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CAUT Bulletin Archives

September 2010

UTFA Challenges UofT Academic Plan

The University of Toronto Faculty Association is contesting an academic plan that proposes to “disestablish” several arts and science centres, and amalgamate six units within the faculty into a new School of Languages and Literatures.

The faculty association noted in a statement that sig­nificant program changes require “open and extensive discussion among all stakeholders,” but instead the five-year plan for the faculty of arts and science released in July “appears to rely heavily on the report of the small committee of external reviewers.”

“There is no question that the closing of units adversely affects academic appointments,” including new and recent hires, as well as the scholarly reputations of its members who have worked to build expertise in certain fields, the UTFA statement said, adding that lawyers were drafting an association grievance by way of protest.

In justifying the structural changes, the U of T administration has cited primarily financial circumstances related to program redundancy and over-extension.

UTFA rejected the rationale, saying that restructuring must be driven primarily by academic concerns.

The plan has drawn almost universal opposition from the academic community worldwide, especially the decision to close the Centre for Comparative Literature that was founded in 1969 by Northrop Frye and enjoys global distinction.

“Many distinguished names from around the world appear on the enormous petitions and in letters sent to the provost and the president,” UTFA president George Luste said in an e-mail to CAUT. “They remind us that a university carries a moral and social burden and that its conduct will always be the subject of scrutiny.”

The university has not yet responded to criticism of the proposed changes, except to note that nothing is final and that consultations will begin soon. However, groups such as UTFA and CUPE 3902, which represents the contract academic staff and teaching assistants, argue that the “consultation” part of the process should have occurred long before any dramatic changes were announced and the plan’s release suggests any consultation at this point would be disingenuous.

“The Arts and Science acade­mic planning process has violated the highly valued shared governance model that is central to the relationship between faculty members and the administration at U of T,” Luste said. “Shared governance depends on a system of collegial consultation. Any recommen­dations that will result in profound structural change in the university must be built upon extensive and inclusive consultation. Quite ob­viously the consultation should come first.”

The Faculty of Arts and Science is one of the first faculties to complete an academic plan under new guidelines issued last year by the university’s VP and provost Cheryl Misak.