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President Barnard’s message on CAUT report on Faculty of Architecture

March 5, 2015 — 

 

Response to CAUT Report on the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba
David T. Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Manitoba
March 5, 2015
Universities treat process seriously, viewing good process as a way to encapsulate past experience and currently held values, and the University of Manitoba is no exception. Decisions about choosing strategic directions; offering courses, programs and services; recruiting, retaining or removing members of the workforce; and so on, are taken with substantial collegial engagement and accountability. For example, to introduce or change programs the Senate of the University has to agree to a proposal from a faculty. Or, to make career decisions about faculty members, representatives of those who work most closely with the person serve as a committee to recommend to the dean (or sometimes a department head who then recommends to the dean), who in turn recommends to the Provost, who recommends to the President, who recommends to the Board. Descriptions of these processes usually make clear what information will be considered and how it will be gathered. All of this is intended to protect individuals, and especially to protect academic freedom – the unfettered search for knowledge.

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is a part of the larger academic community, with membership and support coming from faculty associations such as the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA). Nonetheless, CAUT seems to consider itself to be free from the commonalities of good process that are widely accepted in the academic community. It forms its investigatory committees without revealing who requested them, the justification, or involvement from the units being investigated. Then, working under the auspices of CAUT, committees that are not responsible in any meaningful way to the communities whose interests they purport to be safeguarding can make public recommendations about the preferred outcomes of specific decisions in specific institutions. These recommendations can preempt community understanding of where responsibility lies. Yet such recommendations appear to be acceptable to CAUT even when based on processes for gathering information – and weighing it – that are glaringly incomplete. CAUT’s behaviour would certainly not be acceptable in any process having to do with internal matters – such as career decisions and the work of academic units – at this or any other university of which I am aware.

Sadly, hard on the heels of a reckless CAUT report on the Department of Economics at the University of Manitoba comes a similarly shoddy piece of work from CAUT that makes recommendations concerning our Faculty of Architecture.

This Report is particularly inappropriate in that it targets a specific individual, the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, without affording him the right to due process and natural justice. Further, the Report implicitly takes the position that all of the stress in the Faculty of Architecture results from the presence of the current Dean. In fact, the Faculty of Architecture has been stressed as a result of internal factors since prior to the current Dean’s arrival at the University of Manitoba. It is tempting in such circumstances to fix the entire responsibility for such stress in one place, or on one person or on someone who has more recently arrived at the University. However, most of us know from our own experience in the workplace, and also in the rest of our lives, that complex issues cannot be adequately addressed by simplistic approaches. The temptation to simplify and to reduce complex issues to simple statements of blame rarely leads to deep understanding and lasting solutions. In a collegial context, leaders have responsibility to address problems, but so does the collectivity of colleagues (departments or faculties).

Since the Dean’s appointment is coming to the end of its term this year, a reappointment review committee, which completed its deliberations prior to the release of the Report, was concluding its work and preparing to tender its recommendation. From a formal procedural perspective the University of Manitoba did not allow CAUT’s interference to shape this process. Similarly, the Report will have no formal bearing on the search for a permanent Head for the Department of Architecture.

However, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the timing of the Report was intended to influence the internal reappointment review. It might have been expected that the processes established by colleagues to deal with the governance issues of the University would be respected by organizations that purport to protect the interests of faculty members – UMFA at this University and CAUT more generally.

I will repeat in this document some comments from my response to the Economics Report because the two Reports have some unfortunate shared aspects. There are also substantial problems that are unique to this particular Report.

Some of the material that I quote in this response is strongly worded and directly contradicts statements attributed to some colleagues mentioned in the Report. I would prefer to avoid focusing attention on these disagreements about fact and interpretation. However, the main point I am making in this response is that the situation warrants careful weighing of evidence. The investigatory committee was inherently limited in its ability to obtain information but apparently selective in its reporting. The selectivity is certainly a matter of choice.

I encourage all readers of this response also to read the Report and then to form your own conclusions. As you read, ask whether the process described in the Report – and the conclusions drawn from the material presented in support of those conclusions – would be acceptable in your own academic unit. Try to consider this situation objectively – not presuming either affirmation of the Report or opposition to it – and test it by the standards you apply in your own work and in your own life.

