Calling for new academic programs

Tight budget, lack of space hinder RWS and WCW election campaign promises, Deane says

Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane speaks at a town hall meeting on education last week.
Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane speaks at a town hall meeting on education last week.
Credit: 
John Xu

Teams RWS and WCW are both proposing new academic programs or certificates in their AMS campaign platforms.

RWS says it will lobby for the creation of African studies, Middle Eastern studies and aboriginal studies, while WCW wants to see a new diversity certificate put in place.

Lack of funding and lack of space are the two main factors preventing the University from adding new academic programs, said Vice-Principal (Academic) Patrick Deane.

“Space is in very short supply here,” he said.

“Dean [of Arts and Science Alistair] Maclean would have to find a way to free up a substantial amount of money in a budget that’s already very tight.”

This year, the Faculty of Arts and Science faces a $4.4 million budget cut. Canadian studies, a smaller program, faces a 39 per cent cut.

Funding for a department has to come from within the faculty or by a request for an allocation in the operating budget. A request is presented to the Senate Committee on Academic Development and the Senate Budget Review Committee. If it’s approved, the request goes to Senate for approval.

Deane said the annual cost to run a new department is between $500,000 and $1 million, most of which goes toward salaries.

The department head’s salary would be about $100,000 and each faculty member required to run the department—typically a minimum of four—makes between $60,000 and $80,000. Even if faculty members are taken from other departments, the cost of the time lost teaching in their home department must be made up.

Deane said it’s unrealistic to expect a new department to be up and running by September 2009.

“How often is it someone says we need a department of Arabic Studies and the dean says yes and it’s running in a year? Rarely.”

He said this shouldn’t deter AMS teams from advocating for new departments or programs.

“I welcomed that kind of interest in curriculum issues,” he said, adding that he appreciated the link team WCW made between new programs and issues of diversity.

“It’s entirely possible for them to help the University in making headway in curriculum change.”

Allison Williams, team WCW’s presidential candidate, said the team recognizes academic changes aren’t short-term initiatives.

“We have a very realistic perception as to how long this will take, but it’s the kind of project we believe needs to start somewhere,” she said. “If we chose not to do it just because we wouldn’t be able to necessarily do it in a year … a lot of things the AMS does would never have been started if that was the attitude.”

Williams said this is why the team advocates the creation of a cultural diversity certificate program instead of a new department.

She said the idea is modeled after the Sexual and Gender Diversity certificate the women’s studies department offers and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) certificate offered by the School of Business.

Each certificate requires a student to take existing courses that the certificate program approves. For the CSR certificate, students also have to attend mandatory workshops with guest speakers, case studies and simulation exercises. They also have to fulfill 60 hours of volunteer work at Queen’s-approved not-for-profit organizations.

Williams said she wants the diversity certificate to have similar requirements. She said not all students have space in their schedules to complete mandatory courses so she wants out-of-class requirements such as volunteer time or workshops to count towards the certificate as well.

“ArtSci students can take them because they’re able to fit it into their schedules,” she said. “We’d like to see it modelled so that it would be accessible to other faculties.” Williams said the team is researching other universities in North America that have similar certificates. If elected, they would create a standing committee on AMS Assembly to go over the research and propose ideas. Then they would approach interested faculty and department heads to discuss ways to implement the ideas.

“You obviously need to find the place for the program to fit,” she said. “We would go and find departments that might be interested in assisting us in hosting the certificate program … or a faculty member that’s willing to oversee it.”

The team would also collect student signatures to show the administration support for the certificate. They would present all their findings to the Senate.

“We’ll work as quickly as possible to ensure this initiative gets as far as it can within our year,” Williams said, adding that she would work closely with the following AMS executive to help them build on what team WCW started.

“I’m passionate enough about this that if it wasn’t completed … it’s something I would take on as a personal project to see through to fruition.”

She said the project is important because it helps people from outside Queen’s see the University positively.

“I also think it would help our own students to feel more at home, to feel we don’t just have a Eurocentric view being taught here.”

Team RWS presidential candidate Talia Radcliffe said a certificate doesn’t provide enough incentive for students to study. Her team proposes the creation of three new programs—African studies, Middle Eastern studies and aboriginal studies—using existing courses in different departments. Students would be able to declare one of the three interdisciplinary programs as their minor, medial or major.

“When it comes down to it, students need incentive to take a program,” she said. “The certificate is something you can maybe only write on a résumé. … With these courses you could get a degree that would be recognized by other universities, grad schools.”

Radcliffe said it would be more cost-effective to create new programs, with creating a new department as a long-term goal.

She said the idea for these programs came from a student petition last year for an Arabic language course. The petition was given to the Vice-Principal (Academic)’s office in April 2007, which was past the January deadline for Senate to review it for this year.

Radcliffe said she spoke with Associate Dean (Studies) John Pierce, who expressed interest in exploring the idea.

“It seems as though very little has been done,” she said. “It was very obvious to us that what we needed was student support.”

RWS has also spoken to the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, the Queen’s University Muslim Students’ Association and the African and Caribbean Student Association.

If elected, they would start work immediately on how to implement the programs.

Radcliffe said she wants at least one of the three to be in place for 2009-10 so the team would have to get the legwork done by January 2009.

“We feel it’s incorporated into anti-oppression,” she said. “We would include it as one of our most important points.”

Devs: growth of a program

1983
Studies in National and International Development (SNID) visiting speaker series is created.

1993
SNID hosts “Asia in the 1990s: meeting and making a new world” conference with world-renowned development studies scholars Immanuel Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank. Following this a group of faculty led by Jayant Lele lobby for a development studies program.

1995
The group submits a proposal for a development studies program.

1996
Faculty Board of the Faculty of Arts and Science and the University Senate approve proposal.

1997
Medial program begins with enrollment capped at 20 students.

2001
A minor option is added to the program to meet growing student demand. Geography and development studies professor David McDonald is hired as the
program director.

2002
Development studies program is given dedicated office space in
Mackintosh-Corry Hall.

2003-04
Development studies program gains two Canada Research Chair positions, recognizing its contribution to a high level of research.

2005
Development studies program creates a
15-spot “semester abroad” program with Fudan University in Shanghai.

2005-06
Development studies program adds a major option.

2007
Global development studies program gains departmental status. McDonald said it doesn’t necessarily give the program more access to funding but it shows the University is committed to continuing the program in the long run.

2007-08
Global development studies has six full-time faculty members (including McDonald), a placement co-ordinator and two
staff administrators.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.