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Faculty of Arts releases ten scenarios for departmental restructuring

The University of Alberta Faculty of Arts has released scenarios for department mergers as part of the University of Alberta for Tomorrow initiative.

Departmental and administrative restructuring is part of University of Alberta for Tomorrow, a plan to find $120 million in cost-savings and efficiencies for the university. The proposed scenarios for arts at the U of A range in scope with up to four departments being merged together to create one larger unit. Every scenario proposes merging at least two current departments within the faculty to create a new academic unit.

The proposed department mergers, released to the public on October 21, were drafted faculty administration following consultation with the arts department council and town hall sessions. Consultations began in August of this year.

According to the faculty, the “simplest answer” for why the number of departments within the faculty need to be reduced is to “adjust to budget cuts and the realities of coming administrative restructuring.”

The faculty added that “larger academic units” have to be created in order to allow “for more effective deployment of staff resources to support our programs and students.”

No governance structures, academic leadership reductions, or administrative styles are being set by the faculty at this time. Instead, the faculty wants to receive feedback from students and staff about the proposals before deciding on concrete directions.

“The goal of this second phase of consultations on departmental restructuring is to gauge the faculty community’s interest in and level of comfort with a number of proposals for new, multi-program departments,” the faculty said. “We are also open to hearing proposals for how programs could be brought together to create departmental configurations that are not among the scenarios offered below.”

The scenarios are said to create “viable department communities” that will promote collaboration, “intellectual curiosity,” and “interesting affinities.”

Not all programs or departments within the faculty appear in the departmental restructuring scenarios. The Faculty of Arts said it does not anticipate changes to all departments and some are “likely” to remain unchanged. The names of the new academic units created through the mergers are merely suggestions and not the final wording.

The post accompanying the scenarios made no mention of if more than one of the ten proposals will be or could be implemented.

The proposed scenarios for departmental restructuring released by the faculty include:

  • Combining the current programs of history and classics, religious studies, and philosophy to create the new department of historical, religious, and philosophical studies.
  • Combining the current programs of east Asian studies, history and classics, religious studies, and philosophy to create the new department of east Asian, historical, religious, and philosophical studies.
  • Combining the current programs of art and design, drama, and music to create the new department of fine and performing arts.
  • Combining the current programs of political science and women’s and gender studies to create the new department of gender and political studies.
  • Combining the current programs of political science, sociology and criminology, and women’s and gender studies to create the new department of gender, politics, and sociology.
  • Combining the current programs of anthropology, linguistics, and psychology to create the new department of behavioural sciences.
  • Combining the current programs of linguistics and psychology to create the new department of behavioural sciences.
  • Combining the current programs of modern languages and cultural studies and media and technology studies to create the new department of modern languages, cultures, and media
  • Combining the current programs of English and film studies, media and technology studies, and modern languages and cultural studies to create the new department of literatures, culture, and media.
  • Combining the current programs of modern languages and cultural studies, media and technology studies, and women’s and gender studies to create the new department of languages, culture, media, and gender studies.

The faculty said it will host more town halls — including the department restructuring student forum on November 5 — and other small or medium sized events for stakeholders to provide feedback on the proposals.

Consultation is set to continue until November 26 when departmental restructuring will go before the Arts Faculty Council for discussion.

Principles guiding departmental restructuring include providing “economies of scale” and creating space for “innovation and collaboration”

On September 9, the faculty released four guiding principles for the departmental restructuring process that would help assist in the process of “imagin[ing] a Faculty with fewer entities that house our academic programs and faculty members.”

The guiding principles included:

  1. Reduce the number of academic units delivering Faculty of Arts’ academic programs and service teaching.
  2. Reduce the number of administrative course releases, thereby reallocating investment in teaching, research, and creative activity.
  3. Produce economies of scale that allow for enhanced specialization of administrative roles and improved support for excellence in teaching and research, while managing workloads and continuing to make full use of the Faculty of Arts’ strong administrative staff team.
  4. Create space for innovation and collaboration, especially with regard to interdisciplinarity

On the same day the faculty hosted its first public departmental restructuring town hall.

Steve Patten, interim arts dean at the U of A, led the town hall said the imperative for the faculty to restructure included anticipating future government funding cuts from the provincial government, ripple effects of the larger process of university academic restructuring, and impacts of the province’s post-secondary system review.

“We don’t know yet what impact that [review] will have on the University of Alberta, but we know that we have to be prepared to respond to whatever the Government of Alberta decides they will do in terms of reforms,” Patten said during the town hall.

“So sitting here in the faculty of arts as interim dean, I look at the context and I see dramatic budget cuts; future budget cuts coming; the U of A advancing with its U of A for Tomorrow initiative which involves academic restructuring which will change the faculty of arts, and service excellence transformation which will change our administrative structures and change an awful lot of jobs for our staff; and we have [the] post-secondary system review.”

“That is the context witting which we are working,” Patten added.

Patten said deans at the U of A have been instructed by the Academic Restructuring Working Group to undertake a “dramatic reduction” in departments following the changes to university-wide academic restructuring.

“What we need to do for ourselves to be prepared is to think through what our opportunities are, what makes sense to us, what could help us thrive or what could help our research be successful, and what could help us make sure we are delivering really effective programs for our students while still achieving some of what the University of Alberta for Tomorrow initiative wants us to do.”

Adam Lachacz

Adam Lachacz is the Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway for 2020-21. Previously, he was the 2019-20 News Editor, 2018-19 Staff Reporter, and a senior volunteer contributor from 2016-18. He is a fourth-year student studying history and political science. Adam is addicted to the news, an aspiring sneakerhead, and loves a good cup of black coffee.

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