IPRM set to take effect

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

The Integrated Planning and Resource Management (IPRM) system and its committees at Wilfrid Laurier University will be in full swing in January as the senate and board voted Monday night, along with other decisions, to move forward with its existing mandate. This, however, will be done with the committees electing two-thirds of its members as opposed to the 50 per cent plus one being elected before.

The other one-third will be appointed by the administration.

Other motions to delay the process until later in January were also voted down.

“The whole thing is moving forward, all the procedural stuff is dealt with now, the elections are going to carry forward and the university is going to be getting on with the business of setting its priorities, both administrative and academic,” explained Jim Butler, the vice-president: finance at Laurier.

The motion to change the committees — those who will be working within the system to determine what the university’s priorities, in regards to resourcing, should be — to two-thirds elected was originally made by senator and chair of the history department, David Monod.

According to Monod, this initiative enables the IPRM process to be transparent, and to have community representation.

“I’m more comfortable than I was before,” said Monod, who has raised concerns about the system in the past. “You’re actually asking the community what it wants its priorities to be.

“I have personal problems of the notion of setting those priorities, but if you’re going to have to set them… it’s better to have them set by the community. Better than some third party or by small group of people who make the decision on our behalf,” he continued.

Each committee, as outlined earlier this academic year, had to have 60 per cent representation from faculty, with some student representation from the Students’ Union and the Graduate Students’ Association. This will be taken into consideration with the new framework.

In addition to the motions made about delaying the process, the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association (WLUFA) put forth a motion to have the senate seek legal counsel in case the IPRM was usurping its authority. This motion was voted down.

But Nick Gibson, a student senator and former WLUSU president, is a bit more skeptical of the two-thirds election framework for the committees.

“I think it was, frankly, a waste of time,” explained Gibson. “I thought that it was pretty interesting given that appointments would still be faculty members and that it seemed to imply that some faculty members have the right opinion and that other faculty members don’t.”

Gibson noted that, while he doesn’t likely see it turning out this way, this could get some “good, technical people,” who would have been appointed, not elected under the new process. He added that Laurier has a significant spending problem, and most discussions that involve resourcing tend to result in discussions about wages.

“There seems to be a culture of mistrust, I don’t know if it is repercussions from the labour negotiations from last year, or if it’s something that’s always around,” Gibson continued. “It’s a different framework but it might be the same players at the same tables talking about the same things, and sometimes I think those same people are going to be combating just in a different arena.

“The true test of IPRM will be the people at the table and if they are willing to make tough decisions to sacrifice their own interests in order to get things done.”

The IPRM has been under scrutiny since its introduction because of some fears that it will narrow the academic priorities of the university, which may result in the reduction of some programs or departments. But with decreasing funding from the Ontario government, universities will have to find other avenues to produce funds — and it can’t always be from the students.

“I think what we are doing here at Laurier is trying to undertake it on a proactive basis which is about making ourselves better than we already are,” explained Orna Duggan, director of institutional research. “And realizing our full potential.”

But, as senate determined on Monday evening, the consensus appears that the faculty and administration are willing to move forward with the mandate IPRM currently has. Committees will be established by the end of November and training will occur in December so the planning task force and the other committees can begin generating recommendations in the New Year.

“I’m pleased we took the time get everyone and the issues sorted out, it’s an important task,” concluded Butler.

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