FAQs (January 2014)
What is the academic and/or intellectual benefit to the reorganization?
Academic departments need appropriate levels of support in order to maintain academic integrity and research. Given the reduction in staff through the voluntary retirement program, we have to restructure the provision of services to enable current staff to provide the necessary levels of support to both faculty and students.
How are you going to ensure that specialized knowledge in departments will not be lost, that there will be someone in the new grouping who will be able to answer department specific questions?
Staff will have the responsibility of working together and will be able to share that knowledge amongst all those in the group. This will ensure not only that specific knowledge is not lost, but also that in the event that one person is absent, others will be able to step in and answer questions. We are effectively creating a backup system that we do not have across the board at the moment. We will also provide training for those who need it.
We have a successful precedent in that ten years ago, a single administrative service was developed for the four language departments (long before they became Languages, Literatures, and Cultures), each of which has its own requirements and variants, which functions very well. They are now merging with East Asian Studies.
How are you going to ensure that the personal connection is maintained?
We are very aware of how important this is to both faculty and students. The first scenario we developed for Leacock created one large group encompassing all departments. Faculty, staff and students all reacted against it saying this was pushing the scale too far, it was too large, they would lose any sense of “department”, it wouldn’t work. We listened and we heard them. We went back to the drawing board. The largest size group now is in Arts/Ferrier (AHCS/DLLF/ENGL/FLC) with 13 support staff for 4 departments. We don’t think that’s too big. Two of the departments (DLLF and FLC) are already working together.
What is the status of the alternative proposal presented by the Arts/Ferrier group?
Two alternatives were presented, both based on the assumption that the departments would be grouped together. The final decision will incorporate elements from both options. The consensus is to move away from another level of manager in charge of the whole group, and that reporting lines should go through Chairs. There is nothing in this re-organization that will affect or alter the regular authority of Chairs to manage financial resources in their funds, to make academic program and personnel decisions, to assign academic duties. From time to time, each Chair will also serve as coordinating Chair for the staff of the administrative unit.
Are there any alternative options to deal with the loss of support staff?
The options available are: (1) Do nothing. (2) Look at departments that are relatively overstaffed, move individuals and put them into the departments that are relatively understaffed, which would just make each slightly worse off and not completely solve the issue. (3) Consolidate and reorganize with what we have, which is what we have chosen to do.
Will moving people around not be disruptive?
One of the major criticisms of the initial plan was the number of moves. Most people will now stay physically located where they are. Those moves that will take place will enable staff to more easily share tasks and knowledge. One very positive result is that we have been able to eliminate some very serious security concerns where you have the situation of only one or two staff working in a McTavish Street building. This was particularly acute in summer when fewer students and faculty were around.
Are there examples of similar programs at other comparable universities, and if so, what has the level of satisfaction has been?
One example is the University of Manchester (UK). There is dissatisfaction there, but that reorganization is very different from what we are doing here. They attempted to reorganize on too large a scale. We are not doing that. We are maintaining 16 distinct departments. What we are doing is bringing administrators together in small groups to ensure each unit has a robust, sustainable set of administrative services at its disposal.
How immediate is the need to reshuffle the departments?
It is very immediate. We have been doing a slow transition already because we have had to deal with the loss of seven positions this summer, and we are fast approaching a time when many more administrators, many of whom have been here for many years and who are the repositories of an immense amount of institutional knowledge, will retire. As you may be aware, when someone retires, the budget for their position disappears so they cannot be replaced.
How will you ensure that department advisers will have the level of expertise that students have come to rely on?
There will be a learning curve, but we are confident in the ability of the staff to share the knowledge they have and to acquire that which they will need. They will also be in close proximity to the other advisers in their group which will facilitate the transfer of knowledge and development of expertise in more than one program.
What considerations are being made for student space?
We have proposed to use the inner spaces in Leacock, which for the most part are already used for student priorities. In Arts the English Department presently has offices and a lounge in the basement, and the French Department has offices and a lounge in their department space on the second floor of Arts and in Arts West. Additional TA cubicles will be added in Leacock 111. We also see this as an opportunity to rethink and revisit some of the existing locations for student associations to see if they can be improved.
When might you be able to provide more detailed budget estimates as to how much this will cost?
The total cost of the moves will be about $120,000; the maximum cost of regrouping M1 and M2 administrative staff is $30,000. Some of this is one time for moving people; some is one time capital expenditures for renovation. This is very significantly less than the original plan. There may be additional small amounts to rematch positions if that becomes necessary.
Will people stay in the jobs that they have and in the same unit/group?
People always have the job that they have, and while there may be opportunities for individuals within a hub to develop, I don’t want to make any specific comments at the moment. There may be opportunities to rematch to a different position. We will not force anyone to move from one hub to another.
Are there any changes to how the space is to be used?
In Leacock there will be a new common lounge in response to the desire to build a greater sense of community and a new seminar room. There will be a new screening room at 688.
Has the motion passed at the Faculty Meeting in 2013 which explicitly stated that faculty members do not endorse the clustering of support staff and or their removal from departments been disregarded or forgotten?
Discussion of and a vote on the motion were allowed because it was important that members of the faculty have the opportunity to voice their opinions, but it was ruled out of order because it was ultra vires. The allocation of resources is not within the jurisdiction of the Faculty Council, a fact that was conceded many times by those putting forward the motion. The University Statues give jurisdiction over the allocation of resources exclusively to deans and deans are bound by the University Statutes, as is the Faculty Council.