Phase 3: Developing a Proposal for AFC’s Approval

February 18, 2021 Arts Restructuring Update

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to provide the Faculty of Arts community with an update on the Faculty’s academic and administrative restructuring initiative.

When the restructuring initiative was launched in late August, attention was focused on reducing the number of Departments delivering our academic programs. The goal was to imagine constructive opportunities for bringing academic programs and Departments together into new, larger multiprogram Departments.

The restructuring initiative was planned to unfold in three overlapping phases. Phase 1 began with information sharing and consultations aimed at generating ideas and identifying risks associated with Departmental restructuring. In Phase 2, consultations focused on considering possible scenarios for building larger multiprogram Departments that would take advantage of program-level affinities regarding objects of study, methodologies, and the like. These consultations were extremely productive. Input from faculty, staff, and students highlighted some exciting possibilities for building new academic units, while also revealing the limits of our approach and the real costs associated with amalgamating certain Departments.

Early in the consultation process, the Chairs of our three Fine Arts Departments identified valuable opportunities that might be realized through joining together in a new, larger academic unit. For months now, academic and administrative leaders within the three Fine Arts Departments have been actively engaged in a process that could lead to the creation of a unified School of Design, Fine, and Performing Arts (with the actual name to be determined).

In January, the restructuring initiative shifted to Phase 3, which was to focus on finalizing a set of restructuring proposals to put before the Faculty for discussion and, eventually, approval at a meeting of Arts Faculty Council. However, in light of valuable feedback from fall term consultations, our focus has shifted from considering a significant number of Departmental amalgamations to focusing on one possible merger (Fine Arts) and, for most other Departments, exploring creative new approaches to bringing Departments together within shared administrative service units that ensure cost-effective support of our academic programs while maintaining Departmental autonomy. 

Currently, we have also been learning more about how the university-wide administrative restructuring associated with the Service Excellence Transformation (SET) initiative will alter organizational structures and work processes across the university. It is not an overstatement to say these reforms will be truly ‘transformative’, and it is increasingly clear that restructuring within our Faculty will be shaped by the imperatives of SET.

After Reading Week, I will be working with the Dean’s Executive and Chairs’ Council as we develop plans to bring existing Departments together within a small number of administrative service units that allow the Faculty to respond responsibly to new budget realities, organizational models, and administrative processes. This will allow most of the Faculty’s Departments to remain independent academic units. But no Department will remain untouched by administrative restructuring.

I remain committed to pursuing Departmental restructuring where there are exciting opportunities to be realized by doing so, such as in the Fine Arts. Beyond that, I believe our attention should shift to rationalizing the Faculty’s administrative and academic structures in ways that position our existing Departments to remain viable, thriving, and independent academic units.

When Chairs’ Council has come to some consensus on proposals to put before the Arts community, further consultations will be held within Departments and across the Faculty. Final proposals will also be brought to the Arts Faculty Council for endorsement and approval.

I want to thank you all for your patience during this long process. We purposefully avoided rushing consultations and are now taking the time required to make wise decisions that stand the test of time.

Take care,

Steve Patten
Interim Dean

History: Phases 1 and 2

In August 2020, leadership in the Faculty of Arts launched a three-phase process to consider and recommend Departmental Restructuring. Phase 1 began with information sharing and consultations aimed at generating ideas and identifying risks associated with Departmental Restructuring.

In Phase 2, October and November, consultations focused on possibilities for building larger multiprogram Departments that would take advantage of program-level affinities regarding objects of study, methodologies, and the like. These consultations were extremely valuable. Input from faculty, staff, and students highlighted some exciting possibilities, while also revealing the limits of our approach.

As the Winter Term begins, the Dean’s Executive and Chairs’ Council are working to launch Phase 3 of this process.

Phase 3

In Phase 3, the focus will shift from high level programmatic synergies and scenarios for consideration to finalizing proposals for the Faculty community to examine and approve. This process will begin, in January, with the Dean’s Executive and Chairs’ Council discussing concrete issues associated with the management of the Faculty’s budget and the availability of administrative resources in the context of the new College system and the university-wide administrative restructuring associated with the Service Excellence Transformation (SET) initiative. Central to this process will be identifying the administrative resources required to support the Faculty’s academic programs and research and creative activities.

Our goal is to determine where it makes sense to move forward with the creation of some new and larger multiprogram Departments, while also exploring new models for wisely sharing services between Departments. We will also be challenged to consider our approaches to structuring academic leadership positions, including evaluating the resources expended on faculty members engaged in administrative service.

Consultations during the Fall Term were invaluable for shaping our approach to developing a proposal for broad consideration. We will continue to consult as we move toward a proposal that can be put before Arts Faculty Council (AFC). Input from the Faculty community must shape any final proposal that AFC is asked to approve. Please note that draft proposals for consideration won’t likely be ready for widespread consideration until at least the middle of the Winter Term.

The Context of Departmental Restructuring

The University of Alberta is managing challenging fiscal realities and progressing through difficult processes of academic and administrative restructuring. In Fall 2020, the Service Excellence Transformation (SET) initiative unveiled a new administrative operating model that will guide Administrative Restructuring in 2021.

In December 2020, the Board of Governors approved a new College model that will see Arts join the Faculties of Business, Education, and Law in a new College of Social Sciences and Humanities as of July 1, 2021.

Decisions taken with respect to proposals for Departmental Restructuring must be made with due consideration of the implications of broader administrative restructuring and the creation of the new Colleges.

Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Decolonization in Departmental Restructuring

During Phase 1 and Phase 2 consultations, the concern was often raised that those most impacted by restructuring may be from equity-seeking groups.

Questions were asked as to how the process will affect or be affected by the Faculty’s commitment to procedural and substantive equity. Participants wanted to discuss how, in a time of reductions and reorganizations, we can work to further diversify our community and continue our dedication to good relations and support of Indigenous members. There were great conversations about how we, collectively, can work toward crafting a welcoming culture of inclusion.

Equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization (EDID) have been at the heart of the process design and rollout, and will continue to help shape the conversations around crafting a proposal for Departmental Restructuring and its implementation.

Key areas of action and aspiration for Departmental Restructuring in Arts:


We are committed to including equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization measures and efforts in every discussion about Departmental Restructuring.

We will work to guarantee that all consultations are accessible (ASL or close-captioning) and that all posted information is screen-readable.


We will ensure that all Department Restructuring meetings are safe and welcoming to all Arts members by offering the option of anonymous chat and other modes of feedback.

We will continue to run different sizes and formats of consultations as well as seek out targeted conversations with members of equity-seeking groups and allies.


We will craft proposals and support decisions informed by data that includes multiple and intersectional measures for demographic, disciplinary, or methodological diversity, etc. A joint effort between the Arts’ Committee on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (CEDI) and the Arts Working Group for Indigenous Initiatives (AWGII) is crafting a Workforce Profile Report for continual recalibration following Departmental Restructuring.


We commit to evaluating work-load equity in any of the proposed scenarios as well as the impact of SET on staff diversity. We will also evaluate the leadership configuration and governance of a restructured Faculty of Arts with substantive equity and diversity in mind.

We commit to ensuring we continue to offer the best services to support minority and equity-seeking members of our community.


We commit to exploring new and EDID-informed ways to measure the success of Departmental Restructuring following implementation.


We will continue to work together to create a welcoming culture by building community. This includes supporting and coordinating with EDI and Indigenous focused Departmental groups and working on wise practices for robust mentorship structures. These two items are a focus for CEDI, in partnership with AWGII, during the Winter 2021 Term.

Faculty of Arts Restructuring
Phase 1

Faculty of Arts Restructuring
Phase 2