Academic Programs Transformation Task Force report

From December 9, 2013 to January 31, 2014, I, along with Provost Brett Fairbairn and Vice-President Finance and Resources Greg Fowler, encourage you to provide your feedback and reactions to the task force recommendations – information we can use to better inform the decisions we make.

You have an opportunity to influence the future direction of the university. You are encouraged to actively participate in this vital stage in the process and ensure your voice is heard.

Throughout these eight weeks of listening, several opportunities will be provided to the campus community to share reactions to the reports. The campus community is being encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities to share thoughts and concerns – either by leaving a comment below or by attending one of the town halls.

We ask that you please participate in a way that is respectful of each other, and of varying views and opinions in this phase of the process. All comments are monitored and we reserve the right to delete, remove and/or edit inappropriate comments.

Although we will not be able to reply to all individual feedback submitted, we are listening and reviewing all comments for consideration.

Your feedback, in conjunction with information provided in the task force reports and analysis such as research and financial modeling, will assist the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning (PCIP) to make evidence-informed decisions.

Ilene Busch-Vishniac, President

Academic Programs Transformation Task Force report

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96 thoughts on “Academic Programs Transformation Task Force report

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  7. 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 see the continuously updated list of signatories, please go to

    • To the President and PCIP,
      I would like to express my concern about the Transform US process. I am not opposed to change. Indeed, I led the Review of the First Year Curriculum for the College of Arts and Science a few years. One of the important lessons that I learned in that process is that you need to find a way to get the majority to buy into the process in order to succeed. One of the major issues in a change process is that faculty members’ identities and careers are tied to their disciplines, and therefore, changes that threaten that status will likely encounter resistance. The changes that are being proposed threaten many faculty members’ identities, and in some cases, their careers. To imply that faculty should retool or adapt is to cast doubt on the credibility of the long apprenticeship that faculty members undergo when they pursue a research career and the deep knowledge that they acquire in the process. Missives from Human Resources offering workshops to manage the anxiety in the face of organizational change are unhelpful at best and insulting at worst.

      The major problem with TransformUS is the process. No process is perfect as I heard at University Council (as a way of justifying moving forward with the recommendations), but some processes are clearly better than others. Eric Howe’s letters, under the auspices of the Faculty Association, illustrate the methodological problems and biases in the TransformUS process. These issues that Dr. Howe raises are not minor, and they need to be addressed, and so far as I know, the senior administration has not provided a counter analysis. One telling example for me is the low scoring of the School of Public Health’s programs, which were in the fourth and fifth quintiles, and yet last week, the School of Public Health was accredited by an international organization. How can there be such a discrepancy between the two evaluations? In this case, I would put more credibility in the accreditation process.

      Finally, with respect to the so-called “structural deficit,” like many of my colleagues, I believe that this is a manufactured crisis. When Peter MacKinnon left there was no deficit; indeed the chair of the Board of Governors indicated that the University’s financial situation was in good shape. A year later, the university community learns that we are facing a structural deficit in a few years. In part, it seems to me that university’s budget was based on the assumption that it would get a 5% increase in the provincial government as it had done the year before, but it did not. In my view, a good manager would have contingency plans based on 4%, 3%, 2% etc. Instead, the cumulative effect of not getting 5% was projected forward, resulting in a whopping deficit of $45 million. Many colleagues have asked for the senior administration to open up the books so that we can understand the evidence upon which the TransformUs has been based. So far, the senior administration has refused.

      • Thank you for your post. I have several comments in reply. I have not specifically replied to the cited piece by Dr Howe because it has to my knowledge been distributed only in Vox, which as I understand it is an internal opinion forum under the auspices of the faculty association. I note that a number of relevant points have been the subject of comments on various blog pages, while others in my view are adequately addressed in the pages of the task force reports themselves (whose opening sections – dealing with their approach and with themes they saw – in my view make compelling reading and substantially address questions of methodology and bias).

        It is not surprising to me that accreditation and prioritization produce different outcomes, since they ask different questions. Accreditation asks whether a program clears an internationally comparable minimum bar. Prioritization asks about relative importance for allocation of local resources. Indeed, virtually all of our programs are accredited, so accreditation is of little assistance in allocating resources internally.

        Regarding our finances, our books are already open (annual reports, audited statements, and the like). We have not yet (recently) run a deficit because our work is to prevent doing so. Thus far the $15 million or so in changes and improvements we have made, together with movements in investment markets and the like, have kept us in the black. The issue is future projections – made in spring 2012 and updated in 2013 – which show our expenditures rising faster than our revenues based on all reasonable assumptions. We have posted a large amount of information at – if you scroll down I believe you can still find videos of the various town halls in 2012 and 2013 where we have spoken to and answered questions about these matters.

        • Dear Brett Fairbairn,

          If the books are open, as you say they are, can you please link direct to them as it seems many people cannot find them even though they are looking.

          3rd year psychology

          • Thank you for asking. Our 2012/13 audited Annual Report is available at
            You can also view the operating budget summary for the current year at Questions regarding the Annual Report and the operating budget summary can be directed to Greg Fowler, Vice-President Finance and Resources, who will forward any questions to the appropriate person in the Financial Services Division.

            Our planning is not based directly on past results, but rather on forward projections that are built on reasonable assumptions about cost and revenue drivers. To view the original Multi-Year Budget Framework (2012-2016), outlining our projections of a $44.5 million deficit by 2016, please visit For the detailed analysis of how we arrived at the $44.5 million projected gap, please go to page 17. This framework is updated regularly as indicated in our town-hall presentations. Questions regarding the Multi-Year Budget Framework can be directed to Jacquie Thomarat ( in Institutional Planning and Assessment.

            We have developed a website where Greg and I invite participation and communicate together about the finances and progress made. This website is at

    • I want to thank the authors for taking the time to communicate their opinions and for sharing them on this blog. I appreciate that a variety of people are worried about the future, skeptical about process, and unsettled by the prospect of change that is bigger than they personally can control. I see that many of the specific points are based on misconceptions.

      Concerning priorities, the ones we are talking about in this process are the ones proposed by the task forces, on which no member of senior administration sat. It is odd to suggest that these were “pushed through” by administrators.

      Concerning peer review, as I have stated in numerous places external peer reviews are very useful for quality assurance and quality improvement. They are little help in resource allocation, and I do not know of any universities whose budgeting processes are driven by external review. This is because we are an autonomous institution: we allocate our own resources among and between the things we have – and (ideally) we have no two things the same. Peer review is about comparing apples to apples; budgeting is invariably about choosing between apples and oranges. By the way, the word peer does not always mean expert specialist in the details of things. Our task forces were composed of peers in the everyday sense of the word – academic programs were reviewed by faculty members and students. They followed strict conflict-of-interest procedures, as they reported, and I see no statistically significant evidence of bias in the academic report.

      It is indeed challenging to review in a short period everything supported by our budget, but doing so is the only way to have a comprehensive view. The task forces discussed their experiences and I spoke with both groups. They did not find the task absurd, saddening, or impossible, and it seems inappropriate to me to attribute these characteristics to their work instead of reflecting what they said in their reports about their experience. They recommended repeating the process periodically, and suggested improvements.

      It is incorrect to say that service teaching was not considered. The academic task force made this quite clear. The strong roles of particular departments in service teaching is why those departments were categorized as highly as they were. The task forces were in control of their own process, adapted it as they saw fit, and used their judgement.

      If it were true that “keep with reduced resources” (quintile 3) were a contradiction as stated in the posting, and that no programs could survive with reduced resources, then this would make prioritization even more essential. Without prioritization, every program will indeed see reduced resources. The alternative to prioritized resource allocation is across-the-board cuts. This is due to the financial pressures we have discussed and concerning which we have provided updates on numerous occasions since May 2012 (see

      I could go on, but will end with this: in the 1990s our university went through a prolonged period of resource constraint and had to make permanent budget adjustments without the planning, budgeting, or prioritization mechanisms we have today. Across-the-board cuts, eliminations of available faculty positions, and arbitrary spending constraints were the norm (as they are at a number of other universities again today). It was no golden age. At the end of that decade, it appeared to many leaders among the faculty and deans that our university was poised to slip into mediocrity. In the wake of that experience, we prioritized faculty hiring and compensation. We prioritized the strengthening of areas of established pre-eminence. We made choices. We are called upon to do so again. Among other budget-adjustment strategies, TransformUS is key and the task-force recommendations provide starting points for things our governing bodies and leaders will consider in months ahead.

      Greg and I have welcomed all the feedback we have received so far, and will be happy to consider more as best we can while we proceed with our work.

