Welcome

Dear reader,

welcome to our blog site which started with the presentation of the first open letter to the President of the University of Saskatchewan that comments on the problems which the TransformUS process has brought to our university. We have now added a second open letter that presents the particular concerns of our students about the future of education at our university.

To see the first open letter with comments, go to "January" and click on "First open letter". To see the second open letter with comments, go to "March" and click on "Second open letter".

We welcome signatures to both letters at any time. The campaign will continue as long as things go wrong at the U of S.

Whether you are faculty, student, staff, alumni, a family member of someone studying or working at the university, or a stakeholder in any other way, we welcome your signature. You can use the automated system at the address given below each letter, or write to

OpenLetterUSask@gmail.com.

Note that this is NOT a campaign of the USFA, who has neither endorsed nor explicitly rejected the endorsement of each open letter, as the scope of the letters is not entirely within their mandate. So they want to leave the decision to support the letter to each single member.

If you support our campaign, please help us spread the letter widely, on campus and in the community.

Please also post comments on this blog site (by answering this blog or those that will follow). Please let us know what we can do (better), please tell us about your experiences and about those parts of TransformUS that affect you. Please also tell us if you feel that you cannot support our campaign and let us know the reasons.

We have created this blog site as a forum that is independent from the administration. Please make the best use of it and help us preserve the traditional values at the University of Saskatchewan that we all cherish.

The Free Academia Team.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

First open letter

IT IS NOT TOO LATE TO SIGN THIS LETTER!
To the contrary. The President has said that for her a letter with "only" 100 signatures has no weight. But now we have
MORE THAN 370 SIGNATURES,
and we are planning to do better - with your help! Let us show the President that she cannot cast aside this letter. Help us spread the letter! The letter can be signed below.

First open letter to the President of the University of Saskatchewan

Dear President Busch-Vishniac:

We are writing to express our grave concern about the present state and the future of our university, as a result of the TransformUS process. This letter will present our opinion on this process and its results. We know that we speak for many members of this public institution who are deeply concerned that it is diverted from its true mission.

1) It is the mission of every good university, including ours, that programs align with the needs of education, information, culture and knowledge. These values are superior to the "university priorities" which were pushed through by administrators and do not adequately represent the vision of the majority of faculty and the students, which together compose the University.

2) For centuries, academic programs and achievements have been judged by peer review. This is the only procedure that can assess their quality adequately. In their Principles, the U15 group explicitly endorses peer review! But the results of the Systematic Program Review are bluntly cast aside, apparently because they do not match what administrators want to see. In contrast, TransformUS was not peer review. Most programs had no peers in the Task Force. This is why apples are compared with oranges, leading to false judgement. Moreover, the Task Force members had only minutes to consider any single program. It is absurd to believe that in this way, an informed recommendation can be made. We are sad for our colleagues, well respected scholars, who were given such an impossible task.

3) Contrary to what you have repeatedly stated, the Dickeson model was not adjusted to the reality of our university. There is no service teaching in it, so there was none in our templates. It is also impossible to assess the true costs of programs. When faculty had problems filling the templates, they received advice from the Task Force leaders that amounts to willful falsification (in particular, but not only, in the case of service teaching). Therefore, the database is badly distorted, and it is irresponsible to make this the base for any drastic decisions which can have adverse effects for students and faculty. Moreover, "keep with reduced resources" (quintile 3) is a contradiction in itself. Many programs, already starved in the past years, will die when their resources are reduced further. You said recently that all programs in quintiles 3, 4 and 5 could see their resources reduced to zero. So you are even willing to disregard the recommendation "keep" - why don't you convey this message openly to all faculty?

4) Contrary to what you have repeatedly stated, small programs are not necessarily costly, but provide diversity and hence a service to students. This is necessary for our society, and to offer the students the value they are paying (a lot of money) for. In most cases small programs share courses that exist anyway. Small programs are often also elite programs which society needs and which belong to every good (in particular, U15) university. The Task Force report shows a clear bias against them, which you have called "boutique" programs. It is these programs and the exceptionally talented students taking them who have given this institution its reputation for nurturing excellence.

5) A university is a complex organism, its structures have developed over a long time. Trying to influence a complex organism with crude measures never leads to improvement. Evaluation of the merits of academic programs is not within the purview of administration. Administrators have to care for the institution and support its main bodies, the faculty and the students.

6) TransformUS has damaged morale on campus. Successful researchers see their programs recommended for reduced resources. Celebration of success has become a lip service. Administrators have a responsibility for their employees and their workplace. We are appalled by the inhumanity of the "best practices" our administration has adopted. Low morale does not support efficiency. We recommend the "Ant Story" for watching (available on Youtube). The costs of the damage done are immeasurable.

7) Faculty and staff are ever more burdened by "planning exercises" and are thus distracted from their actual duties, teaching and research. Both the "research intense" university and "improving the student experience" have become a lip service of our administrators. Apart from TransformUS, also curriculum mapping is forced upon us, something that departments have always done on their own (but their efforts were cut short by the ever recurring answer from the administrators: no resources). Again, the cost of these activities that do not lead to true improvement are immeasurable.

