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Monthly Archives: June 2014

The discussions were quite lively at today’s open session of senate. Question period was well used, although should be invoked by more senators. The following posting, as always, reflects my personal impressions of the public meeting and are not meant to replace the official minutes that will be promulgated a quarter year from now.

Carleton Leadership Program

Katherine Graham discussed our new so-called leadership program. Someone accused this program of corporatizing governance by creating a shadow set of leaders that have power outside of officially sanctioned bodies, such as senate. This person also accused the program of lacking transparency. I asked a pair of questions to Katherine Graham at senate today about this matter, which she either evaded or refused to answer, leading me to suspect that those accusations are valid. One problem is that participants in the program are hand-picked. I asked why this could not be done via open enrolment, possibly on a first-come first served basis. We were told that the handpicking – ‘suitability of participants’ in the parlance of this program – was based on having equal numbers of faculty and staff in each cohort, having equal numbers of each gender (sex?) in each cohort, and other unspecified criteria. It is the unspecified (secret) criteria that are worrisome. Katherine Graham said that people can self-nominate for streams 1 and 2, but not for stream 3, which is only for people that work in university-wide programs. If that is an honest response, which I doubt, then all members of senate should be able to self-nominate for stream 3. If the explicit purpose of the program is to cross-train people across disciplines and units, I then asked why do we not enlist our local source of expertise in such matters, namely EDC (Educational Development Centre) to run this program. This would remove much of the suspicion about lack of transparency and openness. All I received was silence to this second question, leaving me convinced that this so-called leadership program, especially stream 3, was designed as a test-bed to see who might make obedient administrators in the future. Making such lack of response more poignant, this program was on the agenda for question period, but nobody in the administration seemed prepared to provide substantive answers.

Gender

Based on gender equity in the so-called leadership program, the alumni representative on senate asked the superb question of how Carleton identifies gender of people and how many genders we count. As an illustrative example, there are almost no discussions on campus about things like preferred gender pronouns. This is a pity insofar as Carleton is in the process of refurbishing washrooms across campus. These could be converted into mostly single-room gender-neutral washrooms, which would provide welcome places for transsexual/transgender and intersex members of our community. An opportunity has been provided and monies have been allocated for washroom refurbishment, but I doubt the university will take appropriate action.

I also remain concerned that Carleton does not provide any real impetus for hiring new faculty members who do not self-identify as male. My own home department has only hired male faculty members since I started at Carleton in 2006 (both research-track and instructor positions) and in those eight years have only interviewed one person that I suspect would have self-identified as female. That is a deplorable track-record, especially in biology where over half of the earned PhDs are people who self-identify as female. At a minimum, shouldn’t our equity office become more proactive?

Indigenous Academics

Speaking of diversity, senate today approved a seemingly wonderful new suite of graduate programs in Indigenous Policy Administration (IPA; which ironically and inappropriately is also an acronym for an alcoholic beverage). However, when asked whether we had enough monies to fund faculty to teach this, the answer was equivocal. The provost did say that Carleton hoped to hire Indigenous faculty members in order to teach and conduct research in these new IPA programs. However, it is not obvious whether that will be the case. Given that most IPA students will be in diploma programs, rather than in a research-oriented (i.e. thesis-based) master’s degree program, the temptation will undoubtedly be to hire instructors, rather than research faculty. This is exactly what Carleton did when hiring our two most recent Indigenous scholars, in AESP and Canadian Studies. Let’s instead hire Indigenous scholars who also are paid by Carleton to conduct research and mentor graduate student research, as well as teach. Indigenous scholars should not be treated a second-class citizens.

[CORRECTION (updated 15 July 2014). In the previous paragraph, I mischaracterized the two most recent hires of Indigenous scholars to Carleton. The AESP appointment, by its very nature, is a teaching-only position. However, the recent appointment in Canadian Studies was of an assistant professor whose duties are divided between research and teaching. I also recently received confirmation that Carleton has approved the upcoming hiring of one tenured or tenure-track faculty member (i.e. whoever is hired will conduct both research and teaching) in the faculty of public affairs to support the incipient Indigenous policy administration program.]