  8. The Transform Us Academic Programs Transformation report has mentioned our Rheumatology Residency Program in quintile 5 as lacking in manpower resources. Currently our postgraduate training program is a fully accredited program. We are very proud of our training program’s ability to deliver back to the people of Saskatchewan with 7 out of the 10 practicing rheumatologists in Saskatchewan having been graduates of our residency program. The Division of Rheumatology is part of the Department of Medicine with 2 University based members, We do have five Saskatoon community based faculty and three Regina community faculty members that also contribute to the training of our residents but as per the comments by the Head of the Department of Medicine to the Transform Us Task Force, all of our faculty have been overstretched. The clinical demands for rheumatology-delivered care in our province are double what the current rheumatologists can provide. The academic rheumatology division has not filled a position that has been vacant since 2007. Mindful of this shortfall in faculty, the Rheumatology Residency Program Committee had decided not to accept candidates for the academic year 2014-2015 but instead concentrate our current faculty resources for the training of our two current residents. The Rheumatology Residency Program Committee has not made any recommendation to permanently close the training program. We are still an active training program and plan to continue to train excellent clinicians in the future for the province of Saskatchewan. I hope this information brings the Transform Us Task Force a better understanding of the Rheumatology Residency Program in the College of Medicine and on behalf of the Division, I respectfully request that the Task Force reconsiders the placement of the Rheumatology Residency Program in quintile 5 and allocate the program to a quintile to maintain the program.

    • Dr. Nair:
      If I am not mistaken, the Task Forces were dissolved once they submitted their reports. As such, they can not reconsider any recommendation, nor is there any way to fully understand on what their recommendations are based, since their notes are destroyed. You raise excellent and important points, which, for the sake of people in this province, I think you need to communicate to PCIP and to members of the University Council.

  9. After reviewing the reports and providing our feedback, we have a concern about how these feedbacks will be applied. There is only so much feedback we can give on recommendations, which may be different from what is implemented. Directly, here the question is that will there be another opportunity for students to provide feedback once plan is in place?

  10. Although the Task Force has generally refrained from participating in the post-report debate about our recommendations, our decision not to invite the submission of separate templates for the service teaching activities of academic units seems to have given rise to much misunderstanding. Though we did not have distinct templates for service teaching, we did solicit information about service teaching, and we did consider it in a number of ways. the service teaching figures (which might be reflected in the templates for graduate as well as undergraduate programs) gave an insight into the overall level of activity of the unit, the importance of their activity to other academic units, the linkages this teaching permitted them to create, and so on. It was in fact an important issue in relation to many of the instructional programs – to use the example of two units who had programs appearing in quintile 1, English and Psychology, the heavy service obligations of these units were influential in assessing the priority of their undergraduate programs.

    • It would be most helpful and informative to hear a more detailed account of service teaching across campus, and *exactly* how it was “consider[ed] in a number of ways.” We assume that the information gathered by the task forces in this context will be forwarded to the decision makers.

      Oh, wait. We forgot. All notes have been destroyed. So how exactly will the task force’s “consider[ations]” in this regard be moved up the line? As part of a general statement about service teaching or as part of a specific program-by-program account?

      • Dear “RealTransformUS”,

        Your reference to the release of “notes” from task forces’ deliberations is curious. This appears to be a call to breach the confidentiality of the task forces’ deliberations. My understanding is that task force members were committed to and relied upon this confidentiality in order to have candid and frank discussions.

        I have submitted a response to this aspect of Prof. Howe’s Vox article. A copy of this response is located at the following URL:

        • Thank you for the link, Stephen. I think you’ve misinterpreted the post to which you replied, however. There is no call in it for a breach of confidentiality; rather, there’s a quite sensible question about how the task force’s considerations of service teaching–to which Provost Fairbairn specifically refers–will inform PCIP’s decision-making process. If the entire product of those considerations is present in the task force’s report, it doesn’t seem like much for PCIP to go on.

        • Also: meant to add that you probably don’t mean “jingoism” in the last line of your VOX piece. “Neologism,” perhaps? Just fyi in case you have the opportunity to make a quick edit.

  11. The Planning and Priorities Committee of Council asked Council committees to comment on the impact of TransformUS recommendations on their mandates. Responses are posted on the committee websites:
    Academic Programs Committee:
    International Activities Committee:
    Nominations Committee:
    Teaching, Learning and Academic Resources Committee:

  12. As a first year student I found TransformUs to be rather distressing. I chose the UofS because it has a history of academic excellence and is in my home province. To me it seemed TransformUs came about quite abruptly, and I was astonished by the lack of student input into the report. I have not declared my major as of yet, but to see the Political Studies program (which I was considering for my major) continuously being put in the 4th quintile has greatly discouraged me. The classes I have taken in Political Studies have been the most interesting and informative learning experiences I have ever received, and though I do love my University, I can’t imagine staying here when the program I plan to get my masters in will be losing funding. A University that does not value the Arts, or its student body for that matter, is not a University I want to attend.

    • Your experience is one of the main reasons why we wrote our
      “Open letter to the President of the University of Saskatchewan”
      (scroll up to see it). You and all the other students with similar experiences have to talk to the USSU to strengthen them in the face of TransformUS, which has brought a lot of damage to the “student experience” at our university. It is also very interesting to see that your post has not received a reply from the Provost…

  13. I don’t understand how proposing cutting 3-year programs that have 4-year counter parts is going to solve any financial problems. Regardless of whether the programs are highly valuable and in demand, most 3 years programs require students to take the same core classes (a few less). If a 3-year program gets cut, the same classes still need to exist for the 4-year program and the same resources are still needed. A certain number of programs may be phased out, but will they all really be saving money? It seems pointless to cut such programs and limit options when the same resources are needed either way. It feels to me like the task force was just trying to reach the number of programs that had to be in each quintile rather than actually considering whether these programs would make a financial difference.

  14. Rather than add another reply to the “nest” Stephen describes, I’ll just say thank you to Brett for his thorough reply to my Jan. 27 remark, and to Stephen and Wil for continuing the conversation.

  15. I am frustrated with the program prioritization process (I know I am not the only one). Several excellent programs were clearly not well represented to the task force. One example that I have the strongest opinion on, is the agricultural economics program within the College of Agriculture and Bioresources. This is a program with a longstanding record of academic and research excellence. It has been a successful program within agriculture and has some of the most dynamic and interesting faculty, students, and research in the college. Agricultural economics and AgBusiness do have some overlap but they are NOT the same focus or specialization. Agbusiness is more of a focus for those who want to run their own farm or agriculture business not become policy or economic advocates, advisory, or researchers. By combining the programs as proposed you would lose a lot of the focus of big picture (i.e. market analysis) that is important and necessary. The two streams of Ag Business and Ag Economics allow for a necessary focus within the program. The lower enrollment with economics programs is probably similar in other colleges/departments with an economic major as an option and is not necessarily indicative of program quality or importance. Last time I checked economics was part of the triad for sustainability and should remain a focus within the agricultural college as it goes forward for this (among other) reasons, This program should not be in 5th quintile as a possible candidate for elimination. Graduates of this program do not have trouble finding jobs and are very important advocates for the agricultural industry here in Canada.

  16. I was gratified to see that the fine arts program in the Drama department was recommended for retention. However, the elimination of the three and four year major in drama arts program is unwise.

    Training in acting, as I have recently discovered, is an immensely powerful tool for personal and professional training. Beginning students of acting might be surprised, as I was, that much of the training for the beginning acting focuses on physical training (relaxation, developing and sustaining stamina, endurance, and energy) as well as developing the imagination and creativity, improving concentration, and pushing one’s comfort zone, thereby gaining confidence, agency, and self-direction. It teaches a person to claim and hold the spotlight, no matter how uncomfortable that may be, until your work is accomplished. These qualities are essential leadership skills and vital to thriving in today’s economy, which requires more and more workers to be self-employed and/or contract employees or professionals.

    Thus, drama and in particular, acting, provide a type of training that few other university classes offer. (I should know, having completed an honours degree in English, an advanced certificate in geology, a master degree in English, and another master degree in educational psychology from the U of S.) This type of training is particularly valuable for introverts who might do well in the typical university class but whose abilities might be overlooked in the working environment unless the introvert learns to claim their spotlight.

    However, many students who start out in the acting will not attain the grades necessary to transfer into the fine arts programs, yet those students are precisely those who would benefit the most from the training in acting. Retaining the arts degrees (as well as the fine arts degrees) would ensure that those who would benefit the most from acting training would be encouraged to take those classes.

  17. I am concerned with the rationale provided for a number of programs that fit into quintile 3, particularly in Engineering. I am currently enrolled in Computer Engineering and I can say that, should we try reducing resources any further for this program, we likely will reach a breaking point. Just recently, the entire Electrical/Computer engineering program underwent a major overhaul which led to more labs and less design, reducing resources needed there. They also started sharing more classes between computer engineering, electrical engineering, and engineering physics. If we stretch these resources any thinner, there are going to be serious problems. As well, the rationale was that there was no clear market demand for computer engineering, which is simply not the case. It was difficult to identify a market demand initially because of the computer engineering program being in its infancy, so many industry players hadn’t heard of it. A market demand is now starting to emerge in everything from software to hardware development, and with the new streams in the computer engineering program, the market demand will be even greater for this increasingly important field.

    The other quintile 3 that confuses me a little bit is the Professional Communication Option which is a) a popular option, b) is attracting a lot of financial support from private donors, c) has very good student outcomes, and d) is one of its kind in Canada, creates marketable skills, and is an attractive option to prospective students, differentiating us from the rest of Canada. Why would we reduce resources to a program this successful and a program that is such an attractive and unique option, thus devaluing it?

