Re: Class sizes and the limited menu of courses (fwd)

James N. Porter (jnporter@YORKU.CA)
Sun, 11 Jan 1998 22:29:29 -0500


Colleagues - I forward the following for the consideration of all of
us who, in the near future, will be responsible for acting and/or
commenting upon proposals concerning the future of Glendon College.

ciao - James

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 1998 18:53:46 -0500
From: Philippe Bourdin <pbourdin@YORKU.CA>
Reply-To: York University Faculty Association List <YUFA-L@YORKU.CA>
To: YUFA-L@YORKU.CA
Subject: Re: Class sizes and the limited menu of courses (fwd)

At the risk of redundancy, but the original posting contained a couple of
typographical howlers...

Philippe Bourdin
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 1998 18:39:58 -0500 (EST)
From: Philippe Bourdin <pbourdin@yorku.ca>
To: York University Faculty Association List <YUFA-L@YORKU.CA>
Subject: Re: Class sizes and the limited menu of courses

So very, very true, Nuri.

When students begin to realize that they are being short-changed, they
will inevitably start voting with their feet. We sure know something about
this sorry state of affairs at Glendon, where our course offerings have
been pared to the bone -- especially, but not exclusively, in those units
that had the temerity to stand in the way of "our" Principal's downsizing
frenzy.

I'm using inverted commas because of the unprecedented event that occurred
in Faculty Council on May 31 -- i.e. the vote of non confidence that was
passed against Principal Dyane Adam. The vote still stands, of course. And
as a matter of fact it was reaffirmed by way of a motion that was passed
in Faculty Council exactly a month ago, on December 12.

Visibly nefarious though it has been, the Principal's role is not, to
be sure, the exclusive cause of Glendon's current problems. After all, she
has been little more than the over-zealous servant of an Administration
for whom students are mere "clients", to be stuffed into lecture halls (of
which we happen to have precious few at Glendon) and generally provided,
at an ever-rising price (their tuition fees), with the cheapest service
possible (our salaries and the outright exploitation of part-timers).

Sibs and friends, in the next few weeks you're going to hear a lot about
Glendon as a well-intentioned but "outmoded" experiment that is "failing",
about the "fading" appeal of bilingualism, and about the questionable
usefulness of a liberal arts education. Don't be fooled by such
propaganda. The people who are peddling it -- or encouraging their
apologists or unwitting stooges to do so -- are the very same colleagues
and administrators who have been lending their support to an incredibly
damaging "strategy" (to use one of their favourite words).

The enrolment crisis at Glendon is to a large extent the symptom and the
result of policies that began to be implemented even before they were
given explicit formulation about two years ago, in Principal Adam's
so-called "Vision" document. The avowed aim has been twofold: to ensure
that our curriculum better correspond to the vocational, as opposed to
educational, needs of our "clientele" and to give top priority to the
francophone segment of that clientele -- all in the name of the special
"mission" that Glendon is supposed to fulfill towards the francophone
community. (Interestingly, this mission would seem to result from the
specific grants awarded to Glendon in the area of francophone education.
As far as I am aware, our successive mission statements have never
mentioned any particular collegial responsibility towards any linguistic
group).

Even though the "Vision" document was resoundingly repudiated in Faculty
Council, the Principal has been doing her best to implement it, if only in
a piecemeal fashion. The result has been a slight increase in the
enrolment figures for francophone students, coupled with a much larger
decrease in our intake of anglophone students. But that is only the tip of
the proverbial iceberg...

No effort has been spared, over the past couple of years, to persuade our
English-speaking colleagues that their place was not really at Glendon --
especially if they had the foolish idea to want to teach English,
Philosophy or Political Science. More generally, the hint was repeatedly
and not too subtly dropped that those faculty members intent on preserving
whatever minimal, but vital, link may exist between their teaching
and their research would find a decidedly more congenial atmosphere at the
Keele Campus. (The loosening of that link was actually one of the changes
mandated by the "Vision" document!). All the while, inordinate emphasis
has been given to the alleged "needs" of the francophone population of
Southern Ontario -- the more vocational and the more divorced from the
areas of expertise of the Glendon full-time faculty, the better. Too bad
if the bulk of our traditional and "natural" student population -- i.e.
francophone and immersion high-school graduates -- might be interested in
learning such "passe" subjects as history, French literature and
linguistics, philosophy, or math. Rather than giving adequate support to
these programs and emphasizing the liberal arts in general, far better to
tout such narrowly specialized and vocational new offerings as the
recently proposed Certificate in technical writing in French. The shift
away from the liberal arts model carried the added bonus that most of the
instructors required to teach the new vocational courses would be
professionals, in the hiring of whom teaching qualifications and
commitment to research would be irrelevant considerations and whose
contracts were going to be -- beauty of beauties -- at the mercy of the
administration.