New Academic Buildings

The university president discussed provincial plans for funding new academic buildings and new campuses across Ontario. She reiterated how Carleton’s priorities are to erect three new buildings: health science, business, and a concert hall. She also mentioned that some municipalities have contacted Carleton about building a new satellite campus, such as Niagara Falls and Cornwall. These towns would match provincial monies for any such new university buildings, something that the city of Ottawa has never been willing to do with Carleton nor with University of Ottawa. What was interesting is that our president also said that Carleton was doing due diligence and not rejecting such proposals for satellite campuses, at least not yet.

Shuttle Bus to uOttawa

Someone asked why the uOttawa shuttle bus was cancelled. The university did not want to provide a formal answer to this query on such short notice, but provided the following tentative explanation. Two years ago, during substantial budget cuts, the university needed to save monies without cutting jobs. So the shuttle was cancelled, especially in light of all students being required to buy OC-Transpo bus passes. Senate was then promised a more formal answer to the shuttle question in September 2014. I do not wish to focus on the tentative explanation, but would rather be forward thinking and ask: How and when will Carleton restore the uOttawa shuttle bus service now that university finances are vastly improved, especially when we are supposedly now running surpluses and may be granted stage 2 relief on pension solvency payments?

Report from Board of Governors

Given that a Board of Governors open session happened since senate last convened (less than two days before) and four members of the Board of Governors were at senate today, I was amazed that none of them were asked to provide a report.

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In the first half of 2014, Carleton University deliberately eliminated its two flagship undergraduate interdisciplinary programs: integrated science (IIS) in the faculty of science and directed interdisciplinary studies (DIS) in the faculty of arts & social sciences. This decision was made with full support of the provost and deans of the two respective faculties. Ironically, this occurred simultaneously with the provincial government approving a strategic mandate agreement (SMA) with Carleton in which we stressed our interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as interdisciplinary research that we tout as often involving undergraduates. At a minimum, we should immediately and explicitly inform the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities (MTCU) about this egregious bait-and-switch regarding interdisciplinary programs.

I am sure there will be talk about Carleton replacing these two recently defunct very interdisciplinary programs with new ones, albeit failing to mention that these other programs will be far less interdisciplinary. The possible new putatively interdisciplinary programs (e.g. health science) appear to have no more breadth than all of our classic silo programs. The two defunct flagship interdisciplinary programs offered something truly novel and dangerous, namely academic freedom. We tend to think of academic freedom as applying only to faculty and very rarely to graduate students. But IIS and DIS gave their undergraduate students a huge amount of rope, which they could use for amazing things or to tie a noose. Yes, these were high variance programs, but ones that really did not cost that much for potentially very high returns.

Traditional undergraduate degree programs limit the possibilities for interdisciplinary exploration through a seemingly excessive number of required courses and restricted opportunities to take electives. Our traditional programs are so overloaded with required courses that the undergraduate calendar is a labyrinth; that the registrar’s office builds special computer tools for students to navigate the labyrinth; and the university still has to hire special advisors for students to find their ways through the labyrinth. The two recently defunct interdisciplinary programs were radically different. They gave students breadth, while allowing them room to breathe and think. Our two truly creative undergraduate programs have been summarily eliminated, despite vocal dissent. We are left with a number of purported interdisciplinary degree programs that pre-determine (i.e. eliminate) the creative combinations that IIS and DIS left open to students. We are creating graduating classes of followers, not leaders. We are creating graduating classes of doers, not thinkers. Carleton University (College?) is becoming more of a trade school every day. That may be the sort of differentiation that our upper administration (I cannot call that ‘leadership’) wants, but it seems utterly reckless to me.