Early last week, Dean of the Faculty of Arts Christopher Manfredi announced changes to the plan known as People, Processes, and Partnerships (PPP). While the project was initially slated to restructure how space is used in the Leacock Building, followed by similar reconfiguration in 688 Sherbrooke and the Ferrier Building, Manfredi stated that the PPP project team will now focus its attention first on 688 Sherbrooke and Ferrier, “where solutions are likely to be less disruptive.”
In an email to ARTSMIN—a listserv that includes all faculty and staff in Arts—and an announcement on the PPP section of the McGill website, Manfredi wrote that the project team of over 75 people “will take a few steps back to review [the] issues, risks, constraints, and alternatives with respect to the Leacock Building—and the project overall—with a view toward presenting revised organizational and space scenarios while it continues its work on process mapping.”
Manfredi’s announcement follows a feedback process within the Faculty of Arts that included a Town Hall with faculty members.
At the Town Hall, held Monday Mar. 18, the project team presented two potential scenarios for a re-organized Leacock Building. Both scenarios involved rearranging upwards of 50 offices within Leacock or to the McTavish row houses, as well as moving all departmental administrative officers (AOs) onto one floor, and converting the third floor of Leacock into a general administrative ‘welcome centre’ for students.
Criticisms of the plan expressed at the Arts Town Hall and the Mar. 20 Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Council meeting included the potential disruption to “soft knowledge” that could occur as a product of moving AOs out of their departments and cross-training them to handle students from a variety of departments.
Manfredi has explained that restructuring is necessary as a result of new university policies that were implemented in response to provincial laws, such as the Quebec government’s Bill 100, which requires that universities cut down on money spent on administrative staff. Additionally, the new government-imposed budget cuts prompted the university to offer a voluntary retirement program to those aged 60 and above—a category under which several AOs in the Faculty of Arts fall.
In his email to ARTSMIN, Manfredi emphasized that the Faculty is taking action out of necessity.
“The project is aimed at meeting real challenges that we currently face and may face in the future, even if there is disagreement with solutions currently proposed,” he wrote.
AUS Vice-President (VP) Internal Justin Fletcher agreed that the Faculty needs to proactively address new realities, but expressed hope that the administration will continue to consult all those who will be affected by changes made to Arts space.
“I think the overall mission of the project People, Processes, and Partnerships is justified,” he said, citing Bill 100 and budget cuts as valid reasons for the project. “Should an [AO] leave a department, they may not have back-up, which can put much strain on a department, which could thus affect the student experience.”
“While I think the intentions of the project are good, I think more consultation needs to be done concerning the floor plan scenarios before proceeding with further aspects of the project,” Fletcher continued.
The AUS also hosted a Town Hall last night, at which Manfredi and two associate deans addressed students’ continued concerns over the project’s consulation process and how the division of labour among different advisors will now exist.
VP Internal and Events of the History Students’ Association (HSA) Laure Spake, who was among those who spoke out against the initial plan to restructure Leacock at both the Arts Town Hall and AUS Council, expressed concerns that the new plan to first focus on 688 Sherbrooke and Ferrier may be just a semblance of compromise.
“We hope that the [PPP] project is announcing its step back and re-evaluation in good faith, but so far we are not comfortable backing off and letting this issue slip under the radar,” Spake said.
Spake also noted that she was informed of the change through an email from fellow student Fletcher and not the Faculty.
Associate Professor of Political Science Jacob Levy, whose office is currently located in the Ferrier building, expressed optimism over the new direction the PPP is taking.
“It’s true that Arts/Ferrier is a lot easier to handle than Leacock—the complicated pieces of the Leacock puzzle are much less present here,” Levy said. “I’m expecting little disruption and the possibility of some improvement in our access to administrative support over here.”
Manfredi said he personally received two direct responses to the changes, and that both were positive. He also noted that two Faculty-wide listservs were notified right away of the changes following the initial announcement made at the Faculty Council on Mar. 26.
“We rely on these recipients to cascade the information out to those they represent, as the department of political science did,” Manfredi said. “I do not know if student members of Faculty Council who received the message forwarded it to their constituents, which is their responsibility.”
Scenarios for 688 Sherbrooke and the Ferrier building have not been completed and will be released as they become available, according to Manfredi. He also noted that the scenarios will incorporate long-standing plans unconnected to PPP, citing “the necessity of moving the language labs out of McLennan Library and into Ferrier, moving the French Language Centre to Ferrier to put it next to the language labs, moving [the] East Asian studies [department] to 688 Sherbrooke.”
Manfredi anticipates that 688 Sherbrooke will be re-arranged fully this summer and that the whole PPP will be completed by early 2014.