Program Prioritization Process Raises Many Questions

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Written by Peter Miller


Earlier in September, the University of Guelph announced the Program Prioritization Process (PPP).  Maureen Mancuso, the provost and vice-president (academic), will lead PPP as well as be the spokesperson.

According to Mancuso “all academic and non-academic programs and services will be reviewed as part of this process.” A recent University of Guelph press released stated that PPP will “ultimately result in enrichment, reduction, reorganization or elimination of services and programs.”

PPP will be used to “help the University address a projected funding gap of $34 million over the next four years.”

Twenty-one members will be on the Program Prioritization Taskforce, and only 2 students – one undergraduate and one graduate will be able to be nominated on the taskforce. The nomination period was closed on Thursday, September 27.

Mancuso stated that administration is told by consultants that having 2 students on the PPP taskforce “is highly unusual for such a process.” 

However, according to the University of Guelph Prioritization Task Force Charter, members of the taskforce are supposed to hold an “institutional perspective (vs. departmental or constituency).” As well, “the University seeks individuals who can think and act beyond personal, group or work units to focus on the interests of our students and the future of our institution.”

This means, the students on the taskforce, according to the charter, cannot represent student interests but instead must represent university interests.

On September 17 there was an event where students and staff at the university could ask questions about PPP.

He stated  “Right now you have 21 members on the taskforce, yet only one undergraduate, and one graduate student.” He also stated that the number of students on the taskforce is inadequate. The two students will be representing at least 22 000 students on campus.

He also asked a very pertinent question: “In a room full of 19 other participants, how would you ensure that these students have the space and ability to actually contribute and not just be tokens when they have to represent students on campus?”

According to Ofori-Darko many student representatives of organizations like the CSA, the Student Executive Council, and college governments could be able to participate on the task force yet have been excluded.

Finally, Ofori-Darko also asked Mancuso to “comment on the potential conflict of interest with the provost supervising these two interns.”

The President and Vice-President academic of this university say that having students on the taskforce is great, however these students will not be able to work in student interest, and hold the process in check.  As well, the taskforce cannot hold any claim of being democratic when 2 students are on it, and students make up the majority of people that will be affected by changes made to this institution.

In April 2009, there were protests held by students when the Women’s Studies program was cut. The cut sparked criticism from students, faculty, and people involved in women’s studies programs from across Canada.

There is a possibility that the PPP Taskforce will recommend other programs at the university to be cut. This university is increasingly focusing on science and engineering programs, so there is concern that the taskforce might recommend for senate to cut another art or social science program. Arts and Social Science programs are crucial for the university to have diversity in its programs offered.

According to Mancuso, “Given the current provincial budget shortfall of $13 billion, we have been told that there will be no additional money from the province forthcoming. This era of scarce resources and significant financial difficulties everywhere will continue for the foreseeable future, so we must figure out how to maintain and enhance quality with limited revenues on our own terms.”

The Ontario government has a deficit in part as a result of the fact that it has the lowest corporate tax rates in the North America. Corporate taxes will lower to 10 per cent on January 1, 2013. In 2010, the Ontario Government afforded 2.4 billion dollars in corporate tax cuts.

Administration has started the Program Prioritization Taskforce and threatened students with the possibility of programs being cut. At the same time administration seems to be convinced by the Ontario Government that this is an “era of scarce resources and significant financial difficulty.”

Upper level administration at Guelph have not partnered with students to advocate for increased per student funding in the province, when Ontario has the lowest per student funding in Canada. Meanwhile, when taskforces like PPP start up, students are not given adequate representation. Students at Guelph should be ready to have their voices heard about the taskforce in the future.

There will be a future town hall about the Program Prioritization Process some time in November.


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