WLU’s new multi-campus model

(Graphic by Wade Thompson)

In order to ensure more cohesion between the Waterloo, Brantford and Kitchener campuses at Wilfrid Laurier University, the institution has implemented a new academic multi-campus governance model that will see some faculties stretch over multiple campuses as opposed to each of them being divided by geography.

Approved at the last Laurier senate meeting on Oct. 16, this new model will place one dean responsible for a particular faculty, regardless of where they are positioned. For example, if the social work faculty offers programs at Brantford, but the dean is positioned at the Kitchener faculty, then the dean in Kitchener will be accountable for the programming that occurs in Brantford.

“It’s not based on geography, it’s based on discipline, so wherever the discipline resides … then it’s responsible for its offerings across the university,” explained John Fraser, the associate secretary for Laurier’s senate and key person involved in the process.

“Part of the problem is that we don’t know what these faculties will be.”

Fraser noted that if a program originated on a campus, such as criminology at Brantford or business at Waterloo, the faculty dean for that discipline, such as the dean of business in Waterloo, will be accountable for all its course offerings across each campus.

Currently, the way the Brantford campus works is that one dean is in charge of the whole campus, regardless of what the department or program is.

The system will alter where various deans will be put in place, but those have to be determined.

If a campus has program offerings that originate from another campus, then an associate dean will be put in place.

“But one of the things this model contemplates is that you have to have people on the ground to do this kind of thing,” continued Fraser.

“It was an opportunity to look at other universities who are multi-campus, and how they address these issues around governance and organizational structure on the administrative side,” said Tom Buckley, the assistant vice-president: academic at Laurier.

The vision of this, however, is not to have one campus appear more superior to the others. It also takes into consideration the possibility of a Milton campus.

“The vision is for two or three campuses of equal size,” Fraser said. “So there isn’t one main campus in the long run.”

“We didn’t build something for two campuses that we would have to re-architect for three or more,” added Buckley, nothing that this avoids “unhealthy competition” between campuses.

The administration has set up a committee in Brantford to address how the programs will be split up in different faculties. The acting dean at Laurier Brantford, John McCutcheon, is the chair of this committee.

“With one dean [at Brantford] there’s a mixture of very applied programs of humanities and social sciences … in one faculty which is sort of an unusual sort of coupling of academic programs,” explained McCutcheon.

He added that it is unknown at the moment with how these faculties will be set up.

McCutcheon also said that the growth of Laurier Brantford – which currently sits at approximately 2,750 full-time students and around 75 full-time faculty – makes it increasingly difficult to manage the university under the model it currently has.

It will also help increase representation for the Laurier Brantford campus in the senate and other governing groups.

“This is hugely important to people here, because what we’re looking at is the next 20 years of their career or ten years of their careers. It’s a very serious decision here for people,” McCutcheon continued.

“So far there’s been no opposition to the process, but I have no doubt that when suggested models come out there will be some lively discussion.”

A timeline has been set by the administration and the university hopes to have the new model to be implemented by July 2013, which will be, said Fraser, “phased in slowly.”

“We have an opportunity to do things right,” said Buckley.

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