Believe it or not, Glendon has -- so far -- survived this sometimes overt,
sometimes insidious, all-out assault. Many of us have even managed to
create new courses that are in keeping with the progress of scholarship,
rather than with the spuriously selected "needs" of a segment of our
so-called "clientele". Not a few "miracles" have even occurred: an
economics major going on to become a Rhodes scholar here, a linguistics
major making her way to M.I.T. there... These were "miracles", not because
Glendon is a second-rate institution, far from it I (modestly) think, but
because the official mood of downsizing and the relentlessly
mandated dumbing-down has been hardly appealing, to say the least, to the
solid, motivated and occasionally brilliant students of whom we have
traditionally had our just share.

There have been other momentous developments. The strike was a decisive
one, if only because participation in it was massive: no doubt our local
administration had made sure that the Glendon faculty be acutely
receptive to the YUFA message on such key issues as academic integrity and
collegial governance! Finally, as recently as last October, our Faculty
Council adopted a mission statement, or "charter", which forcefully
reaffirms Glendon's dedication to bilingualism and the liberal arts. This
document is all the more significant as it received unanimous support
(minus the lone abstention of the Associate Principal) and was
enthusiastically endorsed, most notably, by the student reps on Council.
As far as most of my colleagues are concerned, the "charter" is the "true
North" that should guide whatever input our Faculty Council will manage to
have into the current University-wide deliberations on the future of
Glendon.

This, of course, will not prevent the Principal and her apologists from
continuing on their merry way. In some of the proposals currently being
put forward to the APPC subcommittee which is reviewing the options for
Glendon, there is -- yet again -- much confusion being sown around
bilingualism: demographics notwithstanding, some colleagues would like, it
seems, to see Glendon as the embryo of a francophone college or
university. Others, meanwhile, are peddling their "vision" of an
institution that would gradually evolve into a School of International
Studies -- thereby necessarily downgrading most of the present
disciplinary offerings into some sort of ancillary mishmash, narrowly
subservient to the requirements of a curricular patchwork that is as
grand-sounding as it is intellectually vapid.

That such fanciful ideas are even being circulated may seem odd to
non-Glendonites. It is hard, in fact, to imagine the sort of battering,
ideological and procedural, to which we have been subjected over the past
four years. We are by now so used to reason, logic and due process being
subverted by the local administration that there is beginnning to develop
a Theatre-of-the-Absurd feel to our gracious campus. Just to give you an
idea, we are dealing with a Principal who, because she obviously hated the
highly favourable evaluation of the English Dept that had been conducted
by no less a reputable and dispassionate linguist as Prof. Richard Bailey
(Michigan), did not shy away, a couple of years ago, from having a
hatchet-job rendered against the very same Dept... by an examiner who has,
to this day, remained bravely anonymous!!! On a more farcical note, she
was interviewed some weeks ago by 'L'Express', a Toronto-based
French-language weekly, and had absolutely no problem unburdening herself
of the "thought" that Glendon did indeed have a "jewel" in its crown: you
guessed it, the Intn'l Studies program! Actually, it's all so very simple:
just look up the latest York Calendar, dear friends and sibs, and you will
find out that the program in question has one coordinator... and zero
full-time instructor!!!

Glendon has withstood many a storm in its history. And we are told, by
such YUFA giants as Prof. Ian McDonald, that in purely budgetary terms,
the College has actually seen much worse. The difference, of course, is
that it then had people at its helm who, misguided though some of their
decisions may occasionally have been, did have the interest of
scholarship, academic integrity and bilingual education at heart.

Thank you for your patience -- especially to Nuri, whose message prompted
this lengthy "cri du coeur". And to all of you my belated, but heartfelt,
wishes for a peaceful, emotionally fervent and intellectually riveting
New Year!

Philippe Bourdin

On Mon, 5 Jan 1998, nuri t jazairi wrote:

> Today I met two of my statistics courses, one in CLH-J, and the other in
> SLH-B, both large lecture halls, and there are waiting lists. There was a
> geography class before mine in SLH-B which was also full. When I suggested
> to the geography professor -a senior faculty at York- that my statistics
> courses as well as several other courses in Economics are over-crowded
> because students simply have very limited menu of courses to choose from,
> he said the situation is the same in geography. Class sizes due to limited
> course choices (either because of lack of resources or, as in Economics,
> poor hiring and curriculum policies) are a different and more serious
> educational problem which seldom receives attention.
>
>
> Nuri Jazairi
>