    We cannot concurrently look at reducing resourcing to programs that are running on lean resources already, and then expect the university to continue to perform well and become a “world class institution”. Many of the faculty who are involved in these programs who are currently having a monetary value attached to them through this ranking process are faculty who are at the top of their field, who draw in research grants and draw students to the university, lead to us having some of the top programs in Canada (at least on the front of Engineering), and ensure the long term sustainability of the university. However, these faculty members could be making more in industry or at other institutions and many are staying here for passion because they love the University of Saskatchewan and they love teaching. When we start treating these people as commodities (which is what this ranking is doing), we will start to scare off these faculty, which will directly affect the success of the university. Considering that a large part of operational income comes from tuition, we need faculty and programs that encourage more enrollment to be successful into the future, and this jeopardizes that both short-term and long-term (when we do not have the people still available to grow the university to the capacity that we want).

    The other major issue that I have with the ranking system used is that it is using subjectivity quantitatively. When you read the rationale used to rank all of the criteria, they are subjectively considered and then a quantity appears based on the subjective views of the committee. This, paired with the extremely limited amount of time for consideration of 498 different areas is troubling, because it doesn’t take into account the big picture as to how individual reductions, cuts, and increases are going to affect the entire operation of the institution.

    Lastly, upon doing research on the universities that have applied the Dickeson approach to reduce costs, I have yet to see TransformUS have the same response as Dickeson says it is supposed to. He encourages excitement generation by encouraging creative thought in all programs by what could be done should resources be increased, and find out what programs really think that way. From what I have seen, the entire process at the U of S has been to “defend your program”, and then slice and dice. This is an unhealthy approach, and if these recommendations are applied, will inevitably lead to mistrust in the institution, its leadership, and withdrawal of school spirit from the student body and faculty. When that gets lost, there is very little hope for a successful institution.

    • I am also quite concerned. I am in my second year of Computer Engineering, and I cannot see how this already small department can sustain a shrink in funding. At this point, it shares a lot of courses with other engineering disciplines (Electrical Engineering being the most prominent of these). I do not wish for my quality of education or my preparation for work as a Computer Engineer to be hindered by poor funding choices. I sometimes think that the finance minister of our federal government handles out finances, with how poorly it seems to be managed here.

      If the effects are severe enough, I may have to end my studies at the UofS. And since I cannot afford schooling anywhere else notable, I may even have to delay my degree. I really hope that this does not occur, as it would be quite a shame to see an established institution such as the UofS cut such important programs.

  18. A question for the provost (I asked this at University Council but my long, rambling question may have prevented him from answering it precisely).

    Professor Eric Howe’s latest VOX article identifies some ways in which he believes the TransformUS is irremediably flawed. The argumentation there looks sound, although I suppose that you and he would not agree on numbers and their significance in some areas.

    My question is this: Can you imagine a scenario in which PCIP might look over the task force reports, in combination with other consultation, and say, “Hmph. Maybe the Dickeson model really wasn’t best for us” or “Hmph. Maybe we needed to tweak that Dickeson model a little bit more….”

    One of my concerns is that the impulse to *get it done* may be getting ahead of the impulse to *get it right*. (Playing off the journalist’s credo that it’s better to get it right than to get it first.)

    As a member of Council, I voted in favour of the TransformUS process. I realize that going back to port is not an option at this point. Will consideration be made to making course corrections? (e.g., jettisoning the arbitrary 20%-per-quintile program allocations?) What would PCIP do if it saw a body of information that made it reconsider the current process? I fear, like others who have left comments here, that we’ve boxed ourselves into a corner–or, to unmix my metaphors, left stranded ourselves at sea–and I really hope we haven’t. We might all recall what Ralph Waldo Emerson had to say about “foolish consistency.”


    • Kevin, thank you for sharing these thoughts and giving me another opportunity to comment. Stephen Urquhart would tell you I am known for long-winded replies that don’t always allow me to address every point!

      First, a few thoughts about Dickeson. In my view, he does not present “a” model, but more like a catalogue of experiences from many universities. This is plainer in his workshops than in his book. For example, Dickeson does not specify the criteria for task forces to use. Rather, he presents a list of all possible criteria that he has ever seen any university use, and he suggests task forces choose their own. Our task forces chose and weighted as they saw appropriate for U of S, which is one way in which they designed a U of S-specific process. (There are numerous other ways.) So this is not a cookie-cutter approach. Similarly, Dickeson does not say that there must be quintiles or that 20% of things should be eliminated. I believe I did hear that having 5 categories has worked better more often than having 2 or 3 or 4, but various institutions have done different things. The bottom category is often called something like what our task forces chose, “candidate for phase-out, subject to further review.” As this descriptor clearly indicates, not everything in that category will be phased out. Moreover, in practice (and recall that Dickeson is a former university president, with considerable practical experience) when things are “phased out” they are often not phased out entirely – more typically some parts of units or functions or programs are retained, for example being combined with other things in the institution. So even where things are cut in the bottom quintile, this does not necessarily mean 100% cut.

      So a general comment I would make is that some criticisms I have seen and heard are not criticisms of Dickeson or of program prioritization. They are criticisms of a straw-man Dickeson.

      The essence of prioritization is this: that everything supported by the budget be assessed as simultaneously and uniformly as possible, according to prioritization criteria and available data defined in advance, by independent task forces consisting largely of faculty members, with results (which are recommendations) published as transparently as feasible. That’s it. The mechanisms of how these things were done were shaped uniquely for U of S by our task forces. The recommendations are for us (all of our governing bodies, offices, and people) to consider.

      I have heard many erroneous assertions about the U of S task force recommendations. The recommendations are out there for everyone to read (and I encourage people to read them for themselves – especially the thematic front sections, which are very useful, answer many questions, and provide important directions). For example, it is not correct that programs and services related to Indigenous people fared badly or were neglected. I have heard people who have looked at detailed results draw the opposite conclusion, that overall these programs and services were recognized for high priority. We can discuss this – and discussion is the point right now – but the task forces clearly paid close attention to these programs and services and provided interesting thematic discussions of them.

      Regarding how the reports link forward, I do not see merit in re-doing the templates or the quintiles. The purpose of those processes was to help the task forces use their judgement to formulate recommendations. They have done that work, and the university’s job now is to pay attention to the recommendations and decide what we think of those. I will not be looking for us to eliminate everything the task forces put in quintile 5, or restructure everything in quintile 4, or reduce budgets of everything in quintile 3 etc. I will be looking for a combination of reasonable actions that honours the spirit and specifics of task force recommendations while also improving effectiveness, improving efficiency, and meeting the university’s $20-25 million target. People should be able to see the resemblance between the shape of what we do and the shape of what the task forces have recommended, without this being a rigid one-to-one correspondence.

      Conceptually there are two main types of alternatives if we don’t like the process to date: (1) if we do not formulate recommendations this way, we can prioritize some other way. But what might that be? I have heard no feasible suggestion. Perhaps PCIP and I should generate a different set of categorizations entirely on our own? – if people don’t like the task forces’ work, how do you think this option would go over? Should we appoint a special prioritization committee? – but that is just what we did! Or (2) we do not prioritize, and instead deal with our budget issues by cutting across the board. So yes, there are alternatives. They are not better ones.

      But I do not feel we are stranded, or boxed in. We have a great set of recommendations to work from. They provide council, PCIP, deans and everyone with what we need to develop practical actions that secure our priorities and our future sustainability.

      • Mr Provost:
        Regarding your question and answer “Should we appoint a special prioritization committee? – but that is just what we did!”, I think a more relevant question is HOW it was done. Other alternatives :

        (3) have a special prioritization committee formed of members from peer institutions to minimize conflict of interest and maintain minimum academic standards of objectivity,


        (4) have an ELECTED special prioritization committee formed of 1/3 current students, 1/3 members of the senate, and 1/3 members of GAA.

        • Wil: I can’t see how an “elected” committee would minimize conflicts of interest. In fact, the opposite is much more likely. Those who feared “their ox would be gored” in any review process would be motivated to nominate and then to vote for those who intend to represent parochial interests, rather than the interests of the institution as a whole.

          Full disclosure: I was a Council member on the committee that appointed members (including students!) to the two task forces.

          • How does the number of students on the task force committees compare to 1/3 of the committee? How about members of the community and alumni? How is appointing people less of a conflict of interest compared to electing them? How can one explain the clear correlation between being on the task force and having programs ranked in quintile 1 ?

          • I am having trouble with the nested replies, but I am replying to Will’s post of January 28, 2014 at 2:58 pm.

            – Correlation does not mean causality.
            – I have confidence in the integrity of my colleagues – including students – who served on the two Task Force committees. Their commitment to fair play in this difficult process was evident in the task force reports and commentary from the task forces’ co-chairs.
            – Both task force reports outline their conflict of interest policies within their reports. What’s more likely:that our colleagues acted with integrity, or that they all acted in concert to neglect this policy and fair play?
            – Any number of committee membership models could have been used. USask’s differed from other models in having student representation.