8) Administration has not provided verifiable information about the size and origin of the proclaimed debt. The truth seems to be that it stems from the large projects pushed through by administrators as well as the growth of administration itself, at the expense of the classical duties of a university. In this time of crisis, even more such large projects are forced upon us, with financial sustainability as doubtful as it turned out to be already for the existing ones. Moreover, why are the few costly and already rich
programs in quintile 1 even getting richer? We have noticed the puzzling statistical correlation between
these programs and the representation of their members on the Task Force.

9) We call for open discourse and honest answers. Statements do not become true by being repeated often. TransformUS has not been widely endorsed by faculty, it was forced through Council. The public has been given the impression that there were serious problems with our university and that now it will be saved. The problems were forced upon this university not by its faculty and not by its traditional structure. TransformUS will not save this university which is about to lose its great potential and its variety of programs and research offered for the benefit of the province and the country.

10) We call for transparency about the financial situation and about the TransformUS process and how its results were achieved. We are led to the conclusion that either administrators themselves do not know what exactly the financial situation is, or that they are withholding information from the public because of a hidden agenda. In addition to the inadequacy of the TransformUS process, we are appalled by the so-called "best practice" of forcing Task Force members to destroy notes and other material that would give information about the details leading to their results. Such practices are unacademic and don't have any place in a university. (It is already sad enough that they have been adopted elsewhere in our society.)

We call on the administration to acknowledge the failure of the TransformUS process due to its numerous well-documented deficiencies. We ask for a new transparent and independent review process to uncover the true origin and amount of the debt and develop academically defensible solutions.

To sign the letter (at any time), please go to goo.gl/MPv9he

To see the list of signatories, please go to goo.gl/G6utyp






59 comments:

  1. is this supposed to be "free the concept of academia from the grip of the Usask"? or "give me free education"?

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    1. If you add the word "administration" after your first choice, then yes. If you understand "free education" as "free of administrative and political intrusion", then yes. And "free education" in the sense of "no tuition" (as in many other countries) would certainly be great...

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  2. To Anonymous 30 January 2014 06:08: Step by step. Free education of course should be a public right, but first, in my view, we must act on the common goals of students and faculty in terms of the two be the driving force of education agendas here at the U of S, not the ceaseless "initiatives" of a bureaucratic administration. By downsizing administration, the university may be able to start to breath more like a living organism...

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  3. So, on Tuesday, February 4, U of S President Busch-Vishniac and guests from the Government of Saskatchewan will announce and celebrate the provincial government's "investment in students".

    How can they invest in students without investing in the programs the students want to take???

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    1. Maybe we should go and ask that question to the guests from the government. I wonder what they would have to say...

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    2. Please, do that!!! While we probably cannot expect a meaningful answer, we have to keep on asking to show them that we are not asleep.

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  4. Thought of the day:
    Anxiety management workshops are helping the lambs overcome their fear before they get slaughtered.

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  5. Typo of the day:
    We thank the upper administration for diligently severing our university.

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  6. Semi-public stetements from the President at meetings with selected audience:
    All programs in quintiles 3,4,5 can see their resources reduced to zero.
    The deadline for feedback from faculty on TransformUS (which is not the deadline for students) is so tight because faculty are lazy.

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    1. A UNIVERSITY should be what it had been over 700 years now, serve the public interest, encompass UNIVERSal knowledge, not a cherry-picked handful of "prioritized" programs! Utter shame and betrayal of our civilization. Today, more than ever, we need the Humanities, in an increasingly de-humanized era. What we don't need is more utilitarianism, pragmatism, and cash-cow programs. The new young generation wants the "adults" to finally decide to INVEST in their education, instead of leaders who regard universities as "corporations".

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  7. What does signing do? What's the course of action? How does this plan to make education better?

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    1. The larger the number of signatures, the stronger the message that administration has to take the concerns serious. For the university education in this province, this country and worldwide it means that you are fighting with us to defend the traditional values of university education against the attacks that we now see everywhere. It means to fight for keeping a diverse offering of programs, giving students the chance to study what they really want, without being narrowed down to some "signature areas". It means to defend the very mission of our university. It means fighting against the conversion of education into mere training (which you can do at SIAST). It means fighting for the independence of the arts and the sciences from administrative and political agendas, to the benefit of our society. It means fighting for the great potential this university once had. It means fighting for the students so that they do not one day find the programs deleted that they are studying. It means fighting for the future students so that they, too, will have a chance for a broad, excellent and independent education.

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  8. The broad spectrum of those opposed to TransformUS (students, alumni, and faculty) demonstrates the intellectually bankrupt nature of this exercise imposed upon the university community by the senior administration at the U of S. Bravo to all those who signed the open letter!

