Wagging the Dog: The BoG, Senate and the IPRM Update

This is an article from the WLUFA Advocate November 2014 3.2.

Kari Brozowski, Health Studies

The IPRM co-chairs recently emailed an update to the Laurier community that stipulated what the Senate involvement in the recommendation process will – and won’t – be:
“The RMT report will recommend an optimum budget and resource allocation model for the university. The AcPT and AdPT reports focus on the evaluation and prioritization of the university’s academic and administrative programs to guide strategic resource allocation in the future. These reports contain recommendations only, and will be submitted for review and comment by Senate and review and decision by the Board of Governors. More details about the process can be found at legacy.wlu.ca/iprm.”
This process is deeply flawed, however, because it does not conform to the WLU Act, which stipulates that the Sen-ate has power over all educational policy. In limiting Senate’s role to reviewing and commenting (and giving the power of “decision” to the Board), it fails to note that Senate has the power to do whatever it wants with these reports, including rejecting them and/or the IPRM process itself.

Some have argued that this process does respect the Act’s emphasis on collegial governance because Board decisions will be returned to Divisional Councils for deliberation and approval, and then for-warded to the Senate. However, the Act stipulates that the whole process in relation to academic programs must begin with the programs and then move on to the Divisional Councils and Senate for approval. The final destination of any academic programming recommendations is the Board of Governors, which makes decisions based on finances. The Administration of the University takes those decisions and implements them back into the programs (see diagram below).

The problem with the current process is that academic programs are not likely to pass any recommendations that state their program is to be cut, and are almost certain to pass recommendations for increased funding for their programs. Because the parameters of discussion and debate are financial, not academic, all meaningful deliberation about academic quality is under-mined. Furthermore, the Act stipulates that the Board cannot make decisions about the fate of any academic program without the Senate’s prior approval.

Senate powers over all educational policy are clearly outlined in the WLU Act. And the entire IPRM process is in violation of the WLU Act, since the WLU Senate did not create the IPRM committees. It’s interesting to note that according to the WLU President’s presentation of October 16, 2012, Senate could: “Comment on the report and make a recommendation to the Board of Governors. Recommendations may include: to reject the report, giving clear reasons to the Board; to endorse the report with recommendations for changes; to endorse the report as it is written.” (emphasis added; see the full report here)
Yet today, the President has issued a different decree, stating at the September 17, 2014, Senate meeting that the Academic report was immutable and the Senate could only make comments before it was forwarded to the Board for a final decision.

Neither of these dictates from the chair of Senate are binding. The President is just a chair (see the article on governance, p.3), and the Sen-ate body can make any decision it wants on the report, and/or concerning the whole IPRM process. Its decisions, however, must be in accordance with the WLU Act, which is an Act of the Ontario Parliament.

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