Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 22/3/2016 (1603 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
“Universities are places where debate is open and encouraged ... that’s academic life, that’s the lifeblood of debate and engagement that we live on here and that we try to convey to our students.”
— Steve Robinson, Brandon University’s acting vice-president academic and provost
The initially sunny burst of community optimism that greeted the announcement of a joint business school in Brandon by BU president Gervan Fearon and Assiniboine Community College president Mark Frison last November is slowly being overshadowed by a growing storm of internal controversy at BU.
Last week, the Sun received several leaked documents that suggest a backlash against the proposal by faculty and department leaders, including Heather Gillander, the university’s business administration chair.
As we reported yesterday, a memo written by Gillander and addressed to Fearon on Feb. 12 advises the proposal is “significantly different” than the one originally presented to her department in September 2015. The initial proposal apparently received majority support from the business administration department.
As such, Gillander wrote that a majority of the department’s faculty members voted “not to participate in the joint program as currently described.”
There are apparently several points in dispute as the proposal currently stands. Gillander also noted in her memo to Fearon that the concept currently being discussed is not a new, innovative program and will ultimately “reduce pathways for students, and in the department’s opinion, will reduce the number of students taking a business program in Brandon.”
Her report also accuses Frison of making demands upon the university, stating that the deal won’t go forward unless students spend the first two years of the four-year program at ACC — an assertion Frison says is based on a misunderstanding of the dialogue between the two institutions.
At the same time, Gillander suggests the university will sustain a net loss from both the transfer fo students with ACC and from the MBA program, with the university losing about $100,000 in 2021-22.
“There is no financial benefit to the university from the joint program,” Gillander wrote.
The current business school proposal has already received affirmation at the department level, BU’s Arts Faculty Council, senate and board of governors. According to BU economics Prof. Joe Dolecki, who leaked the documents to the Sun last week, a motion moved by business administration Prof. Darek Klonowski to have the AFC withdraw its support of the joint business school failed by an 11-6 tally at a March 15 AFC meeting.
A subsequent motion, moved by business administration Prof. Michael Malazdrewicz, proposed that the AFC “reaffirm its support but also recommend that external assistance, as agreeable to the department, is offered to the department in planning its collaboration with ACC.”
Steve Robinson, as noted above, says these kinds of bumpy-road discussions and debates are to be expected when two entities come together in this kind of merger. But the fact remains that there seems to be a growing belief among affected faculty that the business school proposal is being rammed through without due diligence. And this needs to be addressed before the two institutions can move forward on a joint business school — if they can agree to move forward at all.
The hurdle here is obvious, though not insurmountable. The role of a community college that specializes in addressing skilled trade shortages in our province is quite different than the think-tank setting of a university discipline. The two cultures are unique and have at their core a different raison d’etre. And from these differences often arises a prejudice among university staff that the quality of education at a trade school is somehow lacking by comparison.
And that’s unfair.
But if Gillander is right, and the proposed MBA program will actually grant a masters in accounting — thus more skilled trade than academic — concerned faculty members at BU may have a fair point.
If the university and the college administrations are still intent upon holding a “soft opening” for the program this fall, there is very little time to change the program’s direction. Perhaps both sides should slow down a bit and try to come to a better consensus of what this new business school should be. And if that takes an extra year, so be it.
After all, it’s not in the community’s interest to see the proposal fail.
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