This is a brief response by Support Our Staff at McGill (SOS-McGill) to Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi’s letter on People, Processes & Partnerships (PPP) published in The Daily (“The facts on the PPP,” Commentary, January 20, page 9).
SOS-McGill, representing concerned students, faculty, and staff, has been mobilizing to stop the PPP since November. We agree with Manfredi that the PPP will bring historic large scale reorganization in the Faculty of Arts, but we insist that the plan in its current form and with the current process is seriously flawed.
To date, constructive criticism of the idea to conglomerate support staff from 13 departments into new administrative service centres has been silenced. This was the case when Manfredi ignored the Faculty of Arts’ vote against the PPP last April and the current letter in The Daily is, unfortunately, another example. After declaring our concerns misleading, Manfredi concludes by suggesting SOS-McGill undervalues the skills of our support staff. This claim attempts to disregard the validity of questions posed by students, faculty and staff of the PPP.
We acknowledge that the PPP has been presented before numerous working groups for over a year. However, the consultations that have taken place among committee members do not absolve Manfredi of the responsibility of engaging with legitimate concerns arising from the departments. In addition, given the fact that the unions of affected staff have yet to be consulted, there have clearly not been enough meetings.
According to Manfredi, the PPP offers staff a reasonable learning curve, but these are empty claims as he has yet to address repeated requests for evidence of the expected outcomes of the proposed hubbing. Given the case study of the University of Manchester (as described by Professor Amelia Jones), lasting damages to departmental culture and student services are all likely outcomes that cannot be downplayed in the face of short-term budgetary woes.
We agree the PPP is about more than staff reorganization. We also see that the PPP creates a new level of bureaucracy, further changing the culture of community within our departments. Academic support staff, in some cases under the PPP, will be required to become expert advisors of four departments at once. Students will not only see changes in their interactions with academic support staff, but also with departmental chairs and academic advisors – all of whom face increased responsibilities under the PPP.
At the January 14 town hall organized by SOS-McGill, many expressed the need for the administration to release hard data and declared its absence to be purposely vague. While Manfredi took the time to express the consultation statistics of the PPP, much of the financial and logistic details of the plan remain mired in secrecy. Consequently, we ask again for a revised budget to be posted on the PPP website, as promised by Manfredi in December.
We also demand that the alternative plans, developed autonomously by several department chairs as alternative means to address staffing shortages, be released to ensure a fully informed debate. Many students and faculty are also asking Manfredi to specifically address the academic virtues of the proposed hubbing of academic support staff.
Manfredi has the responsibility to be transparent and responsive. Until this information is shared, we will continue to see the PPP as being forced upon our departments, and any consultation measures as woefully insufficient.
Further, we encourage all students, faculty and staff to get informed. Visit our website and ask questions of the Dean at the AUS town hall on January 22 at 5:30 p.m. in Leacock 219. All students, staff, and faculty are welcome to attend. The Dean and Associate Deans will be present.