  19. I have a variety of concerns with the findings and process use. I feel, just as many students do, that we are being left out of the decision making process despite it being the students who will feel most of the consequences from the alteration and phasing out of degrees. That being said, I am not confident university administration will genuinely consider students’ perspectives on the changes at hand.

    I am also opposed to the requirement of the Dickeson system to have 20% of all programs listed in schedule 5 (to be phased out later following review). This is an arbitrary proportion and could permanently damage the capabilities of this fine university.

    As a student, I ask, how much does eliminating 3 year degrees and honours degrees even save the university? It seems to me blame is being rested on the wrong place; reduced staff and long term budgeting would seem to save much more. I equate this decision to the American Government gutting the budget of NASA in order to balance budgets while the national defence budget stays the same, many times the size of NASA: it is irresponsible and does not address the root of the problem, favouring the solution easiest to swallow for those making the decisions.

  20. I was very surprised to see the Engineering Professional Internship Program (EPIP) in quintile 4. As a student currently enrolled in the program, I had to use the resources put forth by this class to obtain an internship, and still do as my work experience reporting goes on.
    I have worked one summer as an engineering student and now work as an intern. The difference in the structure for the application, interview and job selection process is phenomenal. Compared to the relative confusion in finding and applying for jobs alone, the EPIP program is excellent for helping you to find work, bringing out-of-province employers to the university for scheduled interviews and organizing job offers which are released on one day so that you are able to choose the best fitting job. As it is a sixteen month work placement, I am very glad I had all of my options laid out before me before I committed to one, as opposed to simply choosing the first offer to secure a position.
    As part of the program, up to twelve months of upper level engineering experience can be counted towards professional engineering designation. Combined with it being a paid internship, this makes EPIP like getting a head start in the working world without any real consequences. The required reporting every four months is very similar to what will be expected of me as an engineer in training and I feel fortunate I have the opportunity to write these experience reports for my professors before submitting the real thing to APEGS upon graduation. I believe these reports are an excellent opportunity to assess students, their experience and their satisfaction and as such, find the claims of the TransformUS task force unfounded. If a compelling description of mission is required, look to the testimonial of any student who has taken part in the program.
    I feel this program brings excellent value to the college of engineering and that those students who choose to pursue this program gain skills and knowledge unable to be acquired in a classroom setting. After my experience with EPIP, I feel I better know where I want to focus my studies and what I want to aim for upon graduation.

  21. Although we are not a community college it is still important that we align educational opportunities with market demands. In so doing, we must not overlook the importance of Arts classes and programs. My religious studies, poli sci, sociology classes have had the most profound affect on how I think to this day.One should not be at the expense of the other. Arts classes and professional degrees should be part of the same experience, particularly for those who see little value in the arts. They need it the most.

  22. After reading over the report and letting it sink in. There are a few things that I don’t understand. Why are the students being basically punished for the University inability to budget correctly. In the real world when I cannot budget the person to suffer is me and not everyone I encounter. While my program does not receive any cuts that does not mean that I am not seriously concerned with the purposed cuts made in this report. How is it appropriate that we as students pay one of the highest tuitions in the country and our programs are going to be cut and the top administrators make more money in a year than I will probably make in my entire career? Our president makes 400K a year, our VP academic makes 363K a year, our VP Research makes 316K a year, our VP advancement makes 312K a year and our VP of finance and resources makes 250K a year. Here is a novel idea how about before making any academic cuts that is detrimental to our students, our top officials take a drastic pay cut. If they take a pay cut of 100k each thats 500k a year saved which could be used to help recoup our budget issues. If that is how much our top officials are making, image how much some other people at the university are making and if they would take a pay cut as well, we could probably recoup a large portion of the deficit without having to impact the students. Our deficit is huge and something needs to be done about it but before impacting the students and prospective students lets have the grossly overpaid officials take pay cuts and then I might be able to get behind program cuts. Don’t try and tell the students that you are doing everything to recoup the deficit if you are not even going to look at salary. 73% of the operational budget goes to salaries and benefits but it isn’t considered that maybe the smartest thing to do would be to cut the obscene salaries of the officials to help in this process.

    • First, thank you for reading the reports, thinking about them, and sharing your thoughts.

      Like many universities we need to trim expenditures. I can assure you that students are not being and will not be punished – all current students will be given ample time to finish the programs in which they are registered, and the university will ensure quality programs and a range of choices for future students. In fact, we are undertaking TransformUS rather than across-the-board cuts in order to protect and enhance programs rather than weakening all of them. Also, program by program students pay less than the median level of tuition fees for almost all of our programs compared to our peers – we make this comparative information available each spring.

      Regarding your suggestion for cost reductions, the university committed at the start of its current budget-adjustment process that we will look at all options we can imagine and all ideas that people send in. One of the seven strategies we identified includes reviewing total compensation for all groups: this strategy encompasses what you write about in your post. No one in the university will review their own salary as that would be a conflict of interest.

      Another of the strategies is TransformUS. The financial target for TransformUS is necessary even after the actual or projected impact of all the other strategies we have modelled.

  23. As a medical student, I am disappointed to see that the College of Medicine’s Division of Social Accountability is in jeopardy. This is the division that administers a number of important initiatives, including Making the Links, a Certificate in Global Health that combines academic courses with service-learning experiences in medically under-served communities in Saskatoon’s core neighbourhood, northern Saskatchewan, and a nation in the Global South (Mozambique, Nicaragua, Vietnam, etc). Making the Links is one of the only programs of its kind in Canada, and it has become a model for other medical schools across the country. Besides serving as an innovative training program for Saskatchewan medical students, Making the Links also connects the University of Saskatchewan to communities that are often isolated from the academic and medical establishment. These are relationships that have taken years to build, and they can only be maintained through the continued support of our University. As a student who went through Making the Links, and has worked many times with the Division of Social Accountability, I cannot imagine a College of Medicine without it. Changes are necessary at the College of Medicine, just as they are necessary across the UofS, but it would be a great loss to eliminate the very things that make this College unique, and have helped to define its spirit. I hope for a sustainable solution.

  24. According to President Busch-Vishniac in her comments at the Council meeting today, our vision for the future should include conforming to the model of the U15 Universities. I would like to direct Admin to the U15 website, where the “Principles” of the U15 are laid out:

    ” We pursue excellence.

    We challenge Canadians to think deeply about what constitutes and contributes to the public good.

    We contribute thought-provoking ideas and solutions in the global arena.

    We stress the importance of international cooperation and collaboration.

    We value the entire educational continuum, from primary and secondary schools to undergraduate and post-graduate studies.

    We embrace the contributions of all fields, from the arts and humanities to science and technology, and the value of basic and applied research.

    We endorse the peer-review process to challenge and strengthen discovery.

    We promote the translation of our knowledge so it informs all aspects of daily life.

    We advocate an open, honest approach to tackling complex issues, engaging all points of view and making difficult decisions.”

    These speak for themselves, and merit some meditation. In my opinion, the PCIP and President should adhere to the principles of the U15 when making academic and budgetary decisions.

  25. One program I was very surprised to see rated as a category 4 was the “Engineering Professional Internship Program (EPIP).” This program provides what is most likely the best hands-on experience a student can receive before entering the working world.

    The value of internships is clearly recognized by other colleges such as Education, Nursing, Physiotherapy and a number of other colleges. For engineering however this is the main opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in the first three years of their degree to actual working conditions.

    As stated in the report, there is both a high demand from students as well as a high demand from industry for this program. To me this signals that the program is not only successful but also has room to grow to allow more students a learning opportunity.

    Since many students attend university with the expectation that it will help them become more qualified and more appealing in the job market upon convocation, it does not make sense to possibly cut one of the few programs that can enhance a students knowledge base from just theoretical to practical.

    As well with this program there are a few other benefits compared to taking a year off to work. First, the student is still recognized as a full time student while working which means that it does not affect student loan repayment as well as allows students to still use university facilities. Second, the program ensures that all intern work under the supervision of a P. Eng. experience can then be used as accreditation towards P. Eng status of the student. Personally I know that I would not have been able to secure the job that I have upon graduation without my previous experience from internship.

  26. It is heartening to see the recent expressions from students and student leaders. We would like to comment on a few moments from the student Town Hall held on Jan. 15, 2014. (A video recording of the town hall is available at )

    At 20:13 of that video, USSU President Max Fineday asks why, amongst all the consultations that the administration will undertake as we move toward implementation of TransformUS recommendations, there has been no consultation with student groups.

    At 20:48, President Bush-Vishniac replies: “Let me respond to your question by reminding you [that] the point of TransformUS is financial. [….] Financial responsiblity is the responsiblity distributed to the Deans, to the AVPs … and therefore we are meeting with each and every one of them and saying ‘You have seen what’s in the report. Please give us your reactions so that we make sure that we are specifically tasking the people with financial authority to be thinking long and hard and clearly about how we resolve what is truly a financial issue.

