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Faculty, staff express frustration towards Arts space restructuring plan

Awareness of student needs and transparency of administrative decisions were central to the discussion at the student-run Jan. 14 Town Hall regarding the Faculty of Arts’ People, Processes, and Partnerships (PPP) plan.

Hosted by the Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) and unaffiliated with the administration, the meeting was attended by approximately 35 faculty members, graduate students, and staff members. The purpose of the meeting was mainly to increase solidarity and awareness in brainstorming ways of opposing the proposal, according to Gretchen King, a doctoral student in the departments of Art History and Communication Studies.

Originally presented in Fall 2012 by Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi, the PPP entails the restructuring of the Faculty of Arts administrative and support staff into four hubs. Each hub would contain reduced support staff, while maintaining two members in management positions responsible for multiple departments.

Many attendees expressed concern regarding the potentially bureaucratic nature of the PPP.

“Management staff are a kind of removed class from the communities that the support staff serve,” English professor Brian Trehearne said. “I think that says a lot about how this proposal has been conceived, because it is very much management from the top-down—managers alienated from the people they should be serving.”

Others criticized what they saw as a lack of responsiveness from the dean regarding past votes and petitions by members of the McGill community to change the plans. David Roseman, Vice-President of Labour Relations at the McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA), described a lack of communication between the administration and the affected departments.

“Outside the dean’s office is where the creative work’s done; inside seems to be a bit of a black hole,” Roseman said. “I’m sure they’re all very busy there, but there really seems to be a disconnect between the dean’s office and what happens at the departmental level.”

King, who facilitated discussion at the Town Hall, emphasized the importance of connecting with all involved parties, but noted the difficulty of doing so.

“The concern that is unanimous among all of the folks who showed up here tonight really shows that the more people get informed, the less they are willing to just let the PPP be forced on the departments,” King said.

King encouraged proposals for action that could be taken by the McGill community to prevent the plan’s implementation. Some proposals included a sit-in and the development of an informational video to increase awareness of the implications of the PPP plan.

“We want the administration to produce academic and intellectual arguments about the virtues of this plan, and we also want to see alternative plans made public,” King said. “We want to know that [they are] going to respond to our conclusions about the PPP.”

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