Provost provides update on decanal structure

The Provost’s office will release a new proposal in the coming weeks based on recent feedback

At the Faculty Council meeting on Jan. 30, University Pro vost Jeff Ollerhead addressed the decanal restructuring proposal that sparked significant community discussion last week.

“During the second and third weeks of January, I consulted on some ideas. That consultation included two open meetings, and a number of meetings with other stakeholders – I received a lot of thoughtful responses.… To a certain degree the consultation process failed, and I take responsibility for that so I will hold some additional internal consultations in the coming weeks and months,” said Ollerhead. “As a general observation, people tended to support changes in areas that didn’t directly affect them and lobbied against changes in their own area.”

In closing, Ollerhead said, “It’s unfortunate that some stakeholders misinterpreted the consultation process as equivalent to testing decisions already made – that simply wasn’t the case, but it did colour the feedback that I received. Given that the feedback that I got was highly variable, and in my notes I wrote ‘provides limited clear direction,’ the next step is for me to digest the feedback and bring back some kind of modified proposal in the coming weeks or months.”

When President Campbell asked if this meant a proposal of the same nature is on the way, Ollerhead responded, “Stay tuned; some kind of decisions will have to be made.”

Political science professor Loralea Michaelis responded, saying if the University is to go through this process of proposed changes being presented to the public again, Ollerhead should give some indication of how far along he is in his decisions and “which are the most important of the proposals, which are the most seriously intended.”

Ollerhead agreed, saying, “That’s a good point. As I said, I take full responsibility.… Version 2.0 will have to be somewhat more constrained and more declarative.”

Another faculty member asked what the nature of the feedback around the university librarian was. Ollerhead replied, “The vast majority of the feedback I received around the university librarian didn’t actually address what I had tried to articulate, so most of the feedback was ‘Don’t take the university librarian and replace them with a manager,’ but what I was trying to get across was the idea of having a decanal level position which would be a combination of an academic dean and a university librarian that would be supported by a manager or director or whatever with complementary skills. That may still be a bad idea, but the feedback I got back didn’t relate to the proposal that I was trying to suggest so therefore, by definition, the feedback is of somewhat limited value.”

University librarian Marc Truitt closed the discussion by saying, “As I think everyone knows, CBC ran a story on this a week ago Thursday, and following that story and news of the proposal and specifically the part about phasing out the university librarian position … colleagues from across the country flooded my inbox with messages of concern.… I think it is worth noting and bringing to the attention of the council today that in addition to the individual librarians sending letters to me and I know to the provost as well … the Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians also wrote an open letter, which I encourage everyone to look at.”

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