Governance: Faculty of Arts

James N. Porter (jnporter@YORKU.CA)
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 23:52:37 -0500

David - I am distressed to see you report, of the Ad Hoc Faculty of
Arts Governance Committee, that:

"We asked for resources, but they were not forthcoming."

The mandate which the Council of the Faculty of Arts granted the
Committee includes the statement:

"This Council instructs the administration of the Faculty, including
the Dean, Associate Deans, and staff, to assist the Committee in its work,
and to provide the Committee in a timely fashon all information that the
Committee deems necessary to execute its mission."

If, as you imply, the Committee concludes that it is not receiving the
assistance it deems necessary, I suggest it come to Council without delay.
I suspect that Council would be most interested in such a report and would
be entirely inclined to receive and endorse the Committee's suggestions as
to a remedy.

Your sense of being stumped as to further directions is also
distressing. Perhaps I could suggest that there is little to be gained
from attempting too much too fast. The problem of appropriations really
seems to me to somewhat exceed both the mandate and the practical reach of
the Committee. The mandate focuses on governance; on enhancing democracy,
inclusivity and accountability as these are affected by the structure of
the Faculty and the decanal appointment and reappointment procedures. The
perspective of the mandate suggests that if these matters were to be
adequately reformed, the machinery of change in many other aspects of the
operation of the Faculty of Arts would have been put in place. Then
others, over time, could and would effect, e.g., rationalization of the
appropriations process, recovery of a humane and workable educational
vision as central to our vocation and our institution, etc.

Correct me if I am off base here, but is there any legal or structural
barrier to open books and faculty participation in the budgeting process?
If we had a Dean who permitted it, could not any of us walk into the
financial department of the Faculty, stand beside the relevant computer
and, with a staff person or official, walk through the numbers? Could we
not say, collectively, what priorities control the budgeting process?

But, of course, we do not have such a Dean. More to the point, we
have no way or present prospect of getting one - or of articulating our
collective sense of what a rational budget would look like. I think the
Committee's work is to offer appointment and deliberation processes to
enable the faculty to gain access to the means of its self-governance.
The rest is up to us.

So, I'm saying - get back to the immensely important basics of the
mandate, and remember that you have the Council behind you. Come to the
Council if you are being blocked, and don't try to do everything. Rather,
clear the way that many others may walk the path you blaze.

In solidarity - James

On Wed, 10 Dec 1997, David Bakan wrote:

> Nuri addressed the following to me:
> >By the way how come you seem to be keeping quiet
> >on Faculty of Arts governance committee of which
> >I thought you are a member?
> >
> Let me reply as follows:
> Nuri,
> You are right to rebuke me for inactivity in connection with the Faculty of
> Arts committee on governance.
> Several things. And perhaps you can give some advice.
> I have been a bit under the weather. But that is only part of it. The
> committee is moving on some meetings. The committee has met with the
> chairpersons, but I was not able to be with them. The committee will be
> meeting with Harry Arthurs. I look forward to that.
> I conceived of this thing largely as a research and educational operation.
> We have asked for resources, but they have not been forthcoming.
> I conceive of three areas: Appropriations promotions and appointments, and
> assignment of duties, or operations., in that order of importance.[ The
> project of the committee in my opinion has to extend beyond the Arts Council.]
> I confess to feeling stumped in my own thinking about the further direction.
> As I see it, the major problem of this university is that good money is
> misdirected away from the primary thing it gets money for, the support of
> faculty. In a way, every consideration is secondary to that. As Hillel
> said, "All the rest is commentary."
> The gold standard of a university has always been and always will be a
> reasonably sized class with a scholar of some distinction who gives of his
> or her time and attention in an atmosphere of academic freedom.
> York can compete with the world in providing this, given its resources. It
> will flop if it tries to compete in distance learning, research parks,
> contract research, renting and sale of properties, investments and so on.
> But like those animals heading compulsively to their death, York's
> administration moves in such directions. At York University, while the
> income has really not faltered in spite of the cuts by the province--as is
> clear from the audited statements--the money has been misdirected, and
> continues to be misdirected.
> The faculty has virtually no input in budgetting. That, in my opinion, is
> the major "governance" issue. How the budgetting actually takes place is
> the major research question relevant to the governance issue.
> At York University engaging the faculty in inconsequential politics has
> served as a way of distracting them from what is really important. I don't
> want that to happen with this committee.
> Give me your thoughts.
> David
> :