Dear AUNBT member:
It has been brought to AUNBT’s attention that the university administration will present to the Fredericton and Saint John Senates at their September 2018 meetings an ambitious new vision for the Faculty of Engineering. This is in addition to a proposal to establish a Health Research Institute based on the Saint John campus, which the academic planning committees are recommending for approval by UNB Senates.
It is a welcome development that significant investments in UNB’s academic mission are being considered. Nevertheless, there is a concern that an initiative with potentially important effects on the academic mission was presented to the Board of Governors at its annual summer retreat in August, before Senates had an opportunity to discuss it.
These plans have now been placed on the agenda for the Senate meetings on September 25, and it is encouraging to see that Senior Administration is making an effort to be more transparent.
AUNBT’s interest in this matter stems from principled concerns for safeguarding collegial rights and processes for all AUNBT members. Article 5 in the full-time Collective Agreement sets out collegial rights and includes a shared commitment by UNB and AUNBT to openness and transparency in collegial processes:
Article 5 COLLEGIAL RIGHTS 5.01 The University of New Brunswick recognizes the right, privilege, responsibility and desirability of Employees to participate in the collegial processes of the University, as set out in Senate regulations, guidelines, policies, and decisions, as approved by the Board of Governors and as set out in the University of New Brunswick Act except as specifically abridged or modified by this Collective Agreement. The Parties recognize the importance of these academic, personnel, and governance processes and will work together to promote collegiality. The Parties agree that openness and transparency are important for collegiality and accountability.
The vision that will be presented to Senates on September 25 is of considerable interest on both UNB’s main campuses. Senates should have been involved much earlier to avoid the impression that they are to advise on this academic matter only after the Board of Governors had been presented with what appears to be a detailed plan.
An outline of plans for a major investment in Engineering was apparently presented to the Board last year, in late August of 2017, by President Campbell and Vice-President Skillen. This was several months before UNB’s academic plan was finalized—and before the second draft academic planning document was released for comments (in September 2017). Concerns about such sequencing were raised at the academic planning town hall on 27 September 2017.
Senates are responsible for academic matters and for considering potential impact of any proposal on the academic mission of UNB. Minutes of the Fredericton Senate Academic Planning Committee meeting of 14 September 2018 indicate that “members have discussed the Engineering vision” and the “planned budget reductions for 2019-20”, but no information is provided on this discussion.
It should be noted that Fredericton Senate, while acknowledging the Saint John section, accepted Academic Plan (Phase II) in November 2017 as a “provisional document” and required the Academic Planning Committee to “report on changes and improvements to the document at 6-month intervals with a mandatory formal report to Senate not more than 12 months after this motion is accepted.” [Fredericton Senate 21 November 2017 minutes, page 14]
Updates in the academic plan, as well as potentially significant changes in academic direction, are academic matters that should have been discussed in detail by UNB Senates at an earlier stage. Bringing these developments to the attention of UNB Senates is a step toward enhancing openness and transparency, although it would have been preferable to allow more than two working days for senators to consider the updated documents, consult with colleagues and convey their views.
AUNBT encourages members to remain engaged and to continue asking questions through senators and deans and in their faculty councils.