We choose Concordia because it is a place with values that we share and a university that meets our academic and human needs in a way that no other institution can. Concordia’s Draft Strategic Directions – 2009-2014 outlines a course of action that will enable us to reach our strategic objective of becoming one of Canada’s best comprehensive universities, with the overall goal of becoming a first choice for students and faculty both locally and across Canada. High academic quality, outstanding student experience and services, and superlative community engagement and social responsibility are the key directions that we will take to ensure we meet this strategic goal. We have also fully recognized the necessity of superb management and skill in communicating our successes in order to achieve our three strategic directions and to publicize our success. An action or implementation plan will accompany Concordia’s strategic plan in order to set out the specific steps that have been identified as being necessary to the plan’s success.
The current document is being presented as a discussion document. Everything in it is presented by way of example only, and the document itself should thus be considered both incomplete and as inviting change and modification. Following a series of broad consultations, the President and the Executive Group will settle on a plan consisting of actions considered both necessary and feasible to shape Concordia’s destiny over the next five years. These actions will become the focus of Concordia’s first five-year planning cycle, to be approved by the Board of Governors and subject to annual revision.
Each of the three strategic directions has been subdivided into a number of “scopes of action”. Each “scope” groups actions into high-level areas necessary for the success of the strategic direction. Targets and actions provide a description of specific actions the University might take to ensure that the scope of action is sufficiently addressed. While targets do not include a description of exactly how the target will be reached, actions outline this aspect of the process, thus describing not only where Concordia feasibly wishes to be, but how it will get there. The indicators of success tell us how the Concordia community will be able to gauge our progress toward meeting our targets.
This document has been written with the entire recent history of the strategic planning process at Concordia in mind. The fine work of the strategic work groups, the subsequent input from the Senate Committee on Academic Planning and Priorities, and the feedback from the four Town Hall Meetings have all been taken into account. As Concordia comes ever closer to presenting its first institutional strategic plan, there will be more opportunities for you to provide your specific input on this document, as well as on the strategic plan itself.
As a student, it was a great experience listening to staff and faculty during the Nov. 26-27 consultations.
I think everyone involved would benefit from a brief article on the current status of the plan and its various facets. This article could appear on the planning website and in the Journal.
I make this suggestion only because some in attendance at the consultations were unaware a research plan even existed, yet it has already been tabled and passed.
A few questions that could be answered in a basic article:
What is the status of the teaching and learning group? What other groups are there? I was told by David Graham that a document on media/communications was issued recently. Will any of this be passing through senate? What are the tentative dates for the presidential panels? A very simple overview would answer these questions and put us all on the same page, as there seems to be some disconnect in this resource intensive planning process.
To this end, I also think everyone would benefit from some sort of interim-report or scoping document based on the collected material from phases 1-4.
Ideally, both the simple article and the interim-report would be made public well in advance of the presidential panels or any further consultations.
Barring that, as a professional journalist, I'd be happy to write a piece in the student press.
I'd actually be quite happy to be a beat reporter on administration/senate issues, but there is a question of time/finance.
There are journalism models that exist in which the community/donors fund the journalist to do the work. It's a possible avenue, but I would put some faith in the media relations department and this recent media report that David Graham told me about. If that fails, I think faculty and staff do have viable and affordable options for fair and accurate reporting.
A good start to an action plan would be to state how basic decisions are made:
offering a course section; setting a class size for a section; selection of teaching approach; canceling a section; creating a new course; modifying a course; creating a new program; establishing a new department; merging existing departments; setting a priority area for a department hiring; establishing the number of hires for an area and a schedule for hiring them; and so on. Then there could be a discussion of what is an adequate or suitable duration to propose, consult, and decide on such issues; and how that should be done. So much now seems to happen behind closed doors in a rushed manner which never allows time for consultation and debate.
Once the normal university decsion making processes are settled, we can turn to how to deal with exceptional situations.
Then we can discuss how these policies for decision-making procedures are discussed, modified, and ratified when change is required.
Powers of University Bodies and Individuals
Inherent in any planning process is a clear delineation of where certain decisions, strategic or not, are made; and how they are made. This has to be tied to control of budget, because that is the real power is.
So ... the strategic plan needs to define the powers of individual faculty members, departmental assemblies, department chairs, faculty councils, Deans, Senate (and its committees), Provost, Board of governors, and the President.
A mechanism is needed to support longer term planning. Why should a department put effort into planning for 3, 4, or 5 years hence if all budget and resource decisions are only made for the current or following year? I suggest that budgets be projected as well over the five-year span of the plan and that they be taken seriously; that is, once accepted by the planning process (including budgetary planning and oversight at the Board of Governors) that everyone is committed to them up to an agreed amount of variation, for example, a 2% variation in the current year's budget, 5% in the budget of year 2, then 10%, 15%, 25% allowable variation in the future years. In essence the budget would become more refined, defined, and committed as the years roll over.
