Throughout the last year, multiple student associations have raised concerns about the Faculty of Arts’ People, Processes & Partnerships (PPP) initiative, especially regarding the extent of student consultation done by the administration.
The PPP dates back to 2010, when Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi’s Working Group on Administrative Services started working on an anticipated problem related to an upcoming turnover of administrative and support staff. A number of staff were approaching the normal age of retirement, and an emerging government policy limited the Faculty’s re-hiring policy to a one-for-two basis, according to Manfredi.
“The question became, how can we organize the administrative and support staff to best provide services to faculty and students,” Manfredi said in an interview with The Daily. However, the urgency of the situation changed with provincial budget cuts.
According to the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT) President Ken Hastings, the Faculty of Arts is not the only faculty undergoing similar constraints.
“All faculties across the university are affected, and in a similar way – the total number of support staff will be reduced. The decisions about how to function optimally with those reduced numbers are not being made by the central administration, but are being made at the faculty level. Each faculty is taking its own approach,” Hastings explained in an email to The Daily.
In an interview with The Daily, Associate Dean (Academic Administration and Oversight) Gillian Lane-Mercier pointed out that the situation quickly became a crisis.
As such, in November 2012 the faculty decided to launch a “much more extensive, more public, and participatory process to address the situation.”
“I individually [...] have tried to make students aware, be it through [the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS)], be it through their associations, be it through Facebook [...] to try to get as many students not only aware of the various aspects of this PPP initiative but to become actively involved,” Lane-Mercier later said.
However, McGill Industrial Relations Association (MIRA) representative Matthew Crawford-Appignanesi believes that there has not been enough student involvement by the Faculty of Arts students in planning out the PPP.
“We had this presentation by one of the admin on PPP, they had the whole plan laid out for us. But we weren’t really involved with the process apart from AUS President Justin Fletcher, so we did feel a bit out of the loop,” Crawford-Appignanesi explained in an interview with The Daily.
“I don’t think enough has been done, and it seems that much of the outreach has been a reactive response to criticism rather than a proactive effort to build support,” Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary General Jonathan Mooney said in an email to The Daily.
“For example, given the absence of a formal Faculty of Arts graduate association at McGill, PGSS [...] should have been involved in selecting representatives to PPP and probably should have been consulted in the very early stages of this process,” he explained.
According to Manfredi, students have been actively involved in the process.
“For example, the working group on Graduate Affairs has six graduate students on the working group itself. So that’s not just consultation, that’s actually getting them rolling up their sleeves and helping us solve the problem,” he explained later in an interview with The Daily.
According to Fletcher, the students were indeed involved in these changes and the committees of the PPP initiative.
Pointing out the backlash by the student body to a proposal to restructure Leacock building’s third floor into a central advising hub, “I think a lot of what we, as a society, have done has changed the direction the production is coming in. […] And I think our concerns were heard on that, and the new proposal is a lot different,” said Fletcher in an interview with The Daily.
The debate around the PPP is still ongoing, and a Town Hall organized by the AUS will take place on January 22.