November 2, 2007
Platforms considered as alternative model
By Colleen MacPherson
Assured by the chair of the Planning and Priorities Committee that “no students will be stranded as a result of this action,” University Council unanimously approved the disestablishment of the Virtual College of Biotechnology (VCB).
John Rigby went on to tell Council Oct. 18 that the dissolution, which has been discussed for some months and will be effective by June 30, 2008, does not indicate a waning of the University’s commitment to biotechnology. “And I don’t particularly think we should look at this as a failure,” he added. “It was an experiment we tried and decided no, … there are better ways to deliver intercollege, interdisciplinary programs.”
A dissolution proposal prepared by the VCB pointed to a number of challenges faced by the college since it was approved in 1999, including lack of clarity about its role and too little authority to directly sponsor academic programs.
Rigby also told Council there was no impact on faculty with the dissolution. Three faculty positions associated with the VCB are currently vacant, he said, and two others will be subsumed into other departments.
Speaking before the vote, Council member Jim Merriam of Geological Sciences said “something clearly went wrong” with the VCB. “Seven years is not much of a life for a college. There appears to have been some fundamental flaw that we should have recognized.” He then expressed concern the same short lifespan awaits the University’s three new interdisciplinary school.
The Planning and Priorities chair reassured Merriam that in planning the schools of Public Health, Public Policy and Environment and Sustainability, the shortcomings in the VCB structure were identified “and the schools explicitly designed to avoid some of those issues.”
Rigby went on to lead a discussion about the potential of undergraduate program platforms, a model for interdisciplinary, intercollegiate programming. Platforms provide for a core curriculum and basic content structures to building common degree programs by colleges, with each college adding a distinctive disciplinary component for senior years.
The Planning and Priorities Committee is seeking input on undergraduate platforms before submitting specific platform models.