A Process to Create and Modify a Strategic Plan and Budget
You are a long way from an action plan. You should step back a bit and think about the action plan to put in place a process for continual renewal of a plan and budget.
I believe Concordia needs to develop a process of strategic planning and budgeting that is truly grassroots based. Get the university community involved in the everyday decision-making then they will have an investment in making a strategic plan and the action plan to accomplish it, because it will decide how they go about making everyday decisions.
One approach is rolling five-year plans and budgets that allow one to plan both short-term and long-term, and to refine plans over time. Care needs to be taken to ensure that the short-term needs of planning course offerings and workloads does not prevent due consideration of longer-term plans about direction, curricula changes, new course development, and hiring to name a few. Preliminary proposals for plans and budgets should be made by departments and approved at department assembly for consideration by Faculty Council. Faculties should develop their preliminary plans and budgets based on department inputs. These should be approved by Faculty Council. Senate should develop the academic strategic plan and budget based on input from the faculties. At all levels there should be feedback. Although the decisions about budget and resource allocations will be made top-down, each faculty and department should be authorised to apply those allocations as they decide best fits their plan.
I would even suggest discussion of whether individuals should present rolling five year plans; proposed allocations of their time over the five years to teaching, research, and service; and a review of how last year's performance matched their plan.
I would definitely recommend that departments and faculties produce an annual report that is a public document. In the past, this was common practice in many departments, but died when centralized communications came along, first at the faculty level, and now at the university level.
Of course, these annual reports would present a review of the past year in rlation to the proposed plan and budget; as well as an update on the rolling five-year plan and budget.
I am generally very pleased with the "Strategic
Directions" document published on October
14, 2008. I am particularly encouraged to
see that in addition to the usual "education"
and "research" facets of a university's
responsibilities, our mission statement
once again incorporates the idea of social
responsibility under "community partnerships".
I'm also very happy to see that although we
recognize our requirement for funding beyond
that from governmental sources, as well as our
responsibility to respond to the needs of the
private sector for our "education, research
and community service", we don't enshrine the
private sector's financial contributions to
research as an explicit part of our strategic
plan. It's refreshing to see that the proposed
strategic directions are more responsive to the
public good than to perceived economic benefits.
This is appropriate and responsible for a public
institution such as ours.
However, I perceive the plan as lacking one small
item which is of importance to me. As a computer
analyst, I am a staff member whose professional
activities have the potential to contribute to
the welfare of the international community of
computer users, in particular in relation to
my contributions to Open Source Software, to
professional conferences, and to online interest
groups for people managing network and computer
resources. I would hope to see my contributions
supported in our strategic directions: whatever
excellence I am able to achieve while making
such contributions would certainly reinforce
Concordia's reputation as a hub of useful
creative activity by talented people.
Sadly, though, the separation of "research and
creative activity" (the third facet of Strategic
Direction I, "High Academic Quality") from
"community engagement and social responsibility"
(Strategic Direction III) makes it hard to see
where my activities fit into our plan.
I'm not sure why the third dimension of Direction
III is restricted to "engagement with the *local*
community"; in this day of instantaneous
worldwide communication, what is "local"?
Later in the same paragraph, we refer to
"connections with all levels of the community".
We know that knowledge is shared not only
formally through explicit teaching or through
research articles aimed at peers, but in other
ways too, as is suggested by the inclusion of
the item "outreach activities of academic and
administrative units and student groups".
Perhaps we could add to that same paragraph
something like "through the sharing of knowledge
with the wider community for example in the form
of media interviews, works of popularization,
and contributions of software or artwork".
Congratulations on providing some needed vision and pleased our senior administration is planning for the future. I recall last spring at the Town Hall mtgs that people were concerned with the "new image",the "new logo" the "new Journal".The problem is that there is no media forum or mechanism to write letters to the editor or to offer any public debate. While the Journal looks more professional and more corporate, it does not reflect us - the internal University community. Whose idea was it to get rid of the Thursday Report???
I have already contacted the Journal, giving them a suggestion (to forbide eating in the class room. Just eating prohebition) on why teachers and students eat in the class. And I gave an incident happen in a class I took last semester, where a teacher was explaining a lesson while eating food in his mouth, and the lesson was on "Model Behaviour". No one answered me and no mentioning of that was on the paper of the journal.
So, how we want to encourage good behaviour starting from teachers to reach the students, if my suggestion was not answered?