The Report

With a letter addressed to me dated February 6, 2015, David Robinson, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) forwarded the Report of an ad hoc investigatory committee that was asked (we are not told by whom or why) to

  • Determine whether there has been interference with the duties and responsibilities of the heads of the Department of Architecture;
  • Determine whether there has been interference with the research activities of faculty;
  • Determine whether there have been restrictions of academic freedom;
  • Determine whether there has been interference with the functioning of committees;
  • Consider other issues that may arise in the course of its investigation;
  • Make any appropriate recommendations.

The letter further states that “The Committee has been successful in gathering a great deal of information and has conducted numerous interviews in order to fulfil its terms of reference. Its report was sent to the CAUT Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee which has approved it for publication.” [my emphases]

I indicated when CAUT first announced its intention to investigate the Faculty of Architecture that I have serious problems with such undertakings, both from a jurisdictional and a process perspective. I made clear my reservations about what I saw as an inherently flawed process, well outside CAUT’s jurisdictional boundaries, and infringing on the University of Manitoba’s.

Even with the best of intentions, such external investigations are inherently flawed because there can be no guarantee that all the relevant information is available to the investigators. Those who do choose to speak to an external investigating committee are bound by laws and policies protecting information pertaining to individuals or confidential proceedings from being shared with those outside the University. This means that if confidential information is material, as is often true in investigations, the investigating committee will be lacking crucial information. Further, the investigating committee cannot compel witnesses and thus cannot ensure that an appropriate diversity of perspectives and views have been taken into account. In my view this renders such investigations of questionable value.

There are internal processes that can be invoked when there is difficulty between or among colleagues. These processes, because they are internal, can have access to a variety of sources of information that are not available to anyone outside the University. However, in this case those internal processes were not invoked, except for the filing of a few grievances which were all addressed informally.

Method

This leads to my first specific disappointment with the Report, which claims (p. 5):

To ensure fairness to persons potentially affected in a material [sic] adverse way by preliminary findings in the Committee’s report, each was sent a letter with a summary of those preliminary findings and with an invitation to respond to any preliminary findings they felt were incorrect. We have reviewed the responses and modified our findings as appropriate.

This statement occurs on the same page as a statement of “noteworthy” aspects of the Committee’s interviews, from which I select the last:

We were told by a number of the faculty that they welcomed the CAUT inquiry because their attempts to resolve the matter internally had not worked: that they had brought their concerns to senior university officials, including Vice-President and Provost Joanne Keselman, to no avail.

In fact, Provost Keselman did not receive any indication of what would be said about her. Provost Keselman is a longstanding and highly respected member of this academic community. The implication that she refused to act in response to faculty members’ concerns is an extremely serious one to make.

Further, also on the same page, Linda Guse, Executive Director of the University of Manitoba Faculty Association (UMFA) is quoted in support of the general point that the administration of the University has not responded to approaches by faculty members or UMFA.

The committee should have followed its own procedure and allowed Provost Keselman the opportunity to respond to the broad allegation against her. Had the committee done so, it could have learned that, in fact, after a series of meetings in which general concerns were raised but no specific formal complaints were lodged, the Provost wrote to Linda Guse on October 13, 2013. In that letter the Provost indicated that she clearly could not make any statement about the possible outcome without receiving the evidence, but offered to attempt to resolve the issues through a process in which: she would accept written input or statements from in-person meetings; if she determined that the matters presented warranted response she would inform the Dean and provide him with the assembled material; she would then conduct interviews with each faculty member who had responded (with a Union representative if they so desired) where the Dean would be present; and she would ensure there would be no reprisals. In a response dated November 1, 2013, Linda Guse stated that “given its [the letter’s] content” she saw no purpose in meeting again.

This University certainly operates on the principle that complaints or accusations must be documented, that those accused can know the accusations and the source of them, and that the accused can make a response. In fact, these principles are part of the process outlined in the University’s collective agreement with UMFA. The process proposed by the Provost was entirely consistent with these principles. Certainly UMFA would demand that these principles be adhered to if any of its members were subject to criticism.

