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Why we have no confidence in the Dean of Arts

Members of AHCS-GSA denounce Dean Manfredi

Voting unanimously on April 2, students attending the General Assembly (GA) of the Art History and Communication Studies Graduate Students Association (AHCS-GSA) adopted a motion of non-confidence in Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi. Students at the GA took exception with the Dean for his poor leadership around the plan, branded as People, Processes & Partnerships (PPP), to remove support staff from the AHCS department to a centralized “Academic Support Centre” on the first floor of the Arts building, where they will work remotely for multiple departments.

Due to budget cuts at McGill that resulted in under-staffing in the Faculty of Arts, 13 departments are being forced to accept the largest re-organization of support staff in the Faculty’s history. Changes under the PPP are set to come into effect on May 1. The PPP would require students and faculty to go out of their way for essential assistance concerning teaching, research, and advising. A loss of time, expertise, and departmental autonomy will certainly follow from these ‘Service Point’-styled hubs.

Little has been done to suggest that the Dean has actually listened to criticism of the PPP. After a year of official ‘consultation’ where students, faculty, and staff repeatedly expressed extensive reservations about the viability of this plan as both a cost-saving measure and an organizational strategy, the PPP remains largely unchanged. The Dean still claims that these measures represent McGill’s sole option moving forward, despite numerous attempts by faculty to propose alternative solutions to the staffing shortage.

The Dean’s rejection of alternative plans proves that he has no regard for the unique needs of academic departments or their autonomy. By consequence, the Dean’s actions have forced a culture of backroom negotiations, tying the hands of department chairs to one-on-one negotiations with the administration at the cost of more collaborative and transparent solutions. The Dean has effectively eroded a culture of community in the Faculty.

Finally, with less than a month before the PPP’s implementation, support staff unions have yet to receive any details of the plan, such as job descriptions and training schedules. Not only does this create a great deal of stress and uncertainty for the affected workers – many of whom have held positions within their departments for decades – it is a violation of their collective agreements. With no details and no job descriptions, we have no confidence in the Dean’s plan.

In these ways, we believe that Dean Manfredi has proven himself incapable of exercising good leadership in the Faculty of Arts.

Last Wednesday, the AHCS-GSA GA further motioned for a campaign to gather signatures from faculty and students in support of our non-confidence motion. As of Tuesday, April 8, all students and faculty are invited to join us by signing the AHCS-GSA motion of non-confidence via this online form or in person at Arts B-22.

We call on all the affected departments and the wider McGill community to join us in supporting this motion of non-confidence. Our collective action will assert that students, faculty, and workers in the 13 affected departments deserve a better plan and more responsive leadership than Dean Manfredi can offer.

We will present this motion and accompanying signatures to the April meetings of the Faculty of Arts Council and Senate, thus ensuring that there is a broad public record of this motion. You can read the full text of the motion here.