Proposed faculty still no closer to creation

By Chris Yee [Student Affairs Bureau Chief]

It has been over a year since Kwantlen began seeking a new Faculty of Library and Student Engagement Services department.

Derek Robertson, KSA Director of External Affairs, noted that under the amended University Act, which created the five special purpose teaching universities, of which Kwantlen is one, they lost the representation they had when Kwantlen was a University College (under the College and Institute Act).

While the Learner Support representative on Education Council (the predecessor to the Senate while the school was still considered a college) is on Senate as a librarian representative, her term, which was transitional, will end this summer, said Library Chair Chris Burns.

Despite this current lack of representation, Burns pointed out that these staff still have faculty status, which was affirmed in a September 2008 Senate meeting. A report on the matter was submitted to the President on Jun. 10, 2009, which outlined relevant sections in the University Act like “criteria for a faculty at a special purpose, teaching university like Kwantlen” and ways the proposed faculty met them, as well as the precedent for such a faculty set by Thompson Rivers University’s Faculty of Student Development.

The Kwantlen Senate, and President David Atkinson himself, had “agree[d] in principle” with the creation of the new faculty and suggested that faculty members in these areas form a working group to work on the matter.

The effort was not only to gain representation on Senate, Burns said, but also to create courses and other learning opportunities, as well as facilitating collaborative planning of programs within the proposed faculty’s focus areas – currently not possible for  consideration.

However, minutes from the Senate’s September 2009 meeting said that it “gave the proposal serious consideration, but ultimately was not satisfied that all possible consequences of approval had been given sufficient consideration” and referred it back to the Senate Governance Committee for further report. Specifically, it was concerned about potential budget and organizational structure implications.

At the Nov. 30, 2009 Senate meeting, the proposal was voted down 16 to 12.

Asked about the matter, Burns stated that the rationale for the proposed faculty was that “not a traditional university [as a special purpose teaching university under the Universities Act]… and [that] we can do things differently – and possibly better… to recognize that… a lot of teaching (and learning) takes place in other venues: the Learning Centre, Counselling, the Library…”

However, Burns added that notions of the “traditional model [of instruction]” seemed to be fairly well entrenched for many people voting at the meeting.

Additionally, Burns said, “to hear assertions made that we do not teach was really quite dismaying and disheartening, because it signaled to us a lack of recognition of the work we do, or understanding of even that most fundamental point – [that] as faculty members… we teach, or we would not be faculty members.”

Kwantlen librarians had noted collectively in a Dec. 14, response letter to the Nov. 30 Senate meeting decision that they had taught approximately 7000 students in “over 300 [research skills] classes” in the previous year. These research skills classes included the “research skills component” of UNIV 1100, taught “over a series of days.” Furthermore, they noted that one of the job specifications for new librarians was “significant experience teaching library and web research skills in an academic setting,” of which applicants must demonstrate in a “brief teaching session,” undertaken “as if… teaching an English 1100 class.”

The Senate created  a Task Force on Learning Services  at a Sep. 2009 meeting to “conduct a review of the organizational structure and delivery of all learning support services” which would include all of the areas represented in the Proposal, as well as other areas. The Task Force will submit an interim report to the January Senate meeting.

In the early stages of the proposal’s development, the Co-op faculty members decided to not join with the proposed Faculty of Library and Student Engagement Services, instead feeling that aligning with the Business faculty for “the purposes of Senate representation” would be a better fit for them, she continued.

Finally, in response to suggestions aired during the Nov. 30 meeting that the library and other areas to be covered under the proposed simply follow suit and associate with other, existing Faculties, Burns stated that “it was not a workable method,” defeating the purpose of having a distinct Faculty of Library and Student Engagement Services.

Burns stressed that a big problem in the process was that “numerous opportunities” to discuss the proposal early on were missed. Without such constructive feedback, the original proposal went forward to Senate lacking information that some Senators felt was vital. For example, detailed program proposals and course outlines were requested during the final discussion at Senate, though they had not been requested by the Governance Committee in the preceding months, or at the previous Senate meeting.

“In all fairness to everybody… it was a learning process about the function of Senate and its committees as we make the transition to a university governance model, “ Burns concluded. “We are often not aware how [the legislation] really affects what we can do.”

The concluding statements of the 2009 faculty proposal make this point clear: “Indeed, as the Working Group on Senate Governance asserted, “although the legislation specifies the composition of the Senate, it is important to interpret those specifications in the Kwantlen context and arrive at a picture of the Senate that is right for Kwantlen today.”

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