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  9. I wonder how the Board of Governors would feel about the support of this letter... They are supposed to represent the people whose University this is, and obviously the people are not supportive of a process so damaging to education. It's interesting, students nowadays talk about how universities are businesses working to maximize profit, but regular citizens still, for the most part, think that the university is the place where their children can get education. It is frightening to see how education is being put very very low on the list of priorities of the University of Saskatchewan by its inefficient administration. How can a total of 16 programs in the first quintile have the same educational value as over 300 programs in the lower quintiles? How can it make sense to eliminate or starve to death more than 300 programs with tradition at this university for the sake of only 16? Do we need to look at the TransformUS reports to make a wild guess about their cost? They are very expensive and on top of that require additional funding. Does that mean they are cost effective? Do they pay their own bills? What will happen few years down the road when these 16 programs require even more financial support? Once the small programs are gone, and most high-school students have decided to go to other universities where they can actually study what they want, how is the administration going to find additional resources for the top 16 programs? What will they cut then? Or maybe they will ask for additional funding from the government for a university that won't even resemble a university? What would anyone support such a place?

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  10. Thought of the day:
    "The universities have to adjust to the change in society" - the Nazis said that too.

    The point is that Academia has to inform society, and it has to resist when the change in society is driven by certain political agendas that are not beneficial to society. (Example: Union of Concerned Scientists vs. Koch bothers, on the issue of climate change.)

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  11. The Provost just answered your open letter, basically dismissing it as based on "misconceptions". His answer is also full of inconsistencies. How will you respond to his answer?

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    1. I will try to elaborate on my question.
      Will students storm University Council meetings like they did last year in order to have their voices heard? Will alumni and members of the public who endorse your letter write to MLAs and members of the provincial government asking for them to protect the People's University and its core mission?

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    2. could you please post the link to the reply?

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    3. The Provost's reply is on the blog site of TransformUS (Academic) at
      http://words.usask.ca/transformus/reports/aptreport/
      somewhere below the open letter.

      The open letter is not based on misconceptions, but on the experience and the observations of senior faculty that have served this university over long periods of time. If the Provost would not only have glanced at the articles in VOX (as he has stated), but read them thoroughly, he would know this very well.

      He will receive a detailed reply from us which will address all of his arguments. But it will take a while since, after all, we are very busy doing research, writing papers, preparing lectures, marking homework, working with graduate students, organizing conferences and, last but not least, doing all the administrative stuff that has been increasingly dumped on us through the last years. However, as we are not lazy faculty, the Provost and the public can expect our answer soon.

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    4. A reply to Anonymous who is elaborating on his question:

      We sure hope so! With our open letter and this blog we want to raise enough awareness so that it will happen. You can support us towards this goal not only by signing the letter, but also talking to people and making them aware of what is going on.

      Several alumni and members of the public have already endorsed our letter by signing it, and we expect more once the media have reported on the open letter.

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  12. A university is TransformUS itself, thus it does not need a TransformUS process where administrators tell Faculty to “change their culture”.
    Having read Dan Berrett’s review of Benjamin Ginsberg and David Bernstein’s book, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, I came upon the argument of administrators that the increase in their own numbers (and role) became necessary because the student body “has changed” (http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/07/14/new_book_argues_bloated_administration_is_what_ails_higher_education). But it is the university’s role and duty to change students: to offer a transformative experience to all its students who pass through it. Also, the university provides a most important social function and responsibility to all citizens: to act as “checks and balances” in any democracy. University faculty comprises the best-trained minds in any country. Contrary to some perceptions, it is not conservative by default, but it is at the forefront of necessary and incessant social change. It is a most awkward situation indeed when administration attempts to drive such change or a group of administrators – beholden to not even transparent government agendas – embark on instructing Faculty. Then, this is a change in the wrong direction.

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  13. The open letter has now found a lot of media attention. The President of our university was interviewed today and asked for her reaction to our letter. One thing she said was that there was no alternative to TransformUS. Well, the university has dealt with financial crises before, but not using the infamous Dickeson approach. And certainly there were lots of alternatives, in the first place, a detailed investigation into the origins of the debt and how to cure it at its roots, instead of letting the academic programs bleed for a debt they have not caused.

    The President also said that the open letter is based on misinformation. What a cheap excuse. And is the administration not ultimately responsible itself for misinformation. We also read between the lines a low esteem for faculty who have served our university for many years and have a lot of experience (certainly more than the President herself). This was also obvious in the administration's reply to the letter of Satya Sharma in the Star Phoenix.

    Can we not expect better from the highly paid upper administration?

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  14. "There Is No Alternative" rings familiar...from Margaret Thatcher!!! She in turn took her ideas from another failed, infamous agent against humanity: Milton Friedman...and the hundreds of thousands who disappeared in South America as aresult of the Pinochet and Argentinian dictatorships who MiltonFriedmann and the Chicago School of Barbaronomics supported through the CIA, keep talking to us louder and louder...

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  15. Typo of the day
    We received an email in which the sender wrote:
    "I would like to sing the open letter to the President of the University of Saskatchewan."
    We love that typo. How about a singing telegram version of the writing on the wall?
    Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin! Perhaps a composer on campus or in the community could provide the music to our open letter?

