The University of Calgary is discussing the possibility of reorganizing four arts-related faculties into one super arts faculty on campus. In a recent memo, president Harvey Weingarten and provost Alan Harrison announced plans to initiate discussion between the faculties of communications and culture, fine arts, humanities and social sciences.
While there have been many informal discussions in past years on the topic, the memo outlined the current strategy for analysis, including external consultation, preparation of a fact book and using one senior academic from each faculty to serve as internal leaders and discussion facilitators. The president and provost have also requested invitations to meetings in each faculty to discuss concerns about the current structure.
"At this stage, we're having more explorative discussions," said Harrison. "It is our intention to consult with more broadly based faculties at other institutions."
In Dec. 2004, deans from these four faculties met to discuss possible review of faculty structures, but at that time nothing formal was followed through. The decision to hold these discussions now is due to "increased emphasis on multi-disciplinarity, the undergraduate student experience, expansion of graduate studies and changed processes for resource allocation," claimed the memo. It argued that the current structure "impedes" students' academic goals.
"We want to see whether there are compelling academic arguments," said Harrison.
Social science dean Dr. Kevin McQuillian wants to start by looking at the current organization. He argued there is not one right solution.
"We can see lots of different models across the country and things work reasonably well," he said. "But I think it's worth taking a look at this and seeing if there are advantages that might come out of a different kind of organization than we have. Whether there are savings in terms of how we administer things, that hopefully will make more resources available for teaching or for research at the university. . . If there are ways of doing things more efficiently, I think we should take a serious look at them."
Some of Canada's top universities, including McGill University and the University of Western Ontario, have one faculty for all of their liberal arts programs.
Faculty of fine arts dean Ann Calvert agreed with McQuillian, saying that there was an obvious academic advantage in an integrated faculty. She also said time is needed to analyze all the implications.
"One of the academic advantages that is anticipated is the stronger opportunities for interdisciplinary work and collaboration," she added. "I expect that a report will be rendered that will offer us some suggestions and some analysis and then it will be up to the general faculties council to review that and look at those recommendations, discuss them and make a decision."
If the change was passed, four out of 16 faculties and nearly 7,000 or a quarter of full-time students would be affected.
"The question we have to ask ourselves right now is whether it's a good idea, whether it's feasible, whether it's good for the university," said Su social science faculty representative Teale Phelps Bondaroff. "For me, the most important thing is student consultation."
The memo acknowledged organizing details of any possible new administrative arrangement involved with a new structure may take several years, but an informed discussion is planned for the May 21, 2009 GFC meeting. GFC will then decide on the structure for the arts-related faculties.
"[We plan to] collect information, pull it all together, share that information, distill it, modify it, then start to see if something emerges," said Harrison.