The art of amalgamating faculties

The highest academic governing body at the University of Calgary will vote Thursday on whether or not to lump 60 per cent of all students into one faculty.

The move, which is expected to pass with a majority after a discussion at General Faculties Council, would see social science, humanities, fine arts and communication and culture combined into a single liberal arts faculty — a system already used by many post-secondary institutions across the country, including the University of Alberta.

The University Planning Committee voted unanimously to recommend the amalgamation to GFC, U of C provost Dr. Alan Harrison told Students’ Union members at a Students’ Academic Assembly — the highest academic body of the SU — meeting.

“Our hope is there will be a similarly strong vote at GFC,” said Harrison.

Despite the large number of students this would affect, the SU is supporting the move, noting as long as it’s done properly it could benefit students.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity, but I do think it will require a lot of vigilance on our part,” said SU vice-president academic Megan Martin, noting she will be sitting on the transition team.

SU social sciences representative Chris Kalantzis echoed Martin’s call for a close eye on the amalgamation.

“I think the Students’ Union and the faculty representatives directly concerned with the amalgamation need to ensure that they are keeping the provost on his toes, especially since Harvey Weingarten is going to be leaving office this January.”

Both Martin and Kalantzis stressed their biggest concern is ensuring that no students get left behind by the transition.

“If there was less advising in the interim, that’s the kind of the risk that would run ­– if there is a reduction in support staff and students didn’t know where they could go in the process,” said Martin.

Kalantzis pointed to the loss, and decision not to rehire, a key social sciences secretary. Martin spoke about the troubles already facing fine arts to hire enough support staff, but noted it was a university-wide issue and could be a product of the economy.

Martin said the battle would come down to communication, making sure that students know they will matriculate with whatever degree they started in — meaning their course requirements won’t change — or have the option of changing to the new system.

She also pointed to potential benefits of the amalgamation, including streamlining the academic appeals process and making the transition easier for students entering the U of C.

“For admissions, it will be a lot less confusing for students to know where they belong,” said Martin. “We do have a lot of students transferring from faculty to faculty to faculty. It should harmonize the way that students change their degrees and harmonize admissions requirements so that students will have a better idea of what they’re getting into and there will be more fluidity as far as course offerings go.”

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