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  16. Firstly, just to note, I am a PhD student at the UoS. I cannot support this letter as it appears to contain many inaccuracies and unsubstantiated statements.

    Like a lot of things about the TransformUS program, this is full of inaccuracies and poor background research. Foremost is the assumption that it has somehow been poor financial management on the part of the Administration. The budgetary problems are almost completely due to the financial mismanagement of the province, who provide the majority of the funding to the university. The university has to budget on the level of funding that it expects to get from the province. When this funding is suddenly cut with limited advanced warning, action has to be taken. Yes, there are some inefficiencies in administration. These are being addressed too. But even trimming 50% of the admin positions hardly puts a dent in the budget deficit. Admin is not the only part of the university which has inefficiencies. There are a significant number of long time tenured faculty who do little or no teaching, and produce very little research, providing little or no benefit to the university in terms of funding or reputation. It's amazing that the some faculty and students who pride themselves on objective research are completely unable to look at this problem objectively and would rather fight against what the admin are doing as opposed to using their intelligence to help. Maybe this is not the best approach, but in the real world of running an organisation that requires a balanced budget to continue it's existence, sometimes decisions have to be made quickly, and without the luxury of time to do extensive research to ensure the best solution. The fact is that the UoS has weather a tough financial period better than most of U15 universities, who have been looking to the UoS as an example of how to better deal with their own financial problems. Do a little bit of reading into the problems UofA have for example.

    Before making statements which financial and nonadministrative mismanagement, you need to understand the specifics of funding arrangements and political pressures. It's not good enough to look at the surface costs and decide on the basis of raw number that something has been done in a poor or cynical way. You wouldn't do it in your research project, so have the decency not to do it when criticising someone else's work. As the letter says, yes, researchers believe in peer review, so make sure what you're writing will pass scrutiny.

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    1. I take my hat off to you Alasdair Morrison for your balanced, objective view. Yours is the most thoughtful comment I have read here.

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    2. Franz-Viktor Kuhlmann4 February 2014 at 10:23

      Alasdair, before you state that the authors of the open letter have not done the necessary background research and that the letter is full of inaccuracies (of which you, unfortunately, only name a couple!), you should better do background research yourself. If you would have read the articles in VOX, for instance, you would know that the statements of the letter are very well substantiated.

      As to the poor financial management: USFA and, independently, faculty members have tried to obtain information from the administration. This struggle has a long history, and you should do some research on the experiences made. USFA has clearly stated that information obtained from the administration is insufficient. Administration was unable so far to substantiate their debt predictions. Many on and off campus now call for a forensic audit. As it seems, members of the Edwards School of Business who were not able to find the debt in the books are among them.

      Even if the debt exists. the most logical approach is to identify the roots of it (large and costly institutes and buildings, holy cows, are among them). One should remedy an illness at its roots. Instead, the approach of TransformUS is to let academic programs bleed, most of which are not costly at all. Their deletion will save little or no money, but will do a lot of harm. (The same is true for the "shared services" disasters.)

      It is definitely true that the federal and the provincial governments should be criticized for their lack of support for higher education; this is in fact done already but many more people should raise their voices about it. In view of this problem, we criticize that further large and costly projects are forced upon us. The first thing that should be done in a financial crisis, is to preserve the core of the university, the academic programs in their diversity, according to the mission of (not just) our university.

      As to the long-time faculty members who have become unproductive and you have identified as a problem (in your mind apparently a large one), you should also have done the research. It is common practice that faculty who are not doing research anymore are given more teaching or more administrative work. A remedy practiced by universities traditionally are early retirement programs which replace older by younger (less expensive) faculty. This very good instrument has now been perverted by the administration to deleting positions by not replacing retirees. In my own department, we are losing now three (highly productive) professors and one young excellent researcher, without getting any replacements. We do not know how to run even the most basic courses in the next term. One of the professors we lose due to the retirement program is one of the very best researchers in our university, just having published a paper in a topmost mathematics journal. He would stay with us, would he not be driven out by what is going on in this university. Do your background research, Alasdair!

      As you are apparently calling for rigorously getting rid of unproductive members of the workforce, I wish you well for your future. May you never get unproductive IN THE EYES of your future employer before the age of 65 or so!

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Yes, I accept that I should have done more background reading. My issue is with the extremely one-sided nature of things such as this letter. I'm sure a lot of what is in it has the backing of facts and figures, but a lot of it is bombast designed to convert people to a cause. I smacks of confrontationalism and political posturing, which in my opinion is counter productive.

      The sad fact is that there is not enough money to allow the university to keep functioning as is. This is not really anyone's fault, and innocent people are going to come off badly. The good thing that has come out of this is that inefficiencies on the admin and academic side have come out, which can be addressed. It is a tough situation where the university has to do something unprecedented, in a short space of time. Of course this is going to result in decisions which may not turn out to be the best, and of course people are going to be unhappy. But the worst thing to do is do nothing because a vocal section are whipping people with no understanding of the facts into an anti-establishment frenzy. It is an abuse of power.

