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Feedback period for UNB Academic Plan too short, according to town hall meeting

Not everyone agrees on what direction the UNB Academic Plan draft should take, but many members of the UNB community agree that its being put through its feedback stage far too quickly.

On Wednesday, Sept. 27, the Wu Conference Centre hosted a town hall surrounding the UNB Academic Plan for both the Fredericton and Saint John campuses, with more than 100 members of the UNB community present.

This bi-campus initiative is a strategic outline meant to determine the priorities of the University, and the goals they wish to achieve in the future. This plan will have an important role in determining what departments take priority for things such as increased funding and new faculty, which could have an impact on student education.

The plan in discussion is set to be presented to the board on Oct.19, but many at the town hall felt that the process is being rushed, and that more time is needed to formulate the plan effectively.  

The Academic Policy Committee is still taking feedback until Oct. 4, but according to UNB professor Susan Blair, that isnt enough time for faculties to have the meetings they need in order to provide adequate feedback that produces some sort of consensus.

Were really struggling to try and get in a coherent kind of framework for this and get that feedback in and really engage in the process,” she said.

Key points in the UNB Academic Plan include interdisciplinary initiatives, the creation of a PhD program in Business, improving course transferability between the Fredericton and Saint John campuses and addressing needs regarding faculty renewal, space demands and other concerns.

Other notable concerns brought up by those that spoke up at the town hall included a debate around embracing change versus maintaining tradition, a lack of detail in the academic plan and the prioritization of certain faculties over others.

When so many faculties say they need more faculty and more resources, it’s understandable that not everyone will be satisfied. But how is it decided which programs are prioritized? Susan Blair says that this is partly what the Academic Plan is about.

The question of how those decisions are made— thats what were trying to decide, thats what this academic plan is about. Were trying to come up with a way where in the long term, year after year, we can have clear, transparent, open processes,” she said.

Despite this being something that largely impacts students, there were very few present at the town hall. Susan Blair believes that not only is it important for students to be aware and to have a voice things that will affect their education, but that theres also something to be gained from being a part of the process.

I think its also a really interesting thing to see us working through these problems as a group coming together to solve them together. I think thats a lesson about how we can govern ourselves.

The moderator of the event on the Fredericton campus, George MacLean, UNB vice-president academic, is happy that there was an active conversation taking place surrounding the draft academic plan. 

“The turnout and discussions demonstrate a high level of interest, and we are grateful to have such an engaged community actively taking part in the academic planning process,” said MacLean.

“We are very pleased with the discussion and input that took place at Town Hall. Academic planning is an ongoing process and in that spirit, the draft plan is meant to be a living document. The planning committee will be collecting comments and feedback before presenting to the university’s Senates and Board of Governors.”

Anyone who wants to provide feedback on the current draft of the UNB Academic plan can do so by emailing comments to Julie Redstone-Lewis at jarl@unb.ca, but they will no longer be taking comments after Oct. 4.

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