.