      I am not saying that admin have got it right, I am saying that they have addressed the immediate problem in the best way they were able. I have had the unfortunate experience of having been made redundant twice, not through any fault of my own, but due to prevailing financial circumstances. From both these experiences, I can tell you that the university administration appears to have dealt with it in a more open way, engaging in a decent amount of consultation, and including themselves in the process. If it were another organisation, there might not have been the same consideration removal of one's position could have come without prior warning or discussion. There has to be at least some acceptance that conditions outside the university are going to impact the internal operations.

      I appreciate your more well considered comments.

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    5. As for the theory of there not actually being a deficit, the fact that you can't see one in the university's budget is because the savings from TransformUS have been included in the operating budget. Which should be obvious to the School of Business. It seems a bit of a stretch to think that the Administration would go to the trouble of inventing a deficit. Common sense dictates that multi-year budget would have been set on projections of what the university could expect from the government, which would be based on past funding amounts. If that suddenly changes to significantly less, then you're going to have a deficit. And when you rebudget with projected savings from initiatives like TransformUS, your goal is to make that deficit disappear.

      I think part of what will come out of this process will be that better financial controls and reporting is required in Admin, as well as across the rest of the university. Part of the problem is different departments accounting in different ways, making it hard for the Central admin to aggregate overall figures. I believe this is something that should have been addressed long ago, and that maybe should be criticised. But it should be getting addressed now as a result of this process.

      My main point is, that it's an extremely complicated problem, and no single group has all the information or all of the answers. We should try our best to work together, and not engage in actions which polarise people.

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    6. TransformUS polarised people. Lets talk about research programs now. Experimental sciences usually give more visible results then nonrepresentational ones. One can not compare them.
      Now one research program will be closed and other will get additional support. Why? Do you really think it is correct? Does your program suffer under TUS? I do not think so. Then for sure you would think differently.

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    7. Sorry, I will not respond to anyone posting as anonymous. I cannot tell if you are the same anonymous that invoked Naziism, or a different one. Invoking Naziism to me is tantamount that that person cannot be reasoned with and pointless engaging in debate.

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  17. Dear Alasdair,

    I respectfully submit that you miss the whole point of the letter. It is not about the budget, it is about principles. It is about democracy. It is about freedom, primarily that of the public and yours. Had you ANY idea about what professors do, you would withdraw your statement in an instant: "significant number of long time tenured faculty who do little or no teaching, and produce very little research, providing little or no benefit to the university in terms of funding or reputation" Before you venture to say such things, be ready to prove it. Read the statistics about administration/student number/faculty growth. Recognize the politcal agenda that drives TransformUS in the disguise of the fiscal ones. Look at the public interest and do not confuse it with "popularity".And learn from history: the academic integrity of iuniversities tend to be attacked by regimes like that of the Nazis and the Soviets. Try to understand how this issue relates to public rights and citizenship rights and ultimately to democracy. Budgets contain what the government wants them to contain. Budgets reflect political will and intent. If there is money for drones, there should be money for universities at home. Look at it in a twenty-year perspective. Yes, researchers believe in peer review, but it takes naïveté to believe in sheer propaganda. As student, you will be grateful on the long run if the university helps to open your eyes in that regard. We have here a great number of fantastic faculty, and, frankly, their reputations are much better, thanks to letters like the one you criticize, than that of the current administration of the U of S. How does your mathematics add up when you say that even a 50% reduction in the size of admin. would not make a dent in the shortfall? Long time tenured faculty are here because they are more valuable and do more as each day passes. And they will be here for a long time. Time is not just money. Time is knowledge and experience that people like you badly need.

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  18. I submit that you read back your own statement and apply it to what you have just written, and to what you have previously written.

    You ask that I be ready to prove what I say. You should similarly be prepared to prove what you say. I happily rescind the use of "significant number of long term faculty", as I do not have numbers. However, you can't blithely accuse the university administration of being the only part of the university that suffers from 'bloat'. At least they have made moves to address this bloat. Can you tell me the comparative numbers of faculty that have been made redundant compared to admin staff thus far? I think you might find that they weigh heavily towards admin. You say that your point is one of principle, democracy and freedom. I am uncertain of what principle is under threat here, but as to democracy and freedom, you have the opportunity to be get involved with the TransformUS process, at the very least, you have the opportunity to ask probing questions about the process, how it works, why it is required, what other options have been considered and what the reasoning is behind the decisions made. You have the freedom to find out what the political and financial pressures are on the university administration, and I would say you have a responsibility to at least gain a reasonable understanding of these before using your position to espouse your beliefs and foist them upon others as fact. You have the freedom to express dissatisfaction, but if you cherry pick your information and use it to defend your own preconceived conclusions, you are doing yourself, your audience, and the institution you are trying to defend a disservice.

