The Need for a Program Review

28 June 2013

A letter to the Brock community,

As we prepare for a new academic year, faculty members and administrative staff will be putting in many hours of preparation to ensure that the Brock experience helps our students become the successful leaders and builders that Canada needs. I can tell you the senior administration is well aware of this commitment to excellence in education, and I want to thank everyone for their work and dedication.

Each of us has our role to play in maintaining the high standards of teaching and research that characterize a Brock education. Likewise, we all share the responsibility to protect the University’s position as a leading institution that remains true to its mission, and which is indispensible to the needs of its students as well as the needs of the communities that surround and support us.

These are not good economic times, and Brock has not been immune to the financial challenges confronting universities across the country. In the past several years we have attempted to address Brock’s fiscal imbalance by growing revenues and by “belt-tightening” in the budgets in all departments, units and Faculties.

That approach has taken us as far as we can go with it, but if we continue to use this as our primary cost-cutting tool, we will reach the point where we have starved all of our programs, and none will be supported at the level they need in order to maintain their excellence. Going forward, we still face a significant deficit trend. The budget deficit for 2013-14 is anticipated to be more than $7-million.

We must find solutions that protect and even grow Brock’s strengths and put the University on a sound and sustainable footing, and so today I am writing to inform you that I have asked a Presidential Task Force to conduct a Program Review of all administrative and academic programs, units and services at the University.

In a recent report to the Senior Administrative Council and to Senate’s Planning, Prorities and Budget Advisory Committee, I wrote of the need to undertake such an exercise. Now that we have people in place who have agreed to carry out the review, we must begin to openly discuss the process.

Many will ask, why this? Why now? Over the past decade Brock has experienced exponential growth in enrolment, program expansion and services. We need to take the time to reassess the institution from end to end, to identify where we need to further invest in and expand, where we need to stay the course and where we need to cease our activities or engage in major redesign.

Like most Canadian universities, Brock faces difficult challenges in the months and years ahead, given the cumulative impact of the competitive climate in the PSE sector, the economic downturn, shifting government policy, funding restraint and reduction, and last but not least, the University’s current fiscal condition.

The only way to mitigate the impact of these forces, while realizing our mission and priorities, is to address them head-on, because no plans or strategies will avail if an institution is not also on a secure financial footing or on a path to such security.

The Task Force begins its work immediately, and is already working to identify the criteria and processes that will constitute the critical architecture of the review. The criteria will reflect priorities stated in the University’s Strategic Mandate Agreement submission and its Integrated Strategic Plan.

The Task Force is led by Murray Knuttila (Provost and VP, Academic) and Brian Hutchings (VP, Finance and Administration). Also on the Task Force are, in alphabetical order: Tom Arkell (Associate VP, University Services); Barb Davis (Registrar); Jory Korobanik (President, GSA); James Mandigo (Professor of Kinesiology and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences); Jane McLeod (Associate Professor of History); Cooper Millard (President, BUSU); Bozidar Mitrovic (Professor of Physics); Susan Sydor (Chair of Senate and Associate Dean, Faculty of Education); and Mary-Louise Vanderlee (Associate Professor of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Education).

The Task Force will be assisted by a Working Group being headed by Political Science Professor David Siegel, who specializes in public policy and administration. That group will also include, in alphabetical order: Grant Armstrong (Director, Organizational Development); Bryan Boles (Associate VP, Finance); Kevin Cavanagh (Director, Communications); Christine Clark Lafleur (Chief Administrative Director); Audrey Fehlow (Director, Application Development); Greg Finn (Vice Provost and Associate VP, Academic); Darren Harper (Associate VP, Human Resources); Carrie Kelly (Manager, Officer of research Services); and Juan Xu (Director, Institutional Analysis and Planning).

Through July and August, the Working Group will meet to draft and propose the measures to be used to collect data, and we expect to have completed the review by the end of calendar 2013. For more on the envisioned timeline, please see my report to SAC and the Senate committee.

To keep the Brock community informed about the process, a web page is being set up which you can link to from the President’s page. You will find regular updates there as well as an email link for submitting questions or comments to the Task Force.


Jack Lightstone

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