Unanticipated Results of IPRM

This is an article from the WLUFA Advocate January 2015 3.3

Kari Brozowski, Health Studies

Senate passed a number of IPRM motions on January 12, 2015. The motions do not support any future IPRM processes, and also indicate that the current IPRM recommendations will not be implemented if they are not viewed as reasonable. The Vice-President Academic announced that Faculty Deans will essentially decide on resource allocation, including decisions about whether or not a program should be minimized or phased out.

In other words, a great deal of money has been spent on an exercise which aimed to take control of Faculty resources from the Deans, only to revert to the Deans making decisions about program resourcing. The question is, what was the point of running an expensive IPRM process in the first place?

It seems the controversial results of the IPRM were not anticipated, and this has led the senior administration to back off from endorsing the full final report. It appears that faculty and students speaking up had an effect. For instance, the program coordinators from Anthropology and Women’s Studies spoke eloquently in Senate about concerns with the process and methodology. And students from these programs who were encouraged to attend the Senate meeting expressed outrage over the potential cuts to their programs. One distressed Anthropology student spoke about his academic future being compromised if his program is cut.

Many faculty and students see the IPRM recommendations to “phase out” various programs as problematic. At the December 17, 2014, Senate meeting, a faculty member opposed the recommendations to cut Muslim Studies and a Ph.D. program in Religion and Culture. He stressed that both programs highlight the importance of religious diversity in today’s society. To cut Muslim Studies in particular during a time when Islamic religion and society faces such a difficult cultural and social climate is unwise and upsetting to say the least.

Such opposition is not surprising given the inherent methodological difficulties with the IPRM process. How exactly are we to rank programs at this or any other university? How can a committee of largely self-selected faculty (the committees were comprised of appointed and elected faculty, but many of the latter essentially volunteered) decide which programs stay and which go?

Such decisions cannot be based on the profitability of a program. According to the mission statement at this university, “Wilfrid Laurier University is devoted to excellence in learning, research, scholar-ship and creativity. It challenges people to become engaged and aware citizens of an increasingly complex world. It fulfills its mission by advancing knowledge, supporting and enhancing high-quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education, and emphasizing co-curricular development of the whole student…” It does not mention profitability.

Our legitimate governance process is out-lined in the Wilfrid University Act. The Act charges Deans who are closely involved with their faculties with making decisions about program enhancement, transformation or cutting in consultation with their faculty in a proper and sensitive manner. These recommended changes to programs follow the legitimate line of communication to the Senate and Board for approval. Furthermore, the provincially mandated cyclical review, in which experts from the program area review a pro-gram, fosters informed program changes.

The IPRM is not a provincially-mandated process. If we actually are in a challenging financial time at WLU, then we need to examine other expenses at the university, including the proliferation of senior ad-ministration. The Administration Planning and Resource Management (APRM) report that was emailed to WLUFA members recommends cutting some of these expenses.

On a positive note, this misadventure has galvanized faculty at WLU to understand their governance system better and to be-come engaged with the WLU Act’s line of communication. It is important that the WLU Board of Governors is made aware of faculty concerns.

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