    You talk about propaganda. Propaganda takes one side of an argument and presents it as unassailable fact. Your open letter is much more akin to propaganda than anything I have written. You accuse the university administration of a cynical attack on the foundations of academia, without providing any substantive information to support this. You also fail to provide possible alternate reasoning and explanation for the universities action so that one may use their free will to decide for oneself and promote open debate. Your position seems egotistical to me, you are assuming that the administration has an agenda against the way academia wants to manage itself. However, this would seem unlikely since as an organisation they are most likely more focused on how to maintain the university as a financially viable organisation. This, ironically allows you the luxury of discussing principles, democracy and freedom. (cont.)

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  19. You also accuse me of naivete without any knowledge of who I am, what I know or what my experience is. This is just purely an attempt to bully someone into cowed silence. If you have an issue with anything I write, and indeed any perceived 'political agenda' within another part of the university, then the sensible academic way forward is reasoned debate, not slinging insults. You discredit my arguments, but provide not facts to refute them. I would welcome these facts because I would then be more informed and able to change my opinion. I would also check these facts to ensure they are correct. Your approach is just a way of polarising opinion rather than engaging in democratic debate, again, this smacks of the propaganda you accuse me of being blinded by. Indeed your position seems naive to me in that you consider that the university can somehow insulate itself from external pressures, political or financial. This also seems arrogant, that as academics, we should be excused from the day to day, year to year, government to government running of the rest of the country.

    It is frankly ridiculous to compare the situation here with that of the Nazis, and it removes any credibility from your position. For illustration, see 'Godwin's Law'. I had hoped to engage in intellectual, structured debate. After all, that is one of the best ways for people to learn and grow. So it is ironic that you suggest that you hope that my time at university will allow me to open my eyes to the vagaries of propaganda when you refuse to sensibly debate your position and allow me the benefit of your knowledge and experience.

    On a more personal note, I request that you look up the definition of the word 'respectfully'. In your response you have derogatorily implied, inferred or stated that I am; ignorant of the mandate of a university and its staff, unable to recognise political agendas, fooled by propaganda, naive and badly in need of knowledge and experience. None of this fits my understanding of respect. You insult both our intelligences by suggesting that you have any notion of respect for my considered opinion.

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    1. Dear Alasdair,

      Of course I do respect your view while trying to help. It is unfortunate that time pressure does not help… What follows below is an example: I can write only some thoughts on a tiny fragment of what you’ve said. But you can infer from it that it would perhaps take a full retreat in Waskesiu to truly discuss all points, yours or mine. So, here is a miniature example: this was my advise: “learn from history: the academic integrity of universities tend to be attacked by regimes like that of the Nazis and the Soviets.” You interpreted this as me comparing our situation here in Canada to that of people under the Nazis. You wrote this: “It is frankly ridiculous to compare the situation here with that of the Nazis, and it removes any credibility from your position… ” Let us slowly re-read my sentence: “learn from history” – may this be a warning to avoid repeating history, an expression of a worry? I suggest it may be. Further: “the academic integrity of universities tend to be attacked…etc.”: note the wording tend to be here. Doesn’t this wording perhaps suggest that this tendency may be a sign of anxiety on behalf of those regimes (maybe not yet (?) ours)? Therefore, please consider that my sentence was not about a comparison of our regime with those. I nonetheless expressed a semblance, meant to be a warning. Why the warning? All in all, our country is incredibly young, has had a very short history only. It always gives me shivers when I think of the fact that Hitler was democratically elected to the position from which he then unleashed horrors on mankind. This means that democracy in and by itself offers no guarantees against the repetition of what happened then and there. And yes, I see such guarantee much more in the thorough study of culture, our own as much as that of the world, with a global scope: by means of the university as a relatively independent resource. Does this global scope, in your view, necessitate less or more important programs at a university like ours? How should we – as a university – respond to this? Should we put our heads into the sand and say we need to learn less, not more? Less diversity, with “reduced” resources? Please ask yourself, how Hitler’s horrors could be spread widely, for instance, about race? Did controlling universities through powers of government play a role? By “prioritizing” the work of researchers to show race inequality where scientifically there was none proven? Again, I am not comparing, but I see enough to make me worry. I assume you have heard or read about accusations of our current government of “muzzling scientists”? Take, for instance, climate change science. Would you like to see “results” in that field to be in the hands of a government representing a minority of Canadians and mostly vested interests dead set against climate change action, or real results from engaged scholars whose research stipends do not hinge on what their views are on the matter and whose research programs are not threatened with closure? For now, I suspend this response. I would very much like to engage your other arguments vis-à-vis our letter, but only if you deem this conversation fruitful. As a doctoral student now who might one day find yourself as a faculty member at a university, I guarantee you that you’ll think about this conversation again and from a very different perspective if and when an administrator who knows next to nothing about your field of research tries to “transform you”. Thanks for the dialogue.

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    2. I'm sorry. I will not engage with someone who think Naziism has any relevance.

      Delete
    3. source http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/universities_nazi_germany.htm
      "Adolf Hitler distrusted university professors and lecturers as he knew that by the very nature of their academic excellence that they could resist Gleichshaltung ( the coordination of the German population to do as the government wished so that they all thought in the same way). With a history of challenging accepted academic notions, professors were in Hitler’s mind a potential enemy. He determined to eradicate any form of Humanistic thinking in universities and replace it with the next stage of educational thinking that had been seen in schools etc. He wanted universities to teach in a Nazi way and for subjects to have a Nazi slant to them. They were to become political and racial institutions that would push the Nazi beliefs to the nation’s academic elite".

