Faculty societies respond to Hitchcock’s vision

Accessibility and the broader learning environment are just two of the major issues raised by faculty societies in response to Principal Karen Hitchcock’s discussion paper, “Engaging the World.”

Several of the responses were submitted to Hitchcock following her address to AMS Assembly last Thursday about the vision statement, which was released last October and outlined a tentative long-term plan for the University.

Pat Welsh, AMS academic affairs commissioner, said he encouraged the faculty societies to discuss the statement and present a response.

“I encouraged [responses] because a lot of the issues of the long-term visioning process will affect Queen’s, will affect different faculties differently,” he said. “A small faculty like Nursing [could] be overshadowed by a larger faculty like Arts and Sciences.”

Welsh added he is not ready to comment on the vision statement as there have not been any concrete commitments made.

“At this point we have heard a lot of fairly broad priorities,” he said. “I intend to be very involved in the process, [but] I’m waiting for the next generation [of the vision statement] before comments.”

Brian Kuchar, Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) academic affairs commissioner, said his society has four major concerns regarding the statement, including the corporatization of campus and strategic investment.

“There are significant financial concerns at play in her vision,” he said, adding he fears that the corporatization of campus may be a by-product of an attempt to make Hitchcock’s current vision a reality.

“We are concerned with strategic investment, [and] how would those investments affect the Faculty of Arts and Science if more money was going to be invested in technology,” he said.

Kuchar said ASUS would like to see student government, clubs, teams and extra-curriculars considered as important parts of campus life.

“The fact is that we have mid-sized student population, engaged in some activity outside the classroom,” he said. “That’s something that is very powerful at Queen’s—in the Principal’s statement [that] isn’t apparent,” he said. “We at ASUS think the broader learning environment is a strength of the University. We wondered how well the Principal knows this campus.”

Kuchar added he hopes to see further awareness of the broader learning environment and the role of international students in later versions of Hitchcock’s vision.

“I’d like to see how [international students] can enrich that environment, not just the classroom,” he said.

Kuchar said student awareness of the document is important.

“The Principal has titled her paper ‘Engaging the World,’ and we’ve been talking about this now since October, talking about it at ASUS Assembly … I hope students take the time to read the document,” he said. “There could be significant ramifications that are going to affect us.”

Rob Kempson, Concurrent Education Students Association (CESA) president, said the physical accessibility of campus is a major issue he feels has not been addressed in the vision statement.

“One of the main areas was accessibility,” he said. “I would argue it is our top concern.”

Kempson said he would like to see a timeline on projects to make campus more accessible to people with a range of challenges, including physical disabilities as well as financial concerns.

He said he is also concerned that Con-Ed could find itself at a disadvantage with future funding decisions, as it’s a program that cannot experience large amounts of growth.

“As a small faculty our second concern is that ConEd remain small here,” he said, adding the reason for the small size is that the program guarantees students a spot in teacher’s college.

Mireille Gomes, academic affairs commissioner for the Computing Students Association (COMPSA), said accessibility is a big issue for her society, even though her department is likely to benefit from greater investment in sciences and technology.

“[We’re concerned about] access, as far as tuition fees and things of that nature, and the statement in the vision statement regarding the focusing on careers of the future,” she said. “We feel that other groups might be under-represented as far as funding.”

Gomes said she is also concerned about the growth of private funding on campus.

“Research in the University was a concern that [private funding] might bias teaching styles and in that way corporations [could] dictate our education,” she said.

Gomes added that she would like to know how Hitchcock’s interest in expanding graduate studies will impact undergraduate students.

“There’s a lot of concentration on ‘think research, think Queen’s,’” she said. “Make sure undergrads are equally represented.”

Overall, Gomes said she wants to know more about this initiative.

“We would like more information about accessibility issues, and basically get a better sense of what exactly will be involved in trying to meet the goals outlined in the vision statement,” she said.

Paula Mosbrucker, vice-president (academic) of the Engineering Society (EngSoc), said tuition accessibility is a priority not discussed in the statement.

“We put a large focus on tuition and accessibility issues,” she said. “We have been making sure our program is still accessible to a diverse student body is important to us, not only as a faculty society but as a faculty as whole.”

Mosbrucker said EngSoc is also concerned about what impact an increased focus on graduate studies will have on undergraduate students.

“There were a lot of things we felt were neglected,” she said. “We are wondering what sorts of sacrifices will be made to increase graduate enrolment.”

Mosbrucker added that EngSoc would like to see the administration make the campus environment more welcoming to students interested in being involved outside campus. “We want to create an environment to allow students to challenge themselves outside the classroom,” she said.

Meaghan Dodgson, Physical Education Students Association (PHESA) co-president, said her faculty society hadn’t yet decided its stance on the vision statement.

However, she said she’d like to see Hitchcock focus on more than just the larger programs.

“We already have such a small faculty, we don’t know how [the vision statement] would expand our faculty or change our faculty,” she said.

Representatives from the Nursing Science Society and the Commerce Society couldn’t be reached for comment on their faculties’ positions.

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