Academic Restructuring Advocacy Update

What’s the GSA doing about academic restructuring?

18 December 2020

In summer 2020, the University launched its “U of A for Tomorrow” initiative to “address immediate financial pressures” through changes to the academic structure that will “support the U of A’s academic mission and vision into the future.” President Bill Flanagan struck the Academic Restructuring Working Group (ARWG), chaired by Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Steve Dew, and the Service Excellence Steering Committee (SESC), chaired by Vice-President (University Services & Finance) Todd Gilchrist, to carry out this project

GSA President Marc Waddingham was the sole graduate student representative on the ARWG. Mindful of the concerns raised by the graduate student community in relation to this work, the President has: 

  • Provided regular monthly updates to GSA Council (see GSA Council Archive),
  • Extended an invitation to Provost Dew to connect with graduate students by giving a presentation before GSA Council in August 2020, and again to Dr. Dew as well as President Flanagan to attend the October 2020 meeting of GSA Council and participate in a highly involved conversation on the topic of academic restructuring and service excellence, in the interests of them hearing directly from graduate students about this initiative,
  • Hosted two town halls for graduate students on this topic, in September and November 2020 (videos here and here), as well as co-hosted a town hall alongside the Students’ Union (SU) in November 2020,
  • Participated in a number of departmental town halls throughout November,
  • Worked to disseminate information from the UAlberta Student Collective, a group of graduate students advocating in opposition to provincial defunding of post-secondary education and restructuring initiatives, via the 11 December 2020 GSA newsletter and on social media, and
  • Closely reviewed the written feedback provided to him by graduate students expressing concerns with restructuring initiatives and shared concerns with members of University administration on the ARWG.

While having reservations over the shared service hub model for the new colleges and concerns that a decentralized leadership model might make it difficult to advance initiatives aimed at improving the student experience (particularly student-supervisory accountability and the creation of minimum funding packages, amongst others), at the 11 December 2020 Board of Governors meeting GSA President Waddingham voted against a motion to amend a recommendation put forth by General Faculties Council (GFC) with respect to the leadership of the restructured institution (employing a college model) and spoke against the Board’s rejection of GFC’s recommendation as not in alignment with the principles of collegial governance.

It is also important to note that the GSA GFC Caucus, which is comprised of 14 at-large graduate student GFC members and is chaired by the GSA VP Academic Sachiketha Reddy (the GSA’s statutory voting member on GFC), has discussed this initiative at each of their four meetings in the Fall 2020 academic term. Furthermore, GSA Council—which meets monthly—is expected to further discuss the “U of A for Tomorrow” initiative at meetings in the Winter 2021 term. 

As this initiative moves into its next stage, it will be a topic of ongoing conversation and therefore feedback, questions, and concerns are all welcome to be submitted to the GSA President at