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    4. "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power". Benito Mussolini
      http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/221166.Benito_Mussolini

      Delete
  20. I too am a graduate student and cannot understand Alasdair's position at all. Why do you have such trust in the administration and so much mistrust in faculty. These people are our professors, they share their passion for research and discovery with us, they are the knowledge keepers who only want to be left alone to do their work. The administration, as structured right now, is very inefficient. That was also confirmed by transform us. How can we in our right mind expect that inefficient administration can make reasonable decisions about the future of this university. It is the responsibility of the administration to provide a detailed budget and the algorithm, if any, used to estimate the projected deficit. If their logic is solid, why is so hard to provide the information in a clear and understandable manner? Graduate students and faculty are certainly capable to understand such documents. How do you justify the fact that the faculty association has questioned the deficit and the administration has not provided a solid answer? We cannot possibly accept a "it's nobody's fault". Do you know how much money goes to administration, especially senior administration? I sure don't. If you could provide me with a link I would be most grateful. Administration exists to give answers to the students and faculty, not to boss is around. Has it ever occurred to you to look up the word university? There is no mention of administration there.

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  21. I am following this discussion with keen attention. I do believe that it requires open-minded, free thinking to tackle issues. Analogies from history, therefore, are entirely legitimate, why not? You don't have to take these "emotionally", but ponder them. However, the most disturbing fact is: these sorts of attacks on university faculty and university integrity are happening in the entire country, not just at the U of S, furthermore, of course, in the U.S. (whose government would like to get hold of Edward Snowden for speaking up!) and in the E.U. Thus there is every reason to believe that it is a concerted effort to attack independent thought that does not conform with official mantras about corporate governance, "free markets solve it all", etc. This is a nasty campaign against the humanities, against culture, especially high culture (which we need now more than ever, exactly because of its scarcity). By putting TransformUS into an international context, I don't see how it is defensible, especially while we are seeing enormous amounts of money floating around, apparently in the wrong hands....

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  22. From official Twitter account of Usask:

    "Guelph applauded for transformation using same process as @usask @CKOMNews #transformUS http://ow.ly/2b8ywe"

    see

    https://twitter.com/usask/status/431122470591291392

    Reading the article, Dickeson seems to applauds the application of his own approach!!

    If this is not propaganda, what is?!

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    Replies
    1. Instead of devoting the whole article to letting Dickeson applaud his own invention, they should have done some research. They should have asked faculty at U Guelph what they think. They should have considered the criticism that the Dickeson model has received (see also the link on this page). This is not journalism, this is indeed propaganda.

      But let's be just, we also have to be grateful to CKOM for having one of the best reports on the open letter we have seen so far.

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  23. Twitter accounts of some University Council members is abuzz with "periodic program prioritization process". As if PPP is not enough, now we have PPPP.

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    Replies
    1. Oh great! These lazy faculty members have to be kept busy! That is why administration comes with systematic program review (SPR), integrated planning cycles, curriculum mapping, PPPP and what not. Lots of time of faculty invested into activities that produce distorted results, or results that are not taken serious by administration anyway (like the SPR, because that was based on peer review). In the townhall meeting the President said that many programs in quintile 5 are non-existent, so it does not harm to cut them. But if they do not exist, it also does not save money to cut them! And we do not need a damaging nonacademic process like TransformUS to identify them!

      Coming up with ever new "planning exercises" seems a way of the administrators to justify their own existence in large numbers.

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    2. PPPP will bring the end of this place as a university. Students in this province will simply go somewhere else.

      Delete
  24. If I had a scholarship to go somewhere else I would not think twice. I would've started my PhD all over again. I actually made this comment in front of administration some time ago and I was told, oh well, it's no better elsewhere. It's so disappointing to see that the people who are payed hounders of thousands of dollars to make this university a better place could not care less about it's future. So sad.

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  25. Franz-Viktor Kuhlmann6 February 2014 at 15:57

    Just coming back from the faculty meeting of the College of Arts and Science. Low turnout. Silence of the lambs, again. Some polite criticism. Very few speaking up. But what is interesting: several times when asked about details for the near future, the Dean said: "we don't know", indicating that he received no guidance from the upper administration. He characterized the retirement plan, which takes 26 faculty away from the College, practically without any replacement (not even short-term), as "unstrategic". He spoke of the "perfect storm" at several points in the College. Given all that, would it not be time for the Dean and the Vice-Deans to cast some doubt in the "top" leadership of this university and to question the (non)information received from there? Should they not defend the College against the harm that is done to it by TransformUS? Silence of the lambs.

