Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

For anyone who hasn’t seen this yet, the Dean released a memo last week in which he officially stated that his proposal of the School of Languages and Literatures (Working Title!) has been scrapped. According to his memo, after being “deeply engaged in wide consultation” (ie, overwhelmed by massive and enraged opposition), he has realized that it is “likely that the Faculty will be able to reach its academic objectives without proposing the creation of a School, leaving the six units intact as standalone departments/centres, but with much closer working relationships than before.”

In return for keeping our departments, the Dean expects each program to fulfil the following “academic objectives”:

1) increase undergraduate enrolments in those units that have the capacity, while providing some relief to other departments in the humanities and other sectors of the Faculty that are experiencing severe enrolment pressure;
(ii) stimulate greater cooperation and collaboration across departmental boundaries in the teaching of languages, literatures and cultures, in order to enhance the learning experiences of students in relatively small departments, take advantage of creative synergies, and make more effective use of teaching capacity;
(iii) encourage the sharing of best practices between these units with respect to graduate recruitment, admissions, scholarship applications and program management to foster stronger graduate programs and greater student satisfaction; and
(iv) explore opportunities for reorganizing administrative support to improve levels and quality of service.

As with the original Academic Plan, all these points are vague and the details remain “to be determined”, however one thing we do know is that EAS, as the largest program of them all with over 1000 majors, minors, and specialists, is not expected to bring in larger enrolment numbers. In regards to point number two, there still remains no intellectual rationale behind the expectation that EAS should have collaborative relationships with the other departments that had been involved in the proposal. What exactly these “creative synergies” would be is still a mystery, and how faculty from these departments could somehow overlap to “make more effective use of teaching capacity” has yet to be explained. Are our Japanese professors expected to teach Portugese? Should faculty members specializing in Slavic literature start teaching students about Korea? Also, the third and fourth points are incredibly broad and hardly novel suggestions – after all, why is it only the six departments/centres that are expected to do this? Should sharing tips on how to recruit graduate students and how to manage the administrative tasks of a department not already be common practice?

It is incredibly frustrating for all involved in the opposition that the Dean is taking entirely all of the credit by appearing to have gone out of his way to engage in “wide consultation”, which in reality was the work of students, faculty and staff who spent hundreds of hours opposing the plan. On a personal note, his claim that a part of the process of academic planning was consulting with students still grates my nerves. After all, the East Asian Studies Student Union would surely have been a good place to start if he wanted to consult with students from the undergrad programs affected – and yet we were never contacted by the Dean, and not given the opportunity to meet with him. As far as I understand, consultation with ASSU was also incredibly minimal, and grad students unions were similarly ignored. When did this consultation occur? It surely wasn’t at the two town hall meetings, at which only a few people got to speak, and everyone was cut off before any actual discussion could occur between the Dean and the audience. Nor at the meetings with the departments, which were (as far as I know) only one per department, lasted only two hours, and really seemed to be just an opportunity for the Dean to announce his plans to the faculty. Maybe he’s referring to the single academic planning meeting held last November for students to attend, which was held under the guise of a chance for students to voice concerns about their programs and things they wanted to change – but in retrospect seemed to be just a way to legitimize a plan already in the works that wasn’t even mentioned to those students present.

Or maybe he means the thousands of petition signatures received, the letters written (from not only members of UT but alumni, distinctive scholars, heads of other universities, and even parents of students they hoped would still be able to attend the program in the future), the emails sent (both to the Dean and to hundreds and thousands of acquaintances and colleagues to spread the word and call out for solidarity in opposition), both individual resistance and groups uniting together via various different means (whether on facebook or wordpress, in the dialogue on academicplan.ca, or the meetings of the Future of Languages and Literatures group), the protests held…

