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Queen's University
 

Principal Woolf’s Report to the Board of Trustees

December 2, 2011

Speaking notes

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Good evening!

Hard to believe another term is over – and exams are about to begin…

It’s been another busy and productive term with lots of exciting initiatives and events.

Here are just a few examples:

Student Emma Ware combined 2 passions recently to win an international award for expressing her PhD thesis in modern dance!

Dr. Ware studied at the Queen’s Centre for Neuroscience Studies and transformed her thesis, “A Study of Social Interactivity Using Pigeon Courtship” into an interpretative dance video that shows how responses from female pigeons affect mating displays from the males.

She won the social science category of the annual “Dance Your PhD” contest, and was recognized by ScienceNow – the prestigious Science Journal’s affiliated news site.

You’ve got to see this video! Search ‘Emma Ware’ in the Queen’s News Centre…

Queen’s welcomed alumnus astronaut Drew Feustel back to campus last month. He returned a Queen’s banner he took up in space. I had the pleasure of receiving this from Dr Feustel at the start of a sell-out presentation by him in Grant Hall.

Women’s soccer team earned their 2nd consecutive national title last month in two thrilling final games won on penalty kicks. First back to back titles in Queen’s history!

These are just some of the most recent stories that reflect the Queen’s spirit in action.

Also, we did respond to a few challenges this term –

The Queen’s bands are working on an action plan to move their club forward after offensive membership materials were brought to our attention.

It’s been a difficult time for them but the executive has taken responsibility and is keen to effect change.

The university and the AMS are providing assistance to those students who have needed academic and personal support. The Bands are, as the cover of the latest Alumni Review demonstrates, a huge part of the soul of Queen’s. I’m absolutely confident that they will emerge from this period a stronger organization of which the university can continue to be proud.

We continue to adapt and adjust to the world around us – I’ll speak to our political, economic and sectoral context.

The U-15 Executive Heads will be meeting early in the new year with the PM to explain some of the challenges facing Canada’s research-intensive universities.

At the recent Ontario Economic Summit I talked with our new provincial Minister of TCU, Glenn Murray…

We have the complexity of a minority liberal government now in Ontario – more important than ever that we continue to communicate our priorities clearly and consistently in terms of where we want to go and identify possible areas of synergy between Queen’s and government interests.

The Speech from the Throne and the Fall economic statement did confirm the government’s continued financial challenges.

There will be no across the board cuts to health and education, which is positive news. On the other hand, it is difficult to see whence any significant increase in funding might come.

The promised average 30% tuition rebate will be rolled out in January, but it’s still unclear how this will be administered and how lost revenue will be replaced by the government.

There’s been a lot of commentary in the media of late about PSE, the value of an undergraduate education and the role of universities and colleges in today’s economy and society; the need to focus on excellence in teaching is finally getting the attention it is due.

It underscores the imperative for us (and our peer institutions) to renew our efforts to demonstrate the value and quality of the education and experience we offer to our students.

I want now to talk briefly about three externally-focused areas of collaboration and partnership that align with trends in PSE and meet the interests of both Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.

1 - University-college partnerships and community engagement

-Memorandum of Understanding with St Lawrence College

-My second community breakfast

-Recent honouring of alumnus Peter Milliken (Alumni Achievement Award) and former Kingston MP and Federal Cabinet Minister Flora MacDonald (Agnes Benidickson award) re Queen’s history of public service and national contributions

2 - Research that improves quality of life

-Military and Veteran Health Research Forum

-Professor John McGarry’s (Political Studies) recent Trudeau fellowship – world-renowned expert on conflict resolution, impacting thousands of lives.

3 - Internationalization

-Vice-Principal Steven Liss and Innovation Park Director Janice Mady recently returned from a trip to Europe, where they made progress strengthening Queen’s ties in Germany, France and the UK.

-They met with companies in all 3 countries interesting in partnering with Queen’s, along with government and diplomatic officials.

-This is just an example of the kind of outreach we need to do, and are doing, as we continue to explore opportunities around the globe.

I hope to say more about our internationalization strategy in March.

We are undertaking all of these initiatives in an increasingly complex political, economic and social environment and that is why at tomorrow’s trustees’ session, we will focus on the external environment and its impact on Ontario PSE.

I am delighted to announce the unanimous Senate approval of the University Academic Plan! This occurred on November 22nd and is an enormous step forward for Queen’s.

The Plan is the result of a herculean effort involving the participation of hundreds of people - students, faculty, and staff - across campus.

Echoing University historian Duncan McDowell, Queen’s must continue to adhere to our brand and resist being pushed into things that don’t fit our vision for our future. Our Academic Plan will help keep us on track.

At the last Board meeting in September I used the sailing metaphor of “mending sails and securing a senior crew” to describe work at Queen’s over the past 2 years.

To expand: we now have a key navigational chart – the Academic Plan – as we map our course forward.

I would ask the Academic Plan Task Force Chair Peter Taylor to stand and be recognized for this important contribution…

I look forward to delving into the details of the Plan with you at our March meeting when we will all have had time to digest its contents and can speak about implementation.

Senate has been involved in some extensive and very productive discussions about the future of the university in the context of the Academic Plan.

I do now want to put on my “Chair of Senate” hat to convey to you all some concerns expressed by Senators.

First, as you may know, the Faculty of Arts and Science has decided to suspend admission to the Bachelor of Fine Arts program for one year.

The reason was resource-based and Senate asked me to convey to you its concerns about the decision.

I should note the decision will not affect current students in the program and in the coming months, Arts and Science, faculty members and students will explore curriculum models that will ensure the continuation of the study of fine arts at Queen’s, and reassess the BFA program, specifically and its capacity.

Further, I wish to convey to you, on behalf of Senate, the perception of some Senators that the Board’s directive for balanced budgets is causing a serious deterioration of academic quality at Queen’s.

However, as I have noted many times in the past few years, the cause of our financial crunch is not a Board directive. It is the fact that the university is spending more money than it is taking in.

I know trustees and Senators are acutely aware of this problem as it continues to affect faculties across campus. I think members of both governing bodies will agree that the ongoing cuts, experienced now for several years, have had a significant effect on the quality of the classroom experience, though not yet one I believe that is irreversible if we can act decisively in the next few years.

This is precisely why the Provost is building a new budget model - to find a means to put our finances back on track for the long term and prevent any further erosion in the educational experience.

A shared agreement on future goals and a shared understanding of the difficulties we face will be indispensable to our success. Let me borrow from the great ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who chronicled Athens’ fall from its position as ruler of the Greek world, in the late fifth century. The heart of Western civilization and power around the Aegean, it allowed dissension and hubris to lead it to defeat in the Peloppenesian war, and never regained its privileged place. We have been in some ways an Athens to Canada, a seat of knowledge and wisdom that has advised governments and improved Canadian life since at least Grant’s time. If we are to continue, if we are not to follow the example of Athens, then we all have a responsibility to continue to work together collaboratively to explore solutions and opportunities to strengthen Queen’s as we chart the course ahead.

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