Why did UMFA not want to apply commonly agreed principles to accusations against another member of the scholarly community? Was CAUT aware – and were the members of the investigatory committee aware – that a response had been offered by the Provost and turned down by UMFA? On what basis does CAUT actually decide to establish investigatory committees? How can the University and UMFA work together to achieve common goals when agreed procedures can be bypassed by some from outside?

Findings

In keeping with the committee’s statement that those named who could be affected in a materially adverse way were given an opportunity to respond to draft findings, the committee members claimed they “revised our findings as appropriate.” Four members of the University community were given the opportunity to respond and did so: Dean Stern, Associate Dean (Academic) Marcella Eaton, Vice-Provost David Collins and Human Rights and Conflict Management Officer Jackie Gruber. In each case, the responses disagreed entirely with the construal of the draft report. Although some of the draft findings were revised and some quotations from the responses were incorporated in the Report, most of what was written in response to the draft had little apparent impact on its direction.

Interference with the Duties and Responsibilities of the Heads of the Department of Architecture

The thrust of this part of the Report is that “Stern has been Dean … since the fall of 2010. In that time, there have been three Heads of the Department of Architecture, a rate of churn that clearly indicates trouble at the top.” The three Heads in question are Professors Nat Chard, Frank Fantauzzi and Terri Fuglem.

Contrary to the allegation of “churn”, in fact Nat Chard’s term came to its intended end prior to Dean Stern arriving. Frank Fantauzzi ended his term as Head early, and Terri Fuglem, who was named acting Head, is currently still in the position.   So in the five years of his deanship there has been one early departure from the headship of the Department of Architecture. There may be significance in that, but it is certainly not easy to conclude from that departure alone that there is “trouble at the top.” It would be good if the investigatory committee more carefully matched its conclusions to its data.

There is also a criticism that the Dean interfered with the work of Terri Fuglem with respect to an accreditation process. In spite of Vice-Provost Collins’ statement that the Dean acts as “program head”, the investigatory committee seems not to have understood that the program structure for Architecture includes the undergraduate program in design together with the graduate program in architecture, so that it is necessary to involve a team of people in preparing the accreditation material.

The Report says that the Dean “directed much of the program head’s role was to be played by another faculty member, Herb Enns, who substantially authored the report [prepared for the accreditation review committee].” It is important to note that Prof. Enns was not interviewed by the CAUT committee, nor was he alerted to the publication of a reference to him in the report. He was not given the opportunity to respond. After the CAUT Report was released, Professor Enns wrote to me on February 10, 2015, a letter of 4 pages that lays out in considerable detail the process of developing the documentation needed for the accreditation process, from the beginning of his involvement – six weeks before the report was due, at which point less than 20 pages of material had been submitted to the Dean. These passages are quoted from that letter:

I state unequivocally that I am not the substantial author of the 2014 Canadian Architectural Certification Board (CACB) Architecture Program Report (APR). Further I did not “play the role of Department Head” in the process of its production. These statements written by the Members of the CAUT Ad hoc Committee… are false and extremely misleading. …

For the CAUT Investigative Team to state that I was the substantial author of the APR is patently false, absolutely misleading, an immense disservice to the many contributors who willingly helped without reservation to complete the task under trying circumstances, and ignores the significant contribution and participation of Dean Stern, Dr. Eaton, and Prof. Fuglem throughout the process. They are the principal authors.

This episode illustrates in a powerful manner the limitations of the process that CAUT uses to produce documents like the Report on Architecture at UM. The investigators had partial information, and either did not attempt to get a full picture or were unable to do so.

Interference with the Research Activities of Faculty

The centerpiece of the discussion in this part of the Report is commentary on the Centre for Architectural Structures & Technology (CAST), and the work of Professor Mark West, who is quoted for almost a page. The Report says, “We emphasize the case of CAST only because it was the most serious and because the vast majority of our interviewees raised it with us.”

This is an example of the inherent limitation of not having access to all confidential information.

Professor James Blatz, Associate Vice-President (Partnerships) had written to me before the Report appeared, on January 14, 2015. Professor Blatz indicated that he had been invited into the conversation on these matters by the Provost because of safety and liability concerns. Professor Blatz acknowledged that there were serious liability concerns arising out of the activities taking place in the CAST building. He offered specific guidance and supports in an attempt to mitigate the risks and advised of the appropriate agreements required to comply with University policies. However, none of Professor Blatz’s concerns were addressed and his advice was not followed.

