Faculty of Arts & Science cuts credit allotment

Students unaware of administrative decision until course selection 

At Queen’s, students have historically been allotted 24 units of outside-faculty courses towards their graduation requirements, as well as one elective within the Faculty of Law.

A new limit was imposed in April by the Arts and Science Faculty Board. However, a lack of transparency around the change left students scrambling for answers the week of their course selection.

The Faculty of Arts and Science, according to a statement provided by Communications Officer Jasmine Toor, will now allow only 6 units to be taken exterior to the Faculty, with an extra three allowed for those in applied economics.

The policy also makes allowances for students doing the Queen’s Certificate in Business. 

To the administration, the change allows for “planning of courses and more predictable enrolment, while still ensuring the students significant breadth in their degree”.

According to the statement, the recommendation was brought to the Arts and Science Faculty Board in April.

“In advance of which the issue was discussed with the [Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS)] executive.”

They wrote in a July 21 email to the student body that the change was communicated “last week via email and social media to all students in Arts and Science.”

The ASUS President and Vice-President at the time of the decision — Brandon Jamieson and Andrew DiCapua, both ArtSci’17 — had the issue brought to their attention in advance of the meeting. However, Jamieson couldn’t recall exactly how the proposed change had been explained.  

“Overall, I mean, it’s difficult to say exactly what I said and how they presented it,” he said. Jamieson recalls the rationale ranging from too many students taking more courses out of their faculty than within it, to an issue of funding within the Faculty itself.

“A big issue you get is money. A huge amount of money essentially flowing out of the faculty,” he said.

While there was no formal sign-off process, he said that he and DiCapua consented to the change being made during their term, so long as some provisions were put in place.

“Exemptions were agreed upon at the time, and I remember that was an issue that Andrew and I raised,” he recalled. He cited the exemption for applied economics students as an example.

“It’s not as though we are greatly limiting students’ opportunities,” he said. “There are hundreds and hundreds, thousands of courses in Arts and Science.”

For Rector Cam Yung, who has received several messages about the change from “upset” and “concerned” students in recent weeks, his main concern is with the Faculty’s flawed transparency.

“It seems like they didn’t want to release this in a huge press, because it would concern quite a few students,” he said. From his perspective, this sort of communication behavior raises alarms.

Following the messages he received, having no previous knowledge of the change himself, he placed a call to Arts and Science Assistant Dean (Studies) Sue Blake, “who’s an absolute dear,” he added.

Blake requested time to consult on the issue. She returned Yung’s call several days later, and explained that the Faculty had held conversations with Jamieson and DiCapua about the feasibility for students before making the decision.

She assured Yung that she had met with Johanne Bénard, associate dean (admissions and recruitment) and associate dean (studies), to discuss the new policy.

Blake and Bénard had decided that for students in applied economics who had planned on taking commerce courses with their degree — who made up the majority of the students concerned with the change — third and fourth years would be grandfathered and allowed to take courses as the policy had previously allowed.

These students would still be required to meet with Blake in her office to be given permission to take more commerce courses. However, to many students who spoke to The Journal, this information has still yet to be communicated.

Blake also indicated to Yung that the Faculty made the choice, in part, to focus on their funding. Yung couldn’t comment on the exact financial situation for Arts and Science, due to the private nature of the call.

However, according to the Faculty’s spending plan and budget for 2016-17, they currently operate “with a structural deficit”. In order to ensure Arts and Science’s “short and long term financial sustainability, along with quality programs”, they are tasked with turning the deficit around.

The projected deficit amount for Arts and Science in the coming year is $2.7 million. The set goal by the Faculty is to move to a $1.8 million surplus by 2018-19.

Despite the financial situation, for Yung, it’s concerning that “appropriate steps weren’t taken” in being transparent with students about the change. 

“I myself will be looking to contact Arts and Science or ASUS and see what can be done to improve that kind of language or communication.”

In the interim, Yung said he could only listen to students’ concerns and try to get them the answers they need.

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