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The planned university

The planned university

A new Strategic Framework that’s being developed promises to help chart the course forward for Queen’s in unsettled times.

Provost Alan Harrison  and I, working in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, have been busy developing a multi-year Strategic Framework and a set of metrics and milestones to allow us to evaluate the University’s progress. This process should be complete later this fall, and when approved will provide the capstone to a prolonged period of planning that is probably unprecedented in the history of Queen’s.

The Strategic Framework itself is ­exactly what the name suggests — a framework. And it is a structure that could not be erected until some firm foundations had already been laid. Those included the ­Academic Plan and Strategic Research Plan, both approved by Senate in the 2011-12 academic year.

Preincipal Daniel Woolf

The Framework reflects the values and ideals of those two foundational academic documents, while integrating a number of other planning documents, some of which are still underway. For instance, among the goals of both the Academic and Research Plans are an increased push to internationalize Queen’s – through curricular change as much as through the addition of international students and the creation of other international opportunities.

A group led by Vice-Provost (International) James Lee, with input from a small task force of University Councilors that includes Colin Lynch, Com’07; Janet Lambert, Artsci/PHE’83; and Scott Fairley, Artsci’74, Law’77, has developed a set of ­internationalization priorities that forms part of the Framework. Finally, a critical piece in the overall planning structure is an update of the Campus Master Plan, which should be completed in the 2013-14 academic year, the first major update of that Plan in well over a decade.

I’ll have more to say about the Strategic Framework and its metrics in future columns in the Review. I will also share with you more information about a closely related issue that Senators, Trustees, and Councilors will consider in the fall, namely the question “How big should Queen’s be?” That subject is worth a column all on its own.

All of this planning has taken a great deal of time. There are plenty of different stakeholders who have wanted to participate and whose input the University has needed: students, faculty, staff, retirees, members of the local Kingston community, our Board and Senate, University Council, and, of course, you as alumni from whom we hear regularly through Alumni Relations and via your QUAA Board.

The plans and the Framework provide a sense of destination, a direction for the University, and some strong guidelines on how to get there. They can’t anticipate every eventuality or change. After all, we live in changeable times, with much uncertainty and fluidity, both economic and technological. Any plan has to be adaptable and flexible. To use a nautical metaphor of which I’m fond, our collective planning provides a set of charts and ways of assessing our progress, but we will still have to be nimble enough to adjust our course in the face of unanticipated obstacles and the inevitable heavy seas or adverse winds.

As a diverse, multifaceted university, Queen’s is more like a fleet than a ship. Proper incentives are needed to ensure that all parts of this fleet are moving together while still being able to achieve their own academic and research aspirations.

Along with the Strategic Framework, the Provost and Deans – the ships’ captains in this analogy – have agreed to a new mechanism for internal budgeting that for the first time makes absolutely transparent where the University’s money goes, how it is allocated among units, and who pays for what. Units will keep the revenue generated by their activities and will pay back to the University their portion of central or “shared” services. They will also pay directly for their usage of space (other than ­centrally-scheduled space), which should produce economies in our usage of this ­precious commodity. The development of the new budget model in parallel with the various planning processes has been quite intentional.

So we have in our budget model the engine and in our planning documents the maps and charts necessary to plot a course for Queen’s. The Initiative Campaign is the wind in our sails. In closing let me thank those of you who have already contributed generously and encourage others to join us in sending our University boldly on its way across the challenging seas ­before us.

And finally …

As an alumnus and as Principal, I’m excited about the return of Homecoming ­celebrations, as I know many of you are. The two Homecoming weekends this year – Oct. 4-6 and 18-20 – will provide us with wonderful opportunities for invited alumni to reconnect with each other, the campus, current students, and the Queen’s and Kingston communities.

As you know, the decision to bring back Homecoming was neither easy nor was it made in isolation. It took months of consultation with various partners, including alumni, students, and city officials. We worked toward this common goal because Homecoming is important to all of us in different ways.

My predecessor, Principal Tom Williams, first suspended Homecoming in 2008 after an unsanctioned street party ­became a serious threat to the safety of our students, alumni, and the Kingston community. In 2010, I extended the suspension, as I did not feel the pattern of unsafe behaviour had been broken sufficiently to warrant the event’s reinstatement. The safety of our students and others, at this or any other event, was then, and remains now, of paramount importance.

In recent years, however, I have been encouraged by the good judgment shown by the majority of our students and visitors in such circumstances. That is not to say all has been perfect – this year’s impromptu gathering on St. Patrick’s Day exhibited signs of the potentially dangerous behaviour that led to Homecoming’s cancellation in the first place – but it has improved to the point that we all deserve a chance to bring back this much-loved event and to play a role in its continuation beyond this year.

Many students, including student leaders, have been working closely with the University and other partners on programing for this year’s Homecoming weekends. The city of Kingston will open its doors to invited alumni, and local residents will participate in several of the weekends’ events. I hope that everyone involved will show respect for each other, respect for the community, and respect for Queen’s during this year’s festivities

 As I said last year when I announced the return of Homecoming, what we all want is an opportunity to celebrate what makes Queen’s great: our spirit and our initiative. I hope that our combined initiative and commitment to a safe and respectful celebration will enable invited alumni to return for Homecoming for years to come.

[Queen's Alumni Review 2013-3 cover]