There is strong evidence to support this point, but privacy legislation prohibits me from commenting further – providing further weight to the inappropriateness of a body without standing, external to the university, purporting to investigate matters about which it cannot possibly gain a complete understanding.

Restrictions of Academic Freedom

This part interprets the Dean’s encouragement that some members of faculty should meet with the Human Rights and Conflict Management Officer, Jackie Gruber, as a violation of academic freedom. The committee comes to this conclusion in spite of Ms. Gruber’s insistence that her role is “to educate, help resolve conflict, and if a formal complaint is filed, ensure that an investigator is appointed and does a thorough and fair review.”

It surely must be clear to anyone reading the Report that there is tension in the Faculty of Architecture, and it is not surprising that the University official responsible for helping members of our community to understand the relevant policy might be asked to do precisely that.

Interference with the Functioning of Committees

This part of the Report is so vague that I am unable to respond to it. The statements in this section would not be acceptable to UMFA in any internal proceeding where a member of the bargaining unit was being accused.

Other Issues that May Arise in the Course of the Investigation

The final part of the Findings section of the Report is an egregious personal attack on Dean Stern. This is, to return to a continuing theme, something that neither UMFA nor CAUT would tolerate if directed at one of their members. If a faculty member were being criticized for the way in which work was carried out, sources of personal criticism would be expected to be named, if not by attributing statements to individuals at least by indicating who participated in such discussions.

It is particularly disturbing to see the statement that the Dean “could not be regarded as the chief academic of his Faculty in any meaningful way (particularly since the Ph.D. he was working on when he was hired has failed to materialize).” A very broad statement is made first, with one particular cited in support of it. Having a Ph.D. was not a requirement for the position when the Dean was hired. And this is not a singular occurrence, since the one member of the investigative team who comes from a faculty of architecture and indeed has served as dean there, does not apparently himself have a Ph.D. (The institutional web site lists him as having bachelor and master’s degrees in architecture.) Nor do the Deans currently serving in the Faculties of Architecture at Dalhousie and Toronto, for example.

Why does the committee find it appropriate to introduce a fact of this sort as the only specific support for such a general conclusion? Why set a standard for this Dean that is apparently not a standard for others and was not a requirement for his appointment to the position?

Recommendations

There are two recommendations in the Report, viz., the immediate termination of the Dean, and the commencement of a search for a new dean “consistent with [UM] policy and in consultation with members of the Faculty of Architecture.” This assumes that the stresses in the Faculty are solely attributable to the Dean, when instead they predate his arrival.

The committee had to know that a reappointment review committee – formed in a manner that accords with UM policy – was at work when this Report was submitted to me. I note that the committee through this Report, in its first recommendation, appears intent to undermine a process constituted in a manner consistent with the University’s policy, and then reminds me that our University policy should be followed when dealing with the second recommendation! The recommendations are perplexingly inconsistent.

My Concluding Remarks

I remind you of the statement in the letter of transmittal that I quoted earlier in this response:

The Committee has been successful in gathering a great deal of information and has conducted numerous interviews in order to fulfil its terms of reference. [my emphases]

Perhaps this is true, but we are not told who provided input to the committee – How many faculty? How many staff? How many students? – and we do not know what they said, other than in the cases of the handful who were named and quoted. This anonymity would be completely unacceptable to UMFA in any proceeding against one its members.

As an illustration of my point, Professor Alan Tate, Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture in the Faculty of Architecture, has written me that he met with the investigatory committee and told them that he has no problems in working with the current Dean.

It is not surprising that there would be a difference of opinion about working relationships with any particular member of the University community. What is surprising, and suspicious, is that the Report that has been delivered gives only modest recognition to views other than those that support the conclusions presented (such as Vice-Provost David Collins’ clarification of the responsibilities for dealing with the accreditation process, or Jackie Gruber’s clarification of her role) and then impugns or ignores them. Further, there are clearly other views about the work of the Dean (such as Professor Tate’s communication to the committee and to me), yet nothing of that was presented in the Report.

