Students, professors, and administrative staff gathered on September 19 in the Leacock Building for a question and answer period regarding the Faculty of Arts’ People, Processes & Partnerships (PPP) plan. Discussion centered around the administration’s intent to reorganize a diminished administrative staff into a series of ‘hubs,’ each of which would aim to serve students in several departments.
Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi stressed that the aim of the plan was to eliminate inefficiency through the reorganization of remaining administrative staff. “It’s not about doing more with less,” said Manfredi. “It’s about finding things we don’t need to do anymore.”
The plan comes in the wake of government budget cuts that have forced the University to reduce costs across the board. To help lessen the blow of cuts, a Voluntary Retirement Program (VRP) was put into place for staff. However, after 255 staff took advantage of the VRP, the number of administrative and support staff for the Faculty of Arts’ 16 departments has shrunk from 59 to 52.
While savings from the VRP were significant, totaling $583,000 for the Faculty, the staff downsizing has not gone unnoticed.
Department of English Chair Allan Hepburn told The Daily he was concerned about whether a decreased administrative staff would be able to fulfill the needs of multiple departments. “I delegate certain tasks to the people who work for me. I can’t do them. They’re [human resources], they’re finance, and so on. I’m not a support staff person,” said Hepburn.
“[The concern is] how many administrative staff are designated to take care of students,” Hepburn added later. “If you have 1,600 students and you only have four administrative staff to take care of their needs, those staff are responsible for 400 students each.”
The PPP plan also calls for the consolidation of 16 independent departments into six interconnected units. As such, support staff may have to relocate and serve multiple departments.
Mary Chin, a union representative and member of the Communications Committee at the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), remarked that staff members “feel very proprietorial and very connected to [their] departments,” and that they “won’t know how to help” after the move. She then added that the support staff is “concerned about workload.”
In answer to a question about how support staff would adjust to changes, Manfredi said, “Obviously we want them to go where they want,” later adding that the plan’s implementation will require a lengthy “transition period.”
In a statement to The Daily, Chin questioned the administration’s strategy.
“We need to know: are we going to have the time to learn about these new programs and how to help these new students? Whether Dean Manfredi has addressed that, I think the answer was a little general.”
Nevertheless, Chin emphasized that she was glad for the consultation process. “It’s important to come and speak and really take up the offer of dialogue.”