Is this what he expects to happen for “consultation” to occur? Does this mean that every time he makes a proposal of this kind, all affected members are expected to join together in a massive movement to rally against his plan? Surely it would seem more logical if instead, meetings were held with representatives of those affected. And it’s not like there aren’t easy avenues for him to find those representatives. Unions and associations like UTFA, CUPE 3902, United Steelworkers 1998, the GSU, UTSU, the course unions, etc all exist because we are elected to represent the members of the University that the Dean should have been consulting with. And yet, as far as I know (do correct me if I’m wrong here), none of those unions were contacted either prior to or after the announcement of the proposal so that consultation could occur. Instead of being approached for our opinion, we had to come to him with it, through endless petitions and emails, protests and rallying. The amount of grief and frustration that everyone involved had to go through to have our voices heard by the dean is completely unacceptable, especially when he claims that a consultative process was followed and that it is the reason why the school of languages and literatures is no more.

It was not the dean that consulted with us, it was us who were forced to try to voice our opinion in creative ways as we spent months of our time trying desperately to save our department, time that should have been spent focused on the academic endeavours we came to this school to engage in (both faculty and students alike). If we had been consulted properly before the Dean announced his plan, he would have found out that there would be widespread opposition, and it would have saved not only us but also him an incredible amount of time and energy. Let’s just say that last November at that student academic planning meeting, if we had known that he was considering shutting down our department and sending our faculty members to History or Anthropology or Philosophy, we wouldn’t have been complaining about waitlists and lack of course variety. We would have been protesting.

For this reason, we should not be thanking the Dean for “consulting” with us, and deciding not to carry out with an unpopular and widely opposed plan to disestablish world reknowned departments and form a collaborative school with no intellectional rationale, that was unlikely to bring in any money for the university. Instead, we should be demanding better and more democratic consultation in the future – consultation that includes the representative unions of those affected, and that occurs before a plan is officially announced, which would save everyone the pain and trouble of having to fight for their department.

Faculty department meetings and two town halls should not be the only requirements needed in order for a Dean to disestablish departments at this university. We need to change the way decision making happens here, and ensure that our programs aren’t in danger in the future of being removed from our course calendars without proper consultation. Students, faculty, and staff members are the foundation of this university, and we should be demanding policies that ensure transparent and democratic decision making about issues that affect our education, our jobs, and our future. We must not accept the status quo, or we will be doomed to find ourselves in a similar position again in the future. Right now, nothing is stopping the Dean from creating a new Academic Plan next year that proposes the disestablishment of any number of departments. We have only prolonged the lifespan of our department temporarily. We must safeguard the quality of our education by stressing the need for real change and demanding required consultation for any such future planning procedure. If we do not take action now and form a collective movement to call for democratic decision making at this university, then we have not really saved EAS. Without the guarantee of proper consultation in the future, the EAS department is still, undeniably, in danger.

– Julianne Kelso

PS. To read the whole memo from the Dean, see here.

Summary of UTEAU and FASC meetings

Posted: November 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

I apologize that it has taken me so long to get a summary of last week’s meetings up on here. Here are some brief minutes taken from the UTEAU and FASC meetings last Monday.

UTEAU Meeting – November 1, 12-2pm.

The University of Toronto Employee Associations and Unions (UTEAU) is an umbrella organization that includes unions of students, faculty, and staff members at the University of Toronto. This particular meeting of UTEAU included easily over a hundred people, with representatives from United Steelworkers 1998, the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA), Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902 (CUPE 2902 – represents sessional and contract workers, and TAs), the Graduate Students’ Union, the University of Toronto Students’ Union, the Future of Languages and Literatures group, and plenty of other groups who came to show their support. It was moderated by Danielle Sandhu, the VP of Equity for UTSU. Unfortunately, there was not much undergraduate representation present. While we had six members of the East Asian Studies Student Union there, there were only two members of UTSU, a representative from the Association of Part Time Undergraduate Students, and two members of OPIRG in attendance to represent undergrads. No representatives from ASSU were present. We hope to see many more undergrad students and representatives in attendance in the future.