Was the outcome determined before the committee began its work? How much other evidence was not reported? Why is there little sign of weighing evidence or comparing different perspectives? It is simply not credible that everyone in the Faculty would see everything in precisely the same way.

A message from Dr. Thomas Kucera, president of UMFA, was sent to all members announcing the availability of the Report. I received a copy of this message from a member of the bargaining unit who was responding to CAUT. The final paragraph of that message is this:

We hope that the administration will give careful consideration to the contents of the CAUT report and will institute changes that will begin to restore a positive and collegial atmosphere in the Faculty of Architecture that supports, rather than undermines, the work of our Members in their teaching, research and service.

I agree that a positive and collegial atmosphere that supports the work of UMFA members – and other employee groups and students and alumni and partners – is highly desirable in the Faculty of Architecture and throughout the University of Manitoba.

The University has processes in place to deal with such matters. The reappointment review process is a case in point. It did its work in accordance with established University policy and had access to a wide range of information.

The preliminary work of the review process had been completed when the CAUT Report was issued. After the publication of the Report, on February 27, 2015 Dean Stern issued a statement that he had indicated to the Provost the previous week that he would withdraw from the process. It included this paragraph:

As I am strongly committed to the renewal and improvement of the Faculty of Architecture, aligned with the University’s strategic goals and priorities, I allowed my name to stand for reappointment and did so trusting the University of Manitoba’s processes, which I consider to be fair and professional. However, a number of elements, internal and external to the Faculty of Architecture, have attempted to undermine the University of Manitoba processes. In my opinion, their actions have jeopardized the reputation of the Faculty and the success of our students. Given the current circumstances, it is not possible to lead and forge new directions in this compromised environment beyond the end of my current term of August 31, 2015.

The fundamental question for us as an academic community is whether we are able and willing to govern ourselves responsibly in these matters, or whether we prefer to have relatively small numbers of people from inside our community invite UMFA and CAUT to arrange to have external reviewers – with limited access to pertinent information – shape our future?

Consider how you want to govern your own department or faculty. Consider what is good for our students and how we can best hold this institution in trust for the people of Manitoba. Form your own opinion about the value of Reports such as this.

Addendum

On February 25, 2015 Professor Kucera, President of UMFA, distributed an “UMFA Statement on the CAUT Reports on Economics and Architecture.” That document repeats the misrepresentation of the interaction between UMFA and Provost Keselman that I have already addressed above, so I will not go into that again. However, the document also makes a number of statements about me, some of which are true and some of which are not.

  • I agree that there have been longstanding tensions both in the Department of Economics and in the Faculty of Architecture. I am not aware that anything I have said or done denies that, in spite of what Professor Kucera states. The stresses in both units predate the particular circumstances on which the CAUT investigations focused.
  • What I have taken issue with, in general, is the invocation of external processes (that are inherently limited in their possibilities) as a mechanism to deal with the stresses inside the University rather than working with the processes that we have together determined internally, or that have been offered in response to our commonly agreed principles in special cases (as the Provost offered with respect to Architecture).
  • More particularly, I take issue with external processes that seem intentionally timed to interfere with internal processes (headship search in Economics, decanal reappointment review in Architecture, headship search in Architecture). I would have expected UMFA to take issue with them as well, since much of what we do internally is as a result of negotiations involving UMFA over a number of years.
  • I have also taken issue with the less than careful treatment of information and weighing of evidence in the CAUT Reports, at times even the ignoring of input received.
  • I agree that we need to guard against attacks on academic freedom. I differ with UMFA on how the danger to academic freedom arises. I take issue with using the term academic freedom loosely. In my view, the greatest threat to academic freedom in Canada is attempts to stretch the use of the term to protect behaviour that is not associated with the pursuit of knowledge, but rather with advancing personal agendas.
  • I am pleased to see in Professor Kucera’s note that UMFA is “willing to work with the administration and with other involved unions to consider all possible remedies, including the recommendations in the CAUT reports.” I have little interest in the specific recommendations of the CAUT reports for reasons I have explained. But I and my colleagues in University leadership roles are certainly committed to working with UMFA leaders to resolve problems, based on dealing in good faith and taking into account the interests of all persons on whom the stresses in the units have an impact.

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