    “But I would take exception to saying that we haven’t been talking with students. This process began 14 months ago. It went to University Council. Students were there. Went to the Board. You [Max Fineday] were there. [….] We’ve had students at every one of these [town hall] meetings. We ARE consulting. We are asking for your comments. We will continue to do that. But the USSU does not have financial authority to make the changes, so we are meeting with the people who will be tasked with implementing changes and we believe that’s appropriate.”

    We think that Mr. Fineday was asking exactly the right question, and advocating strongly for his constituency. President IBV’s response does, we think, neglect a small bit of history regarding the approval of the TransformUS process in by University Council. She is 100% correct that students were there–if they had not been, their role in the current TransformUS process would likely have been even more limited.

    At that meeting, which was one of the best attended in recent memory and with media also present, there was discussion of the motion to adopt the TransformUS process of program prioritization. One flashpoint of that debate was the role of students: the original motion did NOT include room for students on the two task forces. (The Dickeson model upon which TransformUS is based states directly that students SHOULD NOT be included in program prioritization, for reasons very close to the ones given to Mr. Fineday in our president’s response to him.)

    But then a funny thing happened at that meeting: students spoke up. They did so loudly, and with a degree of passion that was matched by their logic and argumentation. There were murmurs among faculty members of Council, and then support for the students: they MUST be included in the task forces. (We heard numerous Council members remark after the meeting that they would not have voted in favor of the TransformUS process were students not included in the work of the task forces.) And so Council approved the motion, but only after it was amended to include students in the process.

    So it is true to say, we think, that students became involved in the formal TransformUS process because they INSISTED on it. We encourage them to continue to speak up, and to insist that student groups be included in ongoing consultations.

    (A quick aside: Can you imagine a government body working toward developing policy in regard to the environment, or Indigenous communities, etc. and saying, ‘We didn’t consult the people who might be affected by the policy, we only consulted the people we were tasking with developing and implementing that policy’?)

    Perhaps this is a semantic issue. President IBV correctly notes that there has been consultation in town halls and at the level of colleges, programs, etc. Could it be that the conversations going on with those “tasked with implementing” the TransformUS recommendations might be more in the nature of “direction” rather than “consultation”? Or, less, cynically, “cooperation” rather than “consultation”? Remember: the people who will undertake implementation are those who, according to President IBV, “we” (senior administration) tasked with doing that work. We are not sure if the best analogy here is to a feedback loop or to an echo chamber, but the absence of people that “we” did NOT task with this implementation–which one could take to mean “the absence of opposing voices–in the consultation process is glaring.

    Congratulations to Mr. Fineday and others for bringing this up during the present consultation process.

  27. As a recent graduate (Modern Languages) and a soon to be graduate (Women and Gender Studies Honours), I am particularly concerned with the number of Honours programs in the 5th quintile – including my own. In my research and application for graduate programs, ALL programs I have or will be applying to require a honours degree as part of their admissions requirements. Already I can see how cutting honours programs would limit University of Saskatchewan students in their quest for further education. Furthermore, it makes the U of S a far less competitive school for these programs.

  28. I noticed that the College of Medicine, Social Accountability Division has been placed in quintile 5. I am familiar with the Making the Links – Certificate of Global Health program offered through this Division. The program does an excellent job of providing students with a positive, experiential opportunity to interact with underserved, as well as, remote rural communities within Saskatchewan and Mozambique. If you talk to any student who is a part of this program, all the comments are positive. It is innovative programs such as this that bring students to the University of Saskatchewan. Suffice it to say, innovative programs like ‘Making the Links’ should be maintained and even expanded.

  29. I would like to weigh in on a couple of points regarding the concept of reducing or eliminating three year bachelor degrees.

    1 – I began work on by B.A. directly out of high school many years ago, but due to life events, was unable to attend full time after the first year. At the time, universities offered almost no extension, evening or weekend training in much of anything, making it extremely difficult to finish. I did, eventually, but it took several years of trying to fit things in with a full time work schedule and a growing family. I have a three year B.A. which I and my family highly value; it has assisted me in career development, opened doors for me in places that would not have otherwise been available, and have also assisted various employers when they do bids and have to supply resource credentials. It is unlikely that I could have achieved a four year degree under the same circumstances.
    2 – as was noted elsewhere by others, the three year degree costs the university absolutely nothing extra to administer. Students take the same classes as if they were working on a four year degree – there is nothing to differentiate between the two in terms of material or resourcing. Ending three year programs would produce no cost savings at all, and may deter potential students from attending.

    3 – my third point relates to the European Bologna Process. I am sure you know about it, and the intended goal of making university programming more consistent, transferable and understandable. There are now 46 countries which have signed on to the accord, which reduces bachelor degrees to three years, plus two year terms for a masters and an additional three year term for a Ph.D. I’ve followed a bit of the discussion on the University Affairs website, and noted the concerns that are raised – but it does seem obvious that if countries with a combined total population numbering in the hundreds of millions see this as the way of the future, then we in Canada ought to show some leadership and at least consider doing the same.

    • Rick’s description of the usefulness of the three year degree is very similar to what I have heard for years from our colleagues in the regional colleges who partner with us for off-campus and distributed learning delivery. A little over a year ago I chaired a committee that worked with the university’s external partners to get their views on what sort of path we should follow for off-campus and distributed learning. The single strongest message we received was that rural and remote learners want to be able to complete entire degrees, and the three year degree is a real advantage for them. It is also one that the University of Regina does not have, so if we gave up our three year degrees, there would be none in the province.

      I have heard a lot of support for three year degrees in the discussions following release of the TransformUS reports. However, I had not heard anyone mention the importance of these degrees to off-campus and distributed learning, which is a high priority for the university at the moment.

      It is possible we could reduce the number of three year degrees. Perhaps we could have one in the social sciences, one in the humanities, etc. If we took that route, it would be important to give students the flexibility in the program structure to allow them to complete more discipline-based four year degrees at a later date. For example, if I was a part-time adult student living in Yorkton who wanted to complete a four year history degree some day, I could start with a three year humanities degree and make sure that I took enough history classes to make it feasible to complete the fourth year at a later time when I could move to Saskatoon for a year. That would only be possible if the structure of the three year degree gave me the flexibility to take sufficient history courses to meet my personal learning goals.

      • It may interest you to know that at a December meeting of the Planning & Priorities Committee, one of the Task Force co-chairs was reportedly heard to remark that “The question isn’t whether a 3-yr program is free. It’s ‘what is the cost of this program?'”

  30. The need to deliver a coherent environmental undergraduate program at U of S is correctly identified in this report. It should also be noted that there are vastly different dimensions to the study and teaching of the environment with two basic strands: i) human-based studies, ii) physical science including management and engineering. The human component is addressed by the subjects taught in the Environment and Society BABSc Degree offered by Geography & Planning. By strengthening this degree scheme, this area can be well covered.

    The physical environmental sciences are natural sciences with natural resource and engineering implications and have been taught by the Arts and Science, Agriculture and Bioresources and Engineering Colleges. This is where better coordination and possibly consolidation is possible but what is primarily needed is better capacity and resource to delivery these degrees and courses. That may be possible through coordination but accountability is also needed. Consolidation has already occurred inadvertently – the demise of Agricultural Engineering removed a B.Eng. degree scheme that has trained many environmental scientists now working in western Canada. There is a danger than in further coordinating delivery we continue to lose the strong physical environmental science teaching capacity that U of S has been known for. Strong physical environmental science degrees contain components of physical geography, biology, chemistry, geology, soil science, and engineering science. Future delivery of physical environmental science and engineering at U of S does not require a single academic unit to deliver the courses and degrees, but coordination amongst units that do is beneficial and establishment of one clearly identified “natural science” environmental science BSc degree and one environmental engineering degree is one way forward. Environmental engineering exists in Engineering and should be supported by further links to natural science classes and given a clear academic home. A “natural science” environmental science BSc degree can make use of classes and expertise that exist in Arts and Science and Agriculture and Bioresources (perhaps Engineering as well)- the challenge will be in how to better coordinate and harness the existing talent at U of S to deliver such a degree in an accountable manner that ensures it is the top priority of the unit tasked with leading its delivery and an important priority for contributing units. To fail to produce a strong “natural science” environmental science BSc degree in this exercise would put successful U of S graduate degree programs at risk and greatly diminish our reputation in the sector of Water Security where we have recently made great advances. Are we ready for inter-college departments or degrees? Such possibilities need consideration.

    • Interdisciplinarity is the first victim of a fragmented and shallow assessment based on the Dickeson approach. As a young person with relatively little experience, I can not but wonder what is the opinion of people like you about TransformUS. It is not scientific because it can not be reproduced and tested, nonacademic because it lacks minimal standards of objectivity and was a judgement call by faculty in this institution rather than peers from outside, say from U15, and based on numbers, there is clear collective conflict of interest, since there is more than eleven times chance of being in quintile 1 if an academic program is associated with members of the task force compared to an arbitrary academic program (37.5% vs 3.3%), and no such difference exists in quintile 2 (approximately 30%). Irrespective in which quintile your programs are placed, how do you respond to that as a world renowned scientist who very well understands the importance of reproducing results of experiments and as a distinguished academic who appreciates the essential role of objectivity in any assessment?