It began with short presentations from the above listed groups, who described how the academic plan has affected the members of their unions/associations and what they’d like to see for the future. Patrick Vitale from CUPE 3902 worried that this may be only an example of what is becoming standard practise at this university. UTFA called for transparency and accountability in the administration’s decision making processes. Ken Kawashima of the Future of Languages and Literatures (and our own EAS department) stressed that while the new school has been taken off the table, we must not become complacent, and we must continue to fight for changes in the way the school is run. Maria Galvez of UTSU spoke for all undergrad students at the university when she questioned where our tuition money is going, and why we do not have a say in decisions made that affect the quality of our education.

It was decided that a working group should be formed to gain the votes of members of the FASC, as we currently only have eight or nine votes on the council in favour of our cause. It was pointed out by many that it is critical that we focus on the illegitimacy of the entire process of the academic plan instead of small parts, as this is something that most people can agree on, even if they agree with certain parts of the plan (for example, some people want to see the Big Ideas courses created, which makes them less likely to oppose the entire plan unless we focus on the undemocratic process of its proposal). A resolution was written by the members of the FASC present, which was brought to the FASC meeting later that afternoon.

Faculty of Arts and Science Meeting – November 1, 3-5pm.

At the FASC meeting, Andre Schmid represented UTEAU by reading out the resolution that had been written earlier that day. The resolution was as follows:

Whereas we have gathered to voice our opinions as a community with respect to the proposed Academic Plan for the Faculty of Arts and Science, the current state of academic planning in all Faculties and the overall, undemocratic decision-making processes at the University of Toronto.

Whereas we reject all current discussions, and unrepresentative consultations around Dean Meric Gertler’s proposed Academic Plan for the Faculty of Arts and Science,

We call on the Dean and the Faculty of Arts and Science Council to:

(1) Suspend indefinitely the implementation of the major structural changes of the current plan until a proper democratic process is established which includes meaningful and transparent consultation with representatives of the affected departments, the Graduate Students’ Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902, the University of Toronto Students’ Union, United Steelworkers 1998, the University of Toronto Faculty Association, and any other relevant stakeholders

(2) Establish a similar process as outlined in (1) for all future academic planning for faculties
As agreed upon by all attendees at a meeting hosted this November 1st, by the University of Toronto Employee Associations and Unions with representatives from:

The Graduate Students’ Union
Canadian Union of Public Employees 3902
University of Toronto Students’ Union
United Steelworkers 1998
University of Toronto Faculty Association

The Dean neglected to comment, and moved on to the next speaker. However, he did address the issue of the School of Languages and Literatures in his speech, when he officially stated that due to “important concerns and objections” to the proposal, the plan for the school will be scrapped. This is contingent on the departments involved finding new ways to increase enrolments, increasing collaboration with each other, and rethinking their administrative structures. The plan’s new goals are to make selective cuts to departments, such as to the Centre for Ethics, which will have some of its budget relocated to the teaching of ethics in other programs. The Dean did also say that the Strategic Planning Committee has not been formally disestablished, but no longer has a formal role.

Overall, my personal opinion is that the FASC meeting was a disappointment. While there was plenty of talk about the plan from those who had attended the UTEAU meeting, it seems many members of the council did not seem concerned about the undemocratic process that had led up to the plan and the lack of consultation that was involved. It appears we have a lot of work to do in regards to voicing our concerns on a grander scale so that our representatives in the council understand why the Dean and administration should not be allowed to implement similar plans in the future without consultation.

That’s all for now, but there is another FASC meeting coming up on December the 6th, and UTEAU is planning to meet again before then to discuss strategy. More info about that will be posted as it’s determined!

– Julianne

Rumours have been circling for the past two days about the status of the Dean’s plan, and although we don’t yet have an official announcement from the administration, we have had confirmation from the chair of our faculty that we should offically announce the good news:

The School of Languages and Literatures is dead!

