Letter to Laurier
In recent weeks, the temperament of the university has shifted from the excitement of a new academic year to something tense and pervaded with anxiety and stress.
This change in the prevailing consciousness is linked to a specific event that altered the working environment for students.
A contentious senate meeting on Oct. 16 found the university president infantilizing senators and faculty alike for their apparent reluctance to unquestioningly accept the value of the proposed Integrated Planning and Resource Management process.
The speeches during this meeting are a continuation of the “management by stress” approach to leadership at this university. This management strategy, currently in use against the faculty, is adversely affecting the student body.
Unlike tensions during contract negotiations, which have a conceivable endgame, this stress and uncertainty is even more destructive as there is no conclusive end in sight.
A measurable change could be seen and felt by students in their professors the morning after the aforementioned senate meeting.
Pressure tactics by the administration have created a gritty, jaw-clenching and insidious form of tension throughout the university, resulting in a sense of despair among some faculty.
This manifests itself through countless informal discussions about the future of the university and the way the faculty are being treated, something that students frequently observe or overhear.
As a current graduate and former undergraduate student, I am able to interact with students, faculty and staff members on a variety of levels, which shapes my insight into the goings-on at Laurier.
I am greatly concerned in the decreasing time that faculty are able to spend with their students due to administrative strain.
Often present during intra-faculty conversations, I see the consternation yielded by nerve-wracking committee meetings.
The damage done to faculty morale, effectiveness and productivity is immense as though the goal of the administration is to over-stress, distract and berate the faculty into acquiescence for both their so-called “rationalization process” and the plans for Milton.
Undergraduates lament that the university is increasingly unable or unwilling to provide sufficient resources toward their education. Revealing current university planning and policies concerning the lack of tenure-track hires, as well as fewer contract faculty than in previous years, often leads to bewilderment.
Students clearly understand this is the cause of larger class sizes, and faculty having to make do with less. Recent graduates and fourth-year students look back unfavourably on a deteriorated “Laurier experience.”
Fourth-year seminar classes, which have become too large for effective in-class discussion, leave many students feeling they are being cheated out of an essential experience and ill-prepared for graduate school.
First and second-year undergraduates are also sensitive to the pervasive stress and its effect on their professors, becoming reluctant to consult or meet with their professor if he or she seems disengaged, or otherwise too busy due to university service obligations.
This further diminishes student success and decreases student retention.
Graduate students grumble over scheduling time with which to work with professors, acknowledging that the leading cause of this problem is faculty over-scheduled onto countless committees for “university development.”
Supervision and instruction of graduate students is an essential component of a comprehensive research university, yet it all too often takes a back seat to committee work, severely diminishing the graduate Laurier experience.
Erosion of student morale is well underway and confidence in this institution is endangered. The Laurier student experience is directly dependent upon the contributions of an engaged and invested faculty complement.
Undergraduates cannot be expected to either raise morale or re-establish confidence; this responsibility falls to the highest echelons of administration.
Unfortunately, the administration appears bent on destroying these in order to satisfy an agenda that has little or no benefit for the university, undercuts their yearning for efficiency, productivity, and recruiting, and makes the concept of a “unique Laurier undergraduate experience” an anachronism.
The administration would be well advised to reassess the damage they have already caused and to take stock of how their actions are affecting the student body.