      • Will: You have posted variations on your most recent message a number of times now. TransformUS is not a scientific process, nor does it claim to be. It is a process based on data provided by programs. That data was then analyzed by the task forces. With respect, the time to complain about the process has long passed. It might be more helpful to offer comments on specific recommendations by the task forces.

        • With all due respect, “RealTransformUS” (whomever you are), the message from President Busch-Vishniac yesterday says

          “They hope their blog will encourage a discussion amongst members within and beyond our campus community. I encourage you to visit their blog to be a part of the discussion as the university undergoes this period of change.”

          My question is part of this discussion, and it is addressed to Professor Pomeroy, and you have no right to silence others simply because they ask uncomfortable questions.

          • I didn’t find your question uncomfortable, nor did I assert any right to silence you. I merely suggested that a less repetitive–and more constructive–approach might yield more/better results. I am sorry to have caused offense. My apologies.

    • My thanks to John Pomeroy for directing his attention to the need to better co-ordinate a coherent undergraduate environmental program at the U of S. I agree. But to ask for co-ordination among the natural sciences, while relegating the ‘human-based studies’ solely to the Department of Geography and Planning, is nothing short of breathtaking. Instead, I would urge a similar co-ordination between Geog/Planning and other departments across campus whose work invests in environmental law, policy, history, economics, environmental humanities, marketing, education, and medicine. We know that while science determines the scope and extent of environmental problems, it is humans who determine when, how, and with what these problems will be challenged. The ‘siloing’ of human vs. science is problematic. Given the spectacular flooding events of 2013, it is clear that ‘science’ and ‘human’ are not mutually exclusive.
      There is also a School of Environment and Sustainability on campus, and I see that they are moving into undergraduate training. Perhaps they can move into the ‘co-ordinating’ role that John has put forward — IF it also includes co-ordination of the human environmental research across campus into a program with some flow-through AND cross-co-ordination between human and science. This kind of siloing must stop.

      • If there is one thing we are good at, it is building and working in silos. Let us hope that we are not just prioritizing and eliminating a bunch of silos at the expense of the farm. It takes very coherent thinking to establish the interconnectivity between such a wide range of disciplines, and speculating what the future looks like for our student graduates. Dr. Pomeroy and his many associates should be applauded for thinking in so many dimensions and defending this complexity.

  31. Karen M. Semchuk, Professor, College of Nursing and Director of Professional Practice, Sunrise Health Retion, SK on said:

    I sincerely appreciate all of the thought and hard work the Task Force Committee members invested in the reports. I would like to fill in a couple of significant gaps in the report on the academic programs offered by the College of Nursing.

    Regarding the observation that the BSN program is a costly program, this is true mainly because of the clinical supervision needs, which are costly and unavoidable because they directly reflect the accreditation requirements for this professional health care program, which prepares professional nurses to address the serious nursing shortage we are still experiencing in the rural and remote areas of our Province.

    Second, regarding the observation that based on the enrolment numbers there appears to be little demand for the Nurse Practitioner MN Option while there is a higher demand for the Course Based MN Option, this observation is artifactual. While there is no cap on enrolment for the Course Based MN Option, which mainly attracts nurses who are already employed in nursing positions in the Province, enrolment for the Nurse Practitioner Program is capped with many more program applicants than are accepted such that a waiting list exists. The fact is that with the critical shortage of Nurse Practitioners in rural and remote SK and the many unfilled Nurse Practitioner job postings across the Province the demand for Nurse Practitioner education is very high such that the enrolment number for the Nurse Practitioner MN Option should be increased to meet the need, which will only increase as the Baby Boomers retire from the nursing profession and Health Regions in the rural and remote areas increase the number of Nurse Practitioners to meet the Primary Health Care needs of their residents.

    Respectfully submitted,

  32. I would agree with comments presented by “anon” on 18 December, and especially point three regarding the consequences of underfunding Women’s and Gender Studies and other community-relevant programs. That the authors of the report actually signal this cause-and-effect relationship, and provide a clear commentary on the determining factors behind successful interdisciplinary initiatives, speaks volumes.

  33. I do wonder how much weight the clinical departments gave when compiling their input. Was the assumption made that residency programes were essential and so they were safe?
    How much is administration going to focus on facilitating technology transfer? this can provide a revenue stream for universities, but there seemed to be little mention of it in the reports.

  34. If the task force is looking to cut programs from the last one or two quintiles to make the necessary budget adjustments then wouldn’t it be unnecessary to make cuts to the programs in the 2nd and 3rd quintiles?

  35. Some “facts” to ponder in the new year.

    1. From page 9 of Academic Programs Report, “… the task force also adopted a policy on conflicts of interest. According to this policy, members would be regarded as having a conflict of interest in relation to rating
    programs associated with their home academic unit or units, and programs associated with academic units in which their spouses or partners have academic appointments. Under this policy, task force members could also declare a genuine conflict of interest in relation to other programs. Members absented themselves during discussion and categorization of programs for which they had a conflict of interest.”

    IN REALITY, from pages 43-45 of Academic Programs Report,

    a program associated with a member of the academic task force has 37.5% chance of being in quintile 1, while an arbitrary program has 3.3% chance of being in quintile 1.
    This is more than tenfold (even more than times 11)!

    2. From “Why we are undertaking TransformUS” blog on December 11, 2013, “TransformUS is one of seven strategies we are following to bring the university’s budget into sustainable balance.”

    IN REALITY, from page 11 of Academic Programs Report,

    3% of all academic programs in quintile 1 cost 21% of the total program operating allocation, while
    20% of all academic programs in quintile 5 cost 3% of the total program operating allocation. (There is almost duality when one switches 1 and 5! )

    The average cost of an academic program in quintile 1 is more than 47 times the average cost of a program in quintile 5!

    • Regarding the second point, is true that the nature and size of what the two task forces have put in their fifth quintiles will make it very difficult – likely impossible – to find from those quintiles alone the $20-25 million per year that the university needs to find. With that said, I believe the items identified by the task forces are important ones to start with and consider further. The task forces were working with attributed revenues and costs and there is further analysis to be done to determine the actual costs and savings of changes that are feasible – these might turn out to be greater in some cases than what the task forces were looking at, and less in others. I expect that in drawing up an implementation plan, the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning will also need to look at reductions and reorganizations from among the items in quintiles 3 and 4 of both reports.

  36. My concern is for courses and venues unique to the U of S, established by cooperation, by generosity and appreciation for true learning and creativity. The Kenderdine Campus courses provided a venue that could not be duplicated; this venue resulted in a synergy of creative talent. The worth of seniors classes, too, cannot and should not be underestimated. Seniors classes provide a wonderful learning and sharing environment for people with a life of personal experience to enhance, and in so doing, to continue to thrive and maintain intellectual acuity.

  37. I would at the outset like to extend my respect to the authors of the two reports and to acknowledge their extensive effort and time in preparing the documents.

    The reports should be read in context. For sevenreasons, the reports should not be used to direct disproportionate cuts to programs and units placed in categories 4 and 5. Page references below are to the Academic Programs Report.

    First, template reporting reveals a comparatively narrow range of information for review and provides little opportunity for important clarification. Many report comments note unclear information and show the limiting nature of the template process and the need for follow-up.(e.g., re: the MN Nurse Practitioner Program, “Purpose of program not clear” (p 93).)

    Second, low or declining Tri-Council funding is partially a function of the declining availability of Tri-Council funding across Canada, and should be acknowledged as such rather than being seen as primarily due to weak researcher initiative/capacity. (see: CAUT (2013) “[Since 2007-2008] Funding for SSHRC has fallen by over 10 per cent in real dollars, while core support for NSERC and CIHR are down 6.4 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. […] Federal support for the granting councils has lagged even as the number of university based researchers in Canada has grown by 9.5%” ) This is relevant to the categorization of a number of programs including those in interdisciplinary studies (p. 104), women’s and gender studies (p. 84), economics (p. 85 & 99), political science (p. 86), medicine (p. 90), medical imaging (p. 90), nursing (p. 94) and public health (p. 95 & p. 106).

    Third, it is conceivable that a considerable number of programs are placed in categories 4 and 5 in part because they are already underfunded and are thus not operating at an optimal level. Rather than cutting these programs further, they ought to be funded to functional level and assessed as such. (e.g., re: women’s and gender studies (“small faculty complement, short of critical mass” p. 84), re: northern studies (“program could go better with more focus, recourses” p. 83), re:languages (“Question of whether adequate investment of resources” p. 85), re: biomedical engineering (“needs resources to make impact” p. 88).) Conversely, it is not clear that the flourishing programs placed in category 1 actually require increased funding, or that increased funding would yield proportional benefit.