Here’s a modified version of what Josiah Blackmore, Chair of Spanish and Portuguese, had to say earlier today:

The chairs of the “affected” units had a meeting with the dean and 3 vice-deans yesterday morning. More information will be coming later, but for the time the proposed School of Languages and Literatures is off the board, and departments for the foreseeable future will retain their autonomous status. The discussion with the dean was positive, so we have reason to be optimistic, although much work remains ahead. The dean outlined several tasks for our departments, including undergraduate enrollments (for some of the units), and other matters related to graduate applications and possible collaboration between programs. We are, however, being asked to address these concerns as autonomous departments, not as amalgamated units.

While this is certainly cause for celebration, we still remind everyone that we need to ensure that this kind of proposal is not brought to the table without fair and democratic consultation in the future. If we do not make significant changes to the way the administration at this university makes its decisions, our department is just as at risk as we were under the Dean’s Academic Plan. Unless we continue our fight to increase the transparency of the administration’s policies, we could very well be faced with a similar proposal in the near future.

For this reason, we highly encourage you to attend the UTEAU meeting on Monday, and help us to draft a document of our demands to present to the administration. More info can be found here.

Updates on the details of this news will follow as it unfolds!

– Julianne

“Stop the Cuts” Meeting!

Posted: October 28, 2010 in Uncategorized

On Monday the 1st of November, a meeting will be held by UTEAU (University of Toronto Employee Associations and Unions) to bring together organizations and unions such as UTSU, GSU, and UTFA to create a document of our demands.

It is critical that students, faculty, librarians, and all other interested parties attend this meeting so that we can ensure that all changes to our department and program are made in a democratic manner. We need to continue pressuring the administration for fair and open consultation.

The event is taking place from 12-2pm on Monday, November the 1st, in OISE room 2214. There will be free food and plenty of open discussion! Please come out and bring your friends!

– Julianne

To All Students!

Posted: October 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

As a student at the University of Toronto, your opinion matters. While the town hall meetings with the Dean are over, there are still plenty of opportunities to have your voice heard. Right now the plan’s progress is at a standstill as we wait to see the outcome of the grievance filed by the University of Toronto Faculty Association. However, the Faculty of Arts & Science Council will be meeting soon to discuss this matter, and as they have the deciding vote on the Dean’s academic plan, we need to make sure our issues with the plan are widely known and recognised.

Therefore we highly encourage you to talk to people about your issues with the Dean’s Academic Plan. Whether they’re your registrar, your professors, the dean or principal of your college, or your friends and family, we need to get the word out so people know why it is we’re opposing the plan!

A lot of the rhetoric coming from the administration is claiming that students do not understand what the proposal will mean for us, because they claim it is only the faculty that will be affected and not students. They’re wrong! Here’s why.

Check out the rest of the pages on this site too for more information on how this plan will affect us as students. And then book an appointment with your college registrar or principal and let them know why you have issues with the plan! At this state in the process, we need to make sure that everyone who has voting power on this proposal, or who knows someone with voting power, understands what our issues are with the Dean’s plan.

Thanks everyone!
Julianne

PROTEST ON SATURDAY

Posted: October 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

On Saturday, October 23rd at 1:00 there will be a peaceful protest against the Dean’s Academic Plan on campus. The plan is to stand one-deep on the sidewalk around King’s College Circle, not obstructing pedestrian traffic, holding signs, distributing pamphlets, and generally educating the passers-by (ie, the high school students who are going to be visiting U of T and their parents) about the Academic Plan and the top-down, non-transparent approach by which it was created. The protest should last about 2 hours, and pamphlets and balloons will be provided. Bring signs or posters if you’d like them!

We hope to see you there!

There will be an open town hall meeting tomorrow at 4pm with Dean Allen, the Dean of Arts at Trinity College. He will first be presenting the proposed Academic Plan, and then answering student questions. As an influential figure at U of T (and as a colleague of Dean Gertler’s – note that Allen was the moderator of the recent town halls with Gertler), this is a great chance for students to have their voices heard by someone with a deciding vote. Despite the short notice, we hope many of you will be able to come and represent EAS! It will take place in Cartwright Hall of Trinity College (in the St Hilda’s College building). Note that this event is not restricted to Trin students – everyone is welcome!