The latest development concerning the ongoing program review at Brock finds President Jack Lightstone indicated in a memo to the Senate Governance Committee that he would stop the academic portion of the program review.
This was due to the now acknowledged overlap between the work of the Task Force and the Senate’s academic responsibility.
The program review itself began as a way to address the growing financial situation at Brock University. Lightstone made comments in a letter addressed to the Brock community in May, saying “these are not good economic times, and Brock has not been immune to the financial challenges confronting universities across the country”.
So, as other universities in Canada began combating their deficits with the conduction of program reviews, so did Brock.
Oddly enough though, instead of following standard procedures and having the Academic Review Committee (ARC) undertake the review, the President formed a Task Force. This team did not consider the Senate, but had the Chair of the Senate appointed to it. Furthermore, it failed to have representation from the Faculty of Social Sciences (which happens to be the largest), the Business faculty or the library.
The Brock University Faculty Association (BUFA) was obviously very concerned by this unprecedented development and began a transparency campaign, which, given what had been said about the Task Force, should not have been necessary.
In a briefing note from the president’s office, it was clearly stated that “the process must be open, transparent and collegial, and it must be informed by the perspectives of the faculty, staff and students, as well as by administrators”.
Despite the clarity of that statement, all meetings of the Task Force were closed to the Brock community. Albeit, a web site for the program was established, the task force has yet to post minutes from their meetings.
Obviously, this was a rather confounding move on the part of the Brock administration, and BUFA was not going to just let it happen.
On Sept. 4, the Senate Governance Committee (SGC) passed two motions relating to the Task Force, which were based primarily around the Senate’s responsibility — as stated in the Brock Act — to conduct all academic review.
At the senate meeting on Sept. 18, the two motions were passed. The first, “The Senate respectfully requests that the President direct the members of the President’s Special Task Force to stop their program review and prioritization of academic programs”; and the second, “The Senate respectfully requests that the President refer any matters concerning the review and/or prioritization of academic programs to Senate for timely consideration, decision and conduct”.
After a few days, the President responded positively, stating that the review would be left to the Senate. At their meeting on Sept. 25, the Senate decided to undertake the review, and is now in the process of forming a subcommittee develop plans for a Senate Program Review Committee. This will include a draft mandate, Committee formation and consultation process.
We can only hope that the new Senate subcommittee responsible for the review will proceed a little more “by the book”.