Volume 13, Number 6 November 4, 2005

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Outreach & Engagement debated

Debate over the push for more faculty outreach and engagement activities and the uncertain future of the Extension Division continued over the past two weeks, with the concerns taking clearer shape and the two sides appearing to be moving to less-polarized positions.

Speakers at University Council’s Oct. 20 meeting aired their views and updates on the second draft of the Outreach and Engagement Foundational Document which was circulated around campus for feedback until Oct. 21.

Don Harris, chair of Council’s Committee on Outreach and Public Service, emceed the part of Council’s Oct. 20 meeting which dealt with the foundational document and alluded to the future of the Extension Division.

Harris said a number of faculty and departments have provided feedback on the draft document which calls for an increase of outreach and engagement activities by faculty across campus, with more opportunities for community service-learning, community-university research and other types of outreach – with no central campus unit to co-ordinate or support the initiatives.

Harris said his committee is meeting with colleges until Nov. 9 to gather feedback on the foundational document. He will present the comments at the Nov. 17 Council meeting. A third draft of the foundational document, to be the final one, will be written in the coming weeks.

Some members of Harris’ committee, as well as people providing feedback from Extension Division and the College of Engineering have expressed concern over the lack of a central unit to support people across campus who want to launch outreach and engagement projects.

At Council, Extension Dean Walter Archer said a central co-ordinating unit “would not tell faculty how or what to do, but the community needs a way to engage with the University.”

Bob Cram, Acting Director of Extension Credit Studies, told Council he sees signs that the writers of the Outreach and Engagement document are listening to the concerns and are changing some things in the document. He said Extension staff are also concerned that the document states most universities operate non-credit and certificate programs on a cost-recovery basis, which he says is not true.

Archaeology Professor Ernie Walker said he’s concerned that if there is no central authority for outreach and engagement and already busy faculty are just supposed to undertake it on their own, the initiative could “go by the wayside”.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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