If new positions have one, tell us what the purpose is

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Frustration over the hiring of more University admin instead of departmental faculty is clear, but it’s hard to draw the parallel when the exact purpose of these admin positions is blurry. 

Principal Daniel Woolf recently announced the hiring of Caroline Davis as the inaugural vice-principal (facilities, properties and sustainability) and Donna Janiec as the new vice-principal (finance and administration).

Following the announcement, a couple of current and former Queen’s faculty members took to Twitter to vent their frustration. “So many dept need to hire and this is what we get,” wrote Queen’s economics professor Allan Gregory.

Especially given rising student enrolment, faculty are right to be upset — the strain on an understaffed roster of professors is concerning. However, the parallel between admin hiring and faculty hiring may be an unfair equivalent to make.

Possibly the VP position for facilities, properties and sustainability was created to meet a specific need for a continuously shifting University landscape. To fill the gap, positions were rejigged and restructured — it’s an entirely different logistical structure and framework than hiring new faculty.

That being said, with ambiguous portfolio descriptions like “major capital projects,” we can’t know whether the positions have intention and meaning or they were crafted simply for the sake of appearing concerned about issues like “sustainability”.

Without transparency about the purposes and portfolios behind admin positions, the University can prepare for backlash every time they make new admin hires in the face of other needs. It’s unfair to expect the Queen’s community to be accepting of these positions when it’s unclear why we need them in the first place.

Although they may not be equivalent to hiring practices, the University can’t keep filling desks in Richardson Hall while turning a blind eye to faculties buckling under the pressure of high enrolment, without enough faculty members to prop them up.

When he became aware of the frustration being expressed, Woolf recognized that the University has done “remarkably little hiring of tenure track faculty.” Acknowledging the issue is the first step — now, it’s time for some action.   

There’s only so long the University can prioritize admin over faculty positions until it becomes apparent that the administration is more concerned about its ability to project a good institutional image than its ability to generate successful academics and students.

If the University doesn’t want retaliation for their decisions, they need to drive home their reasons for the hires and prove they’re not leaving understaffed faculties in the dust.

 Journal Editorial Board

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