Lawyer to revisit BFA decision

University will hire lawyer to examine Fine Art suspension

Students and members of Occupy Queen's protested outside Senate on Tuesday in support of the BFA program as Principal Woolf walks past.
Students and members of Occupy Queen's protested outside Senate on Tuesday in support of the BFA program as Principal Woolf walks past.
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The University’s decision to suspend admissions to the Fine Art program will now be examined by an independent lawyer.

“Our feeling is that if we get another legal opinion, then Queen’s will have to start listening,” Senator Mark Jones said.

Jones, an English professor, brought forward a motion to hire a lawyer at Tuesday’s Senate meeting. Senate discussed the motion for an hour before voting of 28 in favour and 20 against.

The initial decision to suspend admissions into the Fine Art program was made on Nov. 9.

For now, the suspension will continue until 2012-13. The decision resulted in protests from BFA students who claimed they weren’t consulted.

AMS President Morgan Campbell attempted to table the discussion about hiring a lawyer but was promptly voted down.

“I’m very sympathetic about tabling a motion because I think people should know what they’re voting on,” Jones said, “but at this point the arguments have been out for well over a month.” He said he’s unsure of how much it will cost to hire a lawyer.

“The University will have to pay for the lawyer,” he said. “In terms of the University budget, it’s peanuts.”

The passing of the motion comes after the Arts and Sciences Faculty Board voted in December to reinstate admissions to the Fine Art program.

Dean of Arts and Science Alistair MacLean told the Journal on Dec. 13 that even though the motion passed at Faculty Board, it didn’t change things.

“The fact that there was a majority is, in a sense, irrelevant because it is not in the authority of Faculty Board to rule in a resource issue,” MacLean said in December.

At Tuesday’s Senate, president of the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD) Susan Cole said she wasn’t in favour of Jones’ motion because SCAD was already working on a new process for any future program closures and admission freezes.

In January, Senate had agreed to let SCAD create a new policy by April. Jones said without an independent opinion, April’s policy won’t have any effect.

“What I hope this motion will do is to establish the actual authority of Senate, and then it’s up to SCAD to work out the processes by which the Board of Trustees and Senate share their authority in a cooperative way in the grey areas that are both financial and academic,” Jones said.

He added that one of the main reasons his motion passed was because of support from the Society of Graduate and Professional Studies (SGPS).

SGPS President Jillian Burford-Grinnell, who is a voting member of Senate, said the SGPS council wrote two separate letters in support of BFA. The first was for the Dec. 13 Faculty Board motion.

A second letter was written to Senate in January in support of Mark Jones’ motion to hire an independent legal opinion.

“In terms of the motion itself, the act of passing it represents a significant precedent,” Burford-Grinnell, MA ’11 and JD ’14, said.

Although the motion was only recently passed, Jones said he’d been thinking about it for three years since the University cut programs with 25 or fewer concentrators.

When that decision was made, the administration asked Queen’s Legal Counsel Diane Kelly to provide her legal opinion. Kelly was also consulted after the decision to suspend Fine Art admissions was made. In both instances Kelly said the decisions were sound.

In response to the 2009 cuts, the Queen’s University Faculty Association asked another lawyer, Queen’s professor David Mullan, to investigate.

In Mullan’s legal opinion, there should be a consultative process between the Dean and Senate before a decision is made to cut or suspend admissions to an academic program.

“The University continues to invoke Kelly’s opinion as though Mullan’s doesn’t exist,” Jones said.

While the motion was passed, not all Senators agree with the outcome. Dean of the Faculty of Law Bill Flanagan was one member of Senate who voted against the motion.

“I didn’t support the motion because I didn’t think it was necessary that we get another opinion,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s likely that we’ll get an opinion that will shed a new light on it.”

Flanagan said he believes the dean of Arts and Science had the authority to suspend admissions to the Fine Arts program.

“My position is that ultimately, the suspension of enrolment is a decision to be made by the dean, but with a due consultative process,” he said.

Flanagan was also concerned with the money this will cost the University.

“I do not think the principal should be spending additional resources to get another legal opinion,” he said.

Students protest outside meeting

Eight students protested outside of Queen’s Senate on Tuesday in support the Fine Art program.

On Nov. 9, students were informed via email that BFA admissions will be suspended until the 2012-13 academic year. The administration’s decision was met with criticism from students and the AMS.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Senate brought forward a motion to hire an external lawyer who will evaluate the University’s decision.

Protester Andreas Reichelt said the demonstration was meant to bring awareness to the state of Queen’s academics and the administration’s decision-making process.

“I’m not directly impacted [by the suspension], but that’s sort of the larger point,” Reichelt, PhD ’14, said. “If we each fight for things that directly impact us, we won’t be able to achieve change.”

Like many of the protesters, Reichelt is also a member of Occupy Queen’s. The movement first came to campus in early February.

Protesters held signs and asked Senators to be aware of student needs. They entered the Robert Sutherland building at 3 p.m. and attended the entire Senate meeting

Protester Nan Chen said students aren’t being fairly represented in the decision-making process.

“What I’m hoping is that people here at Queen’s, the governing bodies, the students become more critical of the power differentials that we have at Queen’s,” Chen, ConEd ’14, said.

He said protesters are planning upcoming campaigns to continue the BFA discussion — it will include theatre productions and social media.

“I feel like there’s still hope because things are always changing,” Chen said. “What we’re trying to do is to put the power back in the hands of the people who don’t have it.”

Catherine Owsik and Savoula Stylianou

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