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    Replies
    1. Dean's and Vice-Deans, of whome there also seem to be an inordinate number at U of S, have no real power. They are essentially in the position of lower level managers in industry. Their job is to keep production (be it of degrees or sausages) running smoothly with nice words and sympathy.
      Upper management will only listen to them in an emergency; that it, if there is such a VISIBLE (ususally meaning public) uproar from below that it challenges their aristocratic credibility.

      For some of the "anonymous" commentators here to put thewir names behind their opinions would be a good start. Then, why not get together with students and some of the actual "ants" (support staff) and chose a warmish day for an intfomational pickt line and a few banners. Thihs is actually legal in Canada!

      Erich Keser, student and former TA and RA, U of S and York U.
      erichnk@shaw.ca
      http://erichkeser.blogs.secureflow.com/2014/02/18/university-http://erichkeser.blogs.secureflow.com/2014/02/18/university-saskatchewans-suicidal-transformation/

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  26. Administration should put its own house in order first before meddling with academic programs. Here is an excerpt from the Service Task Force report (p.17/18).

    "Within most of the non-academic units, the task force observed a
    leadership/management hierarchy with many levels or layers:
    coordinators, managers, assistant directors, directors, associate
    vice-presidents or vice-provosts, and vice presidents. There is
    concern that so many layers of management hinders effective
    decision-making and accountability, and ultimately increases
    administrative costs while in fact decreasing effectiveness through
    unclear assignment of roles and responsibilities. The task force
    questions whether the oversight layers are unnecessarily deep, what
    the spans of control are, and whether the structure is working
    efficiently for the purposes of accountability, responsibility and
    effectiveness. At all levels, leaders should have the appropriate
    decision-making authority to implement solutions to streamline and
    improve service processes. There has been a substantial increase in
    the number of senior leadership positions in both academic and
    administrative units over the past 10-12 years. In addition, we
    have seen growth of administrative positions supporting the expanding
    leadership structure and question whether these leadership and
    administrative structures are actually having a positive impact on the
    core mission of the university: teaching, research and outreach.
    While workforce planning to some extent addresses this concern, the
    task force suggests that there would be value in reviewing the
    university’s entire organizational structure with a view to reducing
    the number of units (both administrative and academic) and the
    of senior administrative and professional positions in order to
    re-­‐orient the work of the university towards its core mission. The
    task force also observed inequity among leadership positions in terms
    of portfolios and scope of responsibility. Assistant vice-president
    and vice-provost positions at the institution tend to have either a
    very broad portfolio with many operational units, or a few direct
    reports. Further, we observed inconsistency in reporting structure
    and it was unclear whether this differentiation is necessary to
    improve institutional effectiveness. Further, the task force
    recognized that there is a layer of administrative committees that was
    only partially reflected in the templates and that complicates and
    confuses administrative accountability. The university should
    consider the costs and benefits of its administrative committee
    structure with a view to improving outcomes while reducing costs. In
    order to find operational budget savings, the task force observed that
    it is likely that central administrative units (and perhaps some
    academic units) could be combined and/or senior leadership positions
    eliminated or re-classified to a lower level. As mentioned above,
    the task force suggests a comprehensive review of the university’s
    organizational structure and that of its academic and administrative
    units to assess their effectiveness and recommend improvements."

    Why should we endure any decisions about cuts to the academic programs that come from this sort of administration? They are not even able to provide guidance to the Colleges about what comes next after TransformUS has caused a mess. Or is it just arrogance when they idly watch the "perfect storms" unfold in the departments that are hit the hardest by the deletion of positions through their retirement plan?

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  27. Joke of the day

    Conversation at the employment center:

    Agent: So you have been a professor? Did you not have tenure?

    Ex-professor: Oh, they have done away with that. Tenure is worth nothing anymore.

    Agent: I see. Let me look what I can offer you... Oh, there is a janitor position at the university.

    Ex-professor: Janitor at the university? They have fired so many of them lately! And if I take the job, will I not risk to be fired within a year?

    Agent: I believe this one is safe. They are looking for someone to clean the offices of the five new Vice-Presidents.

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  28. Adjectives of the day

    transformUS
    malicioUS
    dangeroUS
    desastroUS
    preposteroUS
    ludicroUS
    precarioUS
    tenuoUS
    hazardoUS
    vicioUS
    outrageoUS
    egregioUS
    mischievoUS
    audacioUS
    calloUS

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  29. We have just received by email the following message from Marion Jackson, Head,
    Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Many of us share the feelings that are expressed in this message and describe so strikingly the damage done by the TransformUS process.

    "I wholeheartedly support the open letter to the President of the University of Saskatchewan. TransformUS has burned a large hole; hopefully it can be healed. I personally spent 6 entire days in August, foregoing holidays, to complete a seriously flawed matrix that did not at all reflect my Department. It was trying to fit a star into a round hole.

    In my many years at the U of S, I have never had such a feeling of sheer disappointment in the institution. We work our hearts out for our college and university and this has just been a blow to us all. Whether it is all to be "research intensive" or "world class" - this says it all - we are nothing, if not for the people that run this great University. Many of the people making these kind of decisions, actually have no idea about the history and golden wealth upon which we sit. Let's not destroy it.................... "

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