    Fourth, the University of Saskatchewan is the province’s premier university and has an obligation to the population of Saskatchewan to be a comprehensive post-secondary institution. Even more important than assessing programs in a segmented fashion, is assessment of the University’s overall function and service to the community. Small programs which are nonetheless likely key to the role of the university as a public institution arguably include vibrant music, drama and language programs (the latter in particular given Canada’s bilingualism). Without such programs we are not serving our mandate as a flagship provincial institution. Similarly, cutting the interdisciplinary PhD program would reduce our comprehensiveness and mean that many areas of doctoral study are no longer available to those wishing to study at the University of Saskatchewan. Rather than the abstraction of being “distinguished” the University should strive for excellence in practical delivery of teaching and scholarship, guided by our role as a key contributor to Saskatchewan and broader Canadian society.

    Fifth, the criterion of “alignment with university priorities” was mentioned in comments regarding various programs, but it was not made clear precisely why some programs were only weakly aligned with the university’s priorities. For instance, programs in areas including the following received negative comments regarding their alignment with university priorities: modern languages (p. 85), mathematics (p. 85), philosophy (p. 86), political studies (p. 86), linguistics (p. 87), biochemistry (p. 90), microbiology (p. 91), physiology (p. 92-93), public health (p. 95), and small animal clinical services & veterinary pathology (p. 96). The latest Integrated Plan suggests that the University has inclusive priorities. Indeed page 2 of the 2012 Integrated Plan reads, “We cannot achieve the goals set in our plan any other way but collaboratively. It builds on the collaborative process used in creating the university’s plan. It encourages more interdisciplinarity and engagement in the workplace, which means a more connected University of Saskatchewan community. It distributes leadership throughout campus at all levels.”

    Sixth, several challenging systemic issues are not directly addressed in report methodologies. First, the historic tension between clinical service and research activity in the health sciences is arguably relevant to research-related comments including those regarding anesthesiology (p. 89), medicine (p. 90), obstetrics (p. 91 & 105), pediatrics (p. 92), nursing (p. 94), veterinary medicine (p. 96) and dentistry (p. Second, the relationship between increasing student tuition and decreased student demand for liberal arts programs (see e.g., ) is not acknowledged, and is likely relevant to comments on student demand for art history (p. 82), philosophy (p. 86), religion and culture (p. 88), archaeology & anthropology (p.98), history (p. 100), languages (p.102) and religion and culture (p.88). 102).

    Seventh, cutting disproportionately in categories 4 and 5 does not challenge the root of the problem which is the provincial government’s decision to underfund the University of Saskatchewan; it would thus disregard the fact that our funding situation is politically created. We should shoulder our burdens and responsibilities as united institution, rather than dividing ourselves into winners and losers. Instead of cutting vulnerable elements of the University we should speak with one voice against the underfunding of the University.

    • I was one student who benefited from studying French at the University of Saskatchewan. Though I have had difficulty locating precise information about what might happen to that program, comments I have seen here have me concerned. I think the importance of French as an official language in Canada may be something the university is minimizing. I certainly could never have had a successful career as a confereince interpreter without the program. While cuts may be required, I suggest that if the University of Saskatchewan goes as far as discontinuing second language studies of any kind, it will contribute to the impression some have that the province is an unwelcome place for people who speak languages other than English. The fact is that an increasing number of Anglophone children enter immersion programs and I hope they will be able to progress if they choose. Also, speaking as a blind person, I hope the university will be mindful of its obligations under provincial human rights legislation to offer support to studentsw with disabilities. I have contributed financially to the language program and to support services for students with disabilities. Deep cuts to those programs or services might well put me in a position of deciding whether or not I can continue that support.

    • With respect to the final point, I agree with making a strong case to the public and our funders about the importance and impact of university education. No one should be in any doubt about the positive benefits for students, communities, and the public when greater funding is invested in universities. With that said, we are in an environment when 2% economic increases are pretty much the best we see across the continent while our costs increase more than that amount. We are underfunded for what we are attempting to do; which is equivalent to saying we are overprogrammed for the resources we can expect to receive. We will not be financially sustainable unless we reduce somewhat the range of what we do and concentrate resources on fewer priorities.

  38. I appreciate the efforts senior administration is making to create multiple opportunities for the campus community, and beyond, to share reactions to the TransformUs task reports. I also appreciate the tireless efforts of members of the respective committees, and members of the campus community more generally, that have gone into the production of these reports and the recommendations contained therein.
    I am disappointed, however, that greater consideration has not been given in the creation of this blog to avoid mistaken identification of authors with common names such as Susan Robertson, or worse still, John Smith. Those of us who share common names do not necessarily share common opinions.
    Perhaps if names were accompanied by an identifier such as Dept., Program, or status (e.g., Susan Robertson, alumnus, or Susan Robertson, Dept. of Sociology) we could both, respect the identity of individuals while facilitating open dialogue on the challenges facing our institution.

  39. I am happy to see that the 3 yr physics program is going to stick around. I started my university career with physics and it would be nice to get recognition for the learning I did before switching to computer science. On that note, is a template from computer science not submitted/posted? Did i somehow miss it? I read the one for 3yr physics and i would love to read the one for 4yr computer science.

    • Hi Jonathon. Templates will be added to the TransformUS website over the course of December. Prior to being added to this website, templates will undergo an internal review process to ensure we comply with all privacy and freedom of information legislation. We expect that most templates, if not all, will be posted by very early next week. Thank you for your question.

  40. There has been a lot of feedback from the University community regarding
    TransformUS since the beginning of the process, but it was to no avail. The following comments were submitted on April 21, 2013 to the TransformUS web page; however, they were removed shortly after submission, along with a lot of submissions by my colleagues. I think the comments are equally relevant today:

    “My “thoughts” might sound critical, so I will start with an apology.
    There is much at stake, and it is my duty, not only as a member of the
    University, but also as a resident of Saskatchewan and as a father, to
    voice my concerns openly.

    First, the most basic step seems missing. According to Dickeson (2010),
    the notion of what constitutes a program needs to be defined. The
    “definition” given in Dickeson (2010) and repeated in the FAQs section is
    an example, and not a precise definition. It is hard to imagine discussing
    “program prioritization” when the first word is not completely defined,

    Second, the methodology of the proposed program prioritization is
    pseudoscientific. The criteria are vague and at most general. For example,
    what is the time frame in the first criterion? A lot of programs evolved
    through their history, even the recent one. How far back should one go?
    What is meant by external and internal demands in the second and third
    criteria? Who decides the “service objectives” in the fourth criterion?
    Who determines “relative success” in the fifth criterion? Is “relativity”
    among different programs in the same university, or equivalent programs at
    different institutions? (The list is much longer than that, and the
    previous comments on this post highlight this point. I will most likely
    fail to keep my comments shorter than the “Criteria-Academic”, but I will
    try to do so.). Furthermore, suppose the criteria are clarified, the
    method of assessment is missing, which means, the results can not be
    reproduced or refuted. Any result which does not stand the test of
    falsifiability is unscientific.

    Third, the approach is reductionist as opposed to holistic. The University
    is like a living organism or complex ecosystem, and there is a risk in
    ranking “programs” individually. Anyone who studies complex networks, such
    as protein interactions in cells or the electricity grid or the WWW, knows
    that there are nodes which are not very prominent when studied
    individually, but are central to the function of the network. If this node
    is damaged, the cell will die, or we will have a massive electricity
    blackout… A “program” might not rank very high under the proposed
    criteria, but its elimination or reduction might be very detrimental to a
    higher ranking “program”. One might counter this argument by saying “this
    is why we have the ninth criterion”; however, 14% might not suffice to
    save the “weaker” program, and the “stronger” one will unintentionally
    suffer as a consequence of the reduction or elimination of the former.

    Fourth, any conclusion or recommendation reached by the task force will
    suffer from appeal to inappropriate authority. While the members of the
    task force are very distinguished and respected in their respective
    fields, it does not logically follow that they can assess the quality or
    importance of other fields.

    Fifth, no mention is made of the University’s teaching and research
    mandate. Instead of having criteria that are derived from our mandate as a
    public institution that serves the people of this province first and
    foremost, we are adopting a list that is based on (seven) assumptions in
    Dickeson (2010). Those assumptions were never discussed openly, and it is
    not clear why the conclusions in Dickeson (2010) or its market-driven
    recommendations should be followed blindly.

    One might counter the above points by saying that one needs to start
    somewhere, and that it is an evolving process that will take into account
    feedback from the University community. However, instead of approaching
    the program prioritization as accountants, one can approach it as critical
    thinkers and scientists who want to understand a complex system. For
    example, one can set up a weighted graph with nodes corresponding to
    well-defined programs and links corresponding to interaction between
    different programs. One can precisely study the importance of the nodes
    for the well-being of the University, group programs into “families”, and
    investigate whether some nodes can merge or move or be strengthened. This
    would be a truly holistic and innovative approach.”

    • There’s a lot in your comment. One part I agree with is the importance, as the university considers actions resulting from TransformUS, of paying attention to interconnections among programs/units. This is one reason why a co-ordinated response is critical, and Greg Fowler and I will be looking to ensure that. I think some other points in this comment are somewhat misconstrued. The task forces did look at the university mission and used it to inform their recommendations. Dickeson’s approach is not a formula (someone lower down in the comments here said that very well): his 10 criteria are not “his” but are actually a list of every criterion he has ever seen any university use. Our task forces have selected and weighted their own criteria, teaching and research activities and outcomes prominent among them. As described in their reports, their results reflect the exercise of judgement. I would say the comment above reads very much like something written before a careful reading of the reports.

