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September 4, 1998 Volume 6, Number 1

On Campus News is the University of Saskatchewan's faculty/staff newspaper


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Deans discuss academic, faculty, and organizational renewal at summer retreat

The deans of the 14 Colleges on campus emerged from a three-day retreat in June with a consensus on how they plan to advance - or "renew" - the University in the context of the institution's financial realities and an anticipated increase in the rate of faculty retirements over the next five years.

Concentrating on the University's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, they identified three areas requiring attention in the immediate future: academic renewal, faculty renewal, and organizational renewal.

Vice-president Michael Atkinson, whose office organized the retreat, says the deans agreed, in the interests of academic renewal, that each College identify two or three academic areas in which a high level of achievement is possible, given existing strengths, and desirable, by the measures of academic merit and societal need.

The idea, he notes, is to improve the academic programs by refining our current assumptions about which teaching and research efforts best serve the University and the Colleges.

"It's also important to note that in the deans' opinion faculty renewal - that is, decisions about which positions are to be filled in which Departments and with what expectations - must follow, not lead, academic renewal."

Faculty renewal, Atkinson explains, entails the recruiting of high quality faculty members, while strengthening the ability and commitment of the existing faculty complement.

He says the plan is to adopt "best practices" at each stage of the recruitment process, from advertising to welcome on campus - together with such support programs as cohort (i.e., group) hiring, spousal employment assistance, and 'bridging' (i.e., flexible hiring practices to achieve specified academic ends).

The deans agreed to develop a guide to hiring practices similar to one in use at Queen's University. "That model," Atkinson says, "provides the department head with guidance on how to conduct the recruitment process from beginning to end; and it also deals with broader questions such as establishing career expectations and achieving employment equity goals."

Organizational renewal, the third area the deans identified, is about enhancing inter-College collaboration, cooperation, and flexibility.

"College-specific perspectives will have to yield to a truer collegiality that reduces barriers to the sharing of faculty, students, and programs," Atkinson says. "What we require is a transparent organizational framework that maximizes flexibility while ensuring accountability."

He notes, too, that the development of administrative models for existing or proposed interdisciplinary programs such as Toxicology, CSALE, and the Virtual College of Biotechnology is a key first step in enhancing collaboration.

The vice-president says that both the priorities the deans agreed on and the Planning Committee's priority-determination process that Council approved last January (see February 6, 1998, OCN) are driven by the same sense that changes need to be made in the policies and practices at the U of S.

"The priority-determination initiative is happening on one track and to date two proposals have been approved for further consideration. The purpose of the deans' initiative, on the other hand, is to create a framework for campus-wide collaboration, establish recruitment strategies, and College-specific plans."

The Planning Committee's Priority Determination paper speaks of the necessity of prioritizing four to six academic areas which the University will enhance and expand with dedicated funding and of "open and transparent procedures by which the University can systematically withdraw resources from programs that can no longer contribute satisfactorily to the mission of the institution."

At the retreat, the deans agreed to work with the vice-president (academic) to ensure that the renewal initiatives move forward with expedition, especially in light of the assisted early retirement program recently negotiated with the faculty.

Atkinson says the deans chose the word renewal as an intentionally optimistic term in an era of change, challenge, and uncertainty.

Not an empty buzzword

"The intent is that it will result in real progress and not be an empty buzzword."

To sustain the momentum of the agreements reached at the retreat, evaluations of which were overwhelmingly positive, specific action plans have been drafted.

In matters concerning the institution's strength and growth, it was agreed that:

  • each College identify its areas of academic priority; advise the vice-president (academic) by the end of December, 1998, which areas have been prioritized; and link appointment requests to these priorities. After December, 1998, the vice-president (academic) will approve or disapprove the appointment based on the academic priorities that have been identified;

  • the relationship between the retreat strategies and those governing the Framework for Planning and the Priority Determination Process documents will be clarified;

  • a mechanism will be established for interaction/cooperation/collaboration among the Deans' Council, Council, and the Planning Committee to assist in identifying the strategic directions for the University; and

  • the dean (or designate) will be an ex officio (but non-voting) member of all search committees (for departmentalized Colleges).

    Regarding strategies for attracting/retaining high quality faculty, it was agreed that:

  • institutional recruitment strategies and processes with clearly defined roles and responsibilities will be established by the fall of 1998;

  • strategies on salary policies and goals will be determined by the fall of 1998;

  • a "Recruitment and Hiring Guideline" document be developed by the fall of 1998;

  • elements of a start-up package for new faculty be developed by January 1999; and that

  • employment equity be tied in to the recruitment plan.

    At the retreat, which was facilitated by Linda McCann, of HRD, the deans also recognized that various other issues will have to be considered in the renewal process. These include:

  • the decision-making process for operating and capital budgets;

  • the role of the deans in the recruitment of students, and of the registrar in the dissemination of information about new and innovative programs of the University;

  • the role and relationship of the deans to U of S International, especially the need to reflect academic priorities in contracts with other countries;

  • the role of the president in renewal;

  • the relationship between the deans and the other governing bodies of the University; and

  • the effect of the Canadian Light Source on academic and faculty renewal.

The deans retreated this summer to discuss 'renewal' strategies for the University. Pictured here are (back row, l. to r.): John Stewart, dean, Agriculture; Michael Atkinson, vice-president (academic); Pauline Melis, assistant to the v-p (academic); Ken Sutherland, dean, Dentistry; Melana Soroka, administrative officer; Alex Livingston, dean, WCVM. (Front): Rick Bunt, cting associate dean, Arts and Science; Yvonne Brown, dean, Nursing; Gordon Thompson , dean, Extension; Franco Berruti, dean, Engineering; Dennis Gorecki, dean, Pharmacy and Nutrition; Sylvia Wallace, associate vice-president (academic); Bob Faulkner, dean Kinesiology; Lynne Pearson, dean, Commerce; Kent Roach, dean, Law; Tom Wishhart, acting dean, Arts and Science; Gary Kachanoski, dean, Graduate Studies and Research. Not present: Ken Jacknicke, dean, Education; David Popkin, dean, Medicine.

On Campus News is published by the Office of Communications, University of Saskatchewan.
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