Faculty, workload & space are key for Arts & Science
By Colleen MacPherson
Retaining or boosting faculty numbers, reducing their workload and finding space enough for everyone emerged as common themes when two divisions within the College of Arts and Science made back-to-back presentations to an Integrated Planning town hall meeting March 17.
It also became evident during a question period following the presentations that Integrated Planning continues to have its detractors. "Poorly timed and deeply flawed" is how one English professor described the process while Paul Bidwell, head of the English Department, commented that Integrated Planning "is not so much a carrot as a stick. It's about how to hang on to your shirt".
About 50 people attended the session to hear Judith Rice Henderson, Associate Dean (Humanities and Fine Arts), and Lawrence Martz, Associate Dean (Social Sciences), outline what Martz characterized as "an early edition of our integrated plan".
After an overview of the Humanities and Fine Arts division, which includes nine departments, Henderson told the meeting that since 1992, the division has lost 18 per cent of its faculty positions. The only department that gained faculty since 1992 is Women's and Gender Studies which has doubled its complement to four. After looking at projected resignations and retirements up to 2007, Henderson said maintaining a critical mass is one of the challenges facing the division.
Following her remarks, Bidwell suggested a stronger case needs to be made concerning faculty complements. "We have to be a lot more pointed in our PowerPoint presentations" about the need to retain faculty positions over the next five years.
In his presentation, Martz also noted a decline in faculty in Social Sciences, suggesting the seven departments in his division have "suffered inordinately" but have recovered somewhat, thanks to additions like three Research Chairs. Both Henderson and Martz said refocusing faculty resources will be a priority to ensure critical mass is maintained.
Strategies for achieving this goal include disciplinary focus, combining disciplines within departments and co-operation across departments and colleges, Henderson said.
She also pointed out that while most faculty in her division teach 15 credit units, some teach as many as 24. "We've got to do something to get those workloads down," she said, "to be more research intensive and take on more graduate students."
Martz said workload issues are particularly acute in small departments, namely Archaeology with 4.5 faculty and Native Studies with four. The performance of these departments has been exceptional, he said, "but the status quo is not a sustainable option. There will be Occupational Health and Safety issues as these people begin to collapse. We need to make them not small or restructure them to ensure their viability beyond next month."
Alongside the need for more faculty is the need for more space, Martz said. His division has a substantial shortfall against its entitlement to the point where some departments are unable even to house their graduate students in the department's building. This space fragmentation could be solved with a core Social Sciences area, and "Kirk Hall would be nice" if dedicated to one purpose - housing three or four Social Sciences departments. The need is critical, he said. "We can't wait for a seminary or a residence. We have to act."
The facilities needs of Humanities and Fine Arts are most acute in the fine and performing arts areas, said Henderson, although she said she is pleased to see that a new performing arts centre is "high up on the list of priorities for the capital campaign".
In the rest of the division, there is a shortage of office space, seminar rooms, lecture theatres and research and teaching labs but, she pointed out, "the (Arts) Tower is full".
Both divisions see dealing with faculty and space issues as vital to expanding graduate education capacity. Building on existing graduate programs and developing new ones will be a major initiative for Humanities and Fine Arts, Henderson said. "I think it's fair to say that every department within the division is looking toward a graduate program."
Other division initiatives include securing new funding from sources like foreign governments, other universities and institutes, and organizations like the Canada Council and the Saskatchewan Arts Board. "We don't want to see Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funding as the only measure of what we're doing" but at the same time, "we don't want the University to lose sight of the importance of undergraduate teaching under pressure from the (federal) government's innovation agenda."
Henderson also pointed to the need for expanding the division's language support for the University. This includes providing second language training on campus, "not at some centre off campus", to help meet graduate program requirements, prepare students for study abroad opportunities and to support research. In the same way, a writing centre within the division would address the needs of both international and Aboriginal students.
Commenting on the writing centre proposal after the presentation, Associate Vice-President of Student and Enrolment Services David Hannah said similar services are currently in place "in isolated pockets" across campus - but it should be a more collaborative effort to provide academic support services. Henderson agreed, adding the hope is "to work toward one-stop shopping".
After criticizing the Integrated Planning process, Ray Stephanson suggested weaknesses within the division were largely due to "chronic under-funding". Henderson replied that when small departments run programs, "in some cases for the whole campus, there are problems. We'd like all the money ... but we wanted to show that we're resourceful people" who would make good use of any available funding.
The Social Sciences Division also lists increasing grad student numbers among its priorities, along with improving Aboriginal student success and research productivity. Specific to research productivity is the need for administrative infrastructure "to build expertise" in areas like the development of research proposals, said Martz.
Another target for improvement is in the area of "role model faculty, faculty who are models to us all in their scholarship".
After highlighting the division's areas of strength - undergrad programming, community-based research, environmental studies, experiential learning and internationalization, among others - Martz said that while "nobody's ready to commit to numbers", investment in the Social Sciences Division "will yield better than average returns in all aspects of scholarship".