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The Draft Report of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Program Review and Prioritization

This Committee was established in February 2014, with the mandate “to examine how academic programs contribute to the University’s mission and support its academic priorities” (p. 3).  Its draft report was released last week and is available on the Senate website, linked to the Agenda of the February 4, 2015 Senate meeting. The Committee categorized all academic programs into one of five priority categories:  (1) excellent in all criteria and key performance indicators (KPIs); (2) very strong in many KPIs with high potential in all criteria; (3) strong in many criteria and KPIs; (4) needs restructuring or in transition; and (5) incomplete submission or recommend to phase out.

The draft report will be discussed on Wednesday, February 11th, 3:15-5:00 p.m. in the Pond Inlet, during one of Senate’s Critical Conversations sessions. Come and participate! (Space is limited and, therefore, please notify the Associate Secretary of Senate, [email protected], if you are planning to attend.)

A Challenge to Senate from President Lightstone

In his report to Senate, President Lightstone described a bleak financial projection for Brock, based on the 7.9% decline in applications from secondary students.  Barring any compensating increase in applications from the non-secondary sector, these financial troubles can only be alleviated if Brock does well in attracting new students from among a shrinking pool of potential applications in a competition that will become increasingly intense among Ontario universities.  The key to this success, according to the President, is to strengthen and develop programs that will attract students and their parents.  At the same time, programs that are not attracting sufficient enrolment will need to be modified, re-packaged, receive reduced resources, or eliminated.

In making this transformation, President Lightstone suggested we rely on the report of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Academic Program Review and Prioritization (see above), if it goes far enough.  The President also made an argument that Senate accept suggestions and directions for academic programs from the central Administration, which has the expertise and staff to assist Senate in this way.  Further, these senior administrators are directly informed by the experience of Brock’s recruiters and thus know what is needed to attract new students.  Senate also, the President proposed, needs to take an active role in initiating new programs and making difficult decisions about those existing programs that are nonproductive, instead of just responding to submissions by Department and Centres.  These changes would reduce the current central role of Departments and Centres in program development, review, and oversight. In the President’s view, if Senate doesn’t rise to the competitive challenge, it will “become increasing irrelevant to the future health and sustainability of Brock”.

While Senate was challenged by the President to make “hard decisions” in order to focus on programming that will bring in new students, the President himself was challenged to explain how we could be expected to convince students to come to Brock when so many of its positive and special characteristics have been lost to budget cuts and changing priorities, in which the undergraduate student experience has been compromised.

Library funding and cancellation of 2014-2015 Wiley-Blackwell subscriptions
In November 2014, the Library cancelled the 2015 Wiley-Blackwell subscription package, ending our access to the most current issues of over 1300 journals.   This cancellation led to widespread concern by faculty and students.  The academic impact of the cancellation was discussed at four Senate committees: Research and Scholarship; Graduate Studies; Planning, Priorities, and Budget Advisory (PPBAC); and Governance.  Graduate Studies and PPBAC brought forward motions to address some of the issues raised by the cancellation.   Three of the four proposed motions were carried.  One successful motion established Senate’s position that the current level of budgetary support given to the Library is insufficient to support the academic priorities of the University and therefore is inconsistent with those priorities.  This provided the context for the motions that followed.  The second successful motion was intended to facilitate the development of a general strategy to address the problem of the rapidly rising cost of journal subscriptions and the academy’s loss of control over the distribution of the knowledge that we create.  This motion established that Brock University set in motion and support a long-term plan to move towards more appropriate methods of scholarly dissemination, including open access, in order to address budgetary pressures, improve access to scholarly information, and expand the reach of Brock research. The goal of the third successful motion was to address the short-term problems created by the abrupt loss of the 2015 subscriptions by asking the Administration to provide sufficient funding to the Library to reinstate the Wiley-Blackwell journal subscription (or equivalent) for this year, in order to minimize the serious negative impact of the cancellation on graduate students and graduate programs.  This latter motion was supported by a letter from the President of the Graduate Students Association.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Regards,

Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
Brock University
500 Glenridge Avenue  St. Catharines ON Canada  L2S 3A1
Phone: 905-688-5550, ext. 3870
[email protected]

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