          • In the ATFR,

            p. 2: ”we comment on the modifications that were made to the ”Dickeson model” of program prioritization.”

            p. 5: ”In her announcement launching the TransformUS project, President Busch-Vishniac
            indicated that the model adopted for the prioritization process would be that formulated by Robert C. Dickeson and followed in a number of North American universities.”

            p. 6: ”At the heart of the Dickeson model lie two important assumptions: that the process should be one focused on the relationship between resources and priorities, not on academic ranking of programs; and that the process should be conducted by faculty members.”

            p. 6: ”The academic program task force met in March for two days of workshops
            facilitated by Larry Goldstein, a consultant familiar with the implementation of the Dickeson prioritization process at a number of North American universities. During these two days, the task force settled on the criteria and criteria weightings that would guide the review. ”

  41. I am really disappointed to hear that my program is on the chopping block. I chose the U of S because of the InterD program and the forward thinking the University outlined in their report “Interdisciplinarity and the Transformation of the University”. I think that losing this program will be a great detriment to the u of s. Yes, other departments are becoming more interdisciplinary, which should highlight that more research in Interdisciplinary approaches are needed, not indicate that it is not necessary. This program is about more than just research that crosses boundaries, it is about asking questions that cannot be asked from one epistemological standpoint. Holistic Questions that are often obscured by academic discipline boundaries. For working on emergent topics, which will likely in the future become their own discipline. By eliminating Interdisciplinary studies, you not only weaken this university by discouraging highly motivated students from attending (there is an extensive application process), but also weaken academic inquiry.

    • The only publication I know with the title “Interdisciplinarity and the Transformation of the University” is one of which I was co-author – you can take it as established that I agree with the importance of interdisciplinarity. I would not want to confuse interdisciplinarity as a feature of universities, with the specific individual interdisciplinary studies program that exists now in CGSR. I suggest reading the front end of the academic taskforce report, and the valuable short discussion there of interdisciplinary programs. I think they have made some interesting suggestions about how better to support more of them.

  42. Can anyone explain to me why lots of programs for which the notes read very favorably are recommended to be kept with REDUCED FUNDING??? By the way, “keep with reduced resources” is an intrinsic contradiction as many programs will die when their resources are reduced. And how shall departments that have already been starved almost to death in the past run in the future with REDUCED FUNDING??? How could graduate programs that have low headcount because of lack of funding (a funding that was promised by the university years ago but never happened) ever be improved with REDUCED FUNDING??? Programs that are not optimal in their performance because of lack of resources are put into quintile 3 or lower because their performance is not optimal, and will further suffer by another reduction of resources. This university is spiraling downward.
    Note that the TransfomUS process is a non-peer review. This is why apples are compared with oranges, like the number of papers per researcher in one department with that in another department where papers are a completely different thing.
    And by the way, my automatic spell checker shows that there is a problem with the word “quintile”.

  43. I was totally blown away by the very same statement Will pointed out: “Our assignment of programs to quintiles represented, not
    an application of a precise mathematical formula, but an exercise
    of judgment taking the range of criteria into account.”
    We are after all looking for 20-25 millions in permanent savings. These are numbers!
    Knowing that the program costs were estimated without any consistent directive as to how to proceed-for example sometimes the cost was decided by voting (sic!)-it makes me wonder
    about the actual savings obtained from eliminating programs in units
    where there is no faculty assigned to any particular program and the faculty serves many different programs from different units. Now, I am reminded that the SPR exercise in 2004 was a peer review process and programs were actually evaluated on their academic merits by highly qualified external referees. TransformUs was certainly not about academic merits of programs. The process was launched in response to the financial exigency, so we were told. Now we are informed that no rigour was used in assignment of programs to quintiles. So the judgment was not based on academic merits, there was no rigour in actually assessing the cost of programs,… so what else is left?

    • I would note that the task forces weren’t asked to focus on which programs were most costly or least costly. They had estimates of these things, which factored in their views, and they discussed the difficulties with some of the information. But their recommendations are judgements about priority and take into consideration things like the vitality and academic impact of the programs. A decade ago SPR helped us establish that 95% or more of our programs are above minimal standards, but it was not simultaneous, not comprehensive, and it was too coarse-grained to guide resource allocations. I have much higher expectations for where TransformUS will lead us, once we have had further discussion, analysis, and consideration of eventual proposals for decisions.

  44. It doesn’t seem right to blame the Grad Studies InterD PhD candidates for the elimination of their own degree program, stating that they didn’t attract enough Tri-Council funding. I am working on policy research that does not require major external funding, and indeed it would be highly counterproductive to go that route. Yet it is research nonetheless, and has already generated socially valuable outcomes. Should I apply for funding that I absolutely don’t need just to satisfy an administrator’s rubric? Is it really just all about the money? Does our scholarly work matter not at all in the end? I fear the answer to these questions.

    • It IS all about money. Not about academic freedom, academic standards and breadth, not about culture and knowledge, all those values that used to be essential for universities, but now are absent from the “priorities” we are asked to “align” with.

  45. On page 14, lines 8-10 of the “Academic Programs Report”, it says:
    “Our assignment of programs to quintiles represented, not
    an application of a precise mathematical formula, but an exercise
    of judgment taking the range of criteria into account.”

    verbum sap.

  46. Interesting. I just read the programmes’ quintile ratings. Odd, research seems to consistently rate higher than undergrad programmes. Perhaps a bias in that the assessments were done by faculty? How is it possible, for example, to emphasize Drama research but recommend cutting all the student programmes (B.A etc)? I’m afraid this document reads like an endorsement of the “ivory tower” approach and an indictment of actual teaching. Don’t want those pesky students messing up research, cutting into your time?

  47. I thought this looked like a thorough report, and that the Task Force has done a good job of the very difficult job of evaluating the programs. As a Mechanical Engineering graduate I was pleased to see that the Task Force recognized the importance to our society and industry of the BEng in Mechanical Engineering.

    I do, however, worry about the world standing of the Department if we reduce funding for the PhD program in Mechanical Engineering. I also question the feasibility of increasing funding to undergraduate programming while reducing funding to the PhD program when the majority of Departmental funding is used to pay salaries. This means finding or reorganizing qualified people to teach undergraduate courses but not do research, which while not impossible could present a difficult challenge.

    • Hi Margi. Having just come out of a briefing meeting for our unit, there are at least three AVP positions and at least two entire units in quintile five. From my perspective, administration has not been neglected or exempted from the recommendations of the task forces. We will feel the sting along with everyone else.

      • The “unnecessary bureaucracy” Margi spoke of is not “actual people”, Alumni, although it is created by actual people. The positions that will be cut or reduced will affect actual people. The unnecessary bureaucracy, however, is often an unavoidable consequence within any organization when one group gets to decide how everyone else should be measured and managed. It detracts from the real work that needs to be done and serves little purpose other the self-fulfilling purpose of justifying the existence of those “actual people” who hold top-tier administrative positions.

        It will be very interesting, Michael, to see just what the changes are across campus as a whole. Will those in senior management and administration positions take an equal hit along with the rest of the campus community? I’m not holding my breath. Lest we recall that not so long ago the faculty of the University of Regina pointed the finger squarely at the university’s management claiming that it had “subordinated the academic mission to the administrative”. Sadly I have little faith that the careers of those in senior positions here at the U of S will be in the same jeopardy as our other campus community members. I also have serious misgivings with the current culture of fear and that has been used to lessen the blow of this restructuring. The finances aren’t as bad as being suggested, nor are they likely to be. It is more likely that the potential worst case scenarios that lead to the projected deficit will never come to pass, the university will not be in dire straits, but all those who contributed to the fear mongering and those involved in TransformUS (who still have jobs) will still pat themselves on the back for having averted financial disaster and ruin.

        • I’m not sure if I follow the reasoning here – in any organization, a person or persons will be in charge and will make decisions for that organization, in this case guided by advice from broadly representative groups (the task forces). Someone, somewhere has to be in charge.

          I agree that I would find it unlikely that we would lose a president or vice president in this process, but I don’t think the executive suite is exempt. The OVPR, for example, is in quintile four, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement and is surely causing some consternation and sober reflection in that office.

          For my own part, I’m encouraging my colleagues to share any bright ideas they might have. The executive is asking for our input; I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and take them at their word.

          What they do with that input is their job. I hope they do it well, and I hope they succeed. If they don’t, after all this effort, well, perhaps that is the time for the Board of Directors to consider what to do about their performance.

  48. I was very glad to see that the research associated with each program had a fair amount of emphasis. I was also very glad to see that situations where there were lower student numbers but high research value and high quality infrastructure were rated fairly. I also appreciated the emphasis on experiential learning where applicable. Overall, I think the task force did a reasonably good job.

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