Directions II

On June 25, 1996, the President of McMaster, Peter George, gathered a group of senior administrators together to establish the agenda for a strategic planning session dedicated to academic planning in light of the "Directions" document approved by Senate and the Board of Governors in 1995. The discussions on June 25 led to an agreement for a planning session held on July 10 and 11 with the following agenda items: Institutional Renewal, Revenue and Funding, Administrative Support and McMaster Student Body. For each agenda item, three individuals among the group were charged with the responsibility of writing a position paper that was distributed to the entire team prior to the planning session. The individuals who participated in the planning session are listed at the end of this report.

Even though this report is categorized according to the agenda, the agenda items are not mutually exclusive. The agenda and the position papers generated considerable discussion but little controversy. The purpose of this document is to relate our discussions to the University community. Some of our discussions led to specific decisions. Some of these decisions represent operational agreements among members of the senior academic team. In other cases, the decisions require approval of University bodies, such as Senate, and we have no intent to bypass the duly structured academic governance structure. Other decisions from the planning session are more general and set out an intention or process. However, even these more general decisions establish a direction and tone.

We distribute our report for your consideration and review. We would not be disseminating this document if we were not genuinely interested in your input and willing to amend our views in light of cogent, reasoned, persuasive arguments. I am making the rounds of Faculty Councils in September and I expect that some of the items reported here will be discussed. In addition, the President and Provost will convene several town hall meetings to allow a fuller discussion of the issues raised in this report. You should feel free to relay your comments to any member of the senior academic planning group listed at the end of this document. However, as rapporteur, it is my task to collate the comments and to ensure that they receive further study. So, please send, or copy, your comments to me (UH-201 or

Reported by Harvey Weingarten,
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)


Universities in Ontario are still reeling from the recent substantial reduction in government funding. This unprecedented cut in post- secondary funding continues a long and unbroken history of funding cuts to Ontario universities. The pressures on universities appear unceasing and come from all sides. We are asked to be leaders of social change but are also assessed as being the battleground for zero-tolerance, "hot-button" politics on the right and left. We are to permit accessibility to all but to consider privatization. We are to uphold centuries-old traditions of scholarship but also to put practices in place to demonstrate immediate accountability. We are asked to do more, with less, but in everything we do we must be excellent.

The participants in the planning session are not sure they have all the answers (if we did, someone, in these times, would ask us to patent them). But, we are convinced that for this University to maintain a reputation of which we can be proud, we must think carefully about institutional renewal. We cannot remain stagnant, nor simply downsize with across-the-board cuts every time the government grant is reduced. At the planning session, these sentiments distilled to considerations of how to accrue funds for institutional renewal, how to make faculty appointments, and how to establish priority areas for institutional renewal.

1. Some, but not all, of the resources for institutional renewal should accrue centrally to allow for cross-unit reallocations. To this end:

a) For the 1997-98 budget, we recommend continuation of the practice of accumulating a central reallocation pool by maintaining a one per cent tax on all budget lines.

b) To increase monies available in a central reallocation fund, we will initiate a vigorous review of budget lines and ask whether our resources are being used in ways that best benefit areas designated for institutional renewal. This investigation will begin with accounts held in the Provost's office and Hooker endowment funds (see I.7).

2. To increase funds available for institutional renewal in the next two years, we will initiate discussions to explore the possibility of using pension surplus to fund the bridging cost of the recent early retirement program. We appreciate that this discussion is one of sensitivity and involves multiple stakeholders at McMaster, not only faculty. We appreciate, further, that any decision to use pension funds to support the early retirement program may require an agreement on how the funds liberated by this action would be used. Items of institutional renewal, such as faculty hirings and appropriate computing/information technology systems, would be, for us, a top priority.

3. The current financial plan calls for an operating surplus three years from now. Were this to be realized, the highest priority for these funds would be to support faculty and institutional renewal. We believe that Faculty envelopes should retain any operating surplus they accumulate, because the Faculties are the proximal agents of institutional renewal. But our inclination is to apply surpluses accumulated in non-academic units beyond the level provided for in the budget control policy to a central reallocation pool to be used for those initiatives and hirings consistent with our academic mission. These monies will only be realized if we conform to our current financial plan. This reality highlights the importance of reducing our expenditures to those called for in the financial plan. We are concerned that, already, we are lagging behind our target.

4. A discussion of faculty renewal forces two questions. First, should the control of faculty hirings be more local (Faculty Deans) or more central (Provost and President)? Second, what is the correct balance between tenure-track (TT) and contractually limited appointments (CLA)? We have reached consensus on the following:

a) As long as a Faculty Dean has sufficient funds within the Faculty envelope, it should be up to the Dean and Faculty to recommend a CLA without requiring intervention or approval by the Provost. The Provost shall be informed by Deans of CLAs and shall continue to monitor the appointment process.

b) TT appointments represent our key and longest-lasting commitment to institutional renewal. Thus, all TT appointments will continue to require approval from the Provost and President. In this context, we note that some Faculties have, for some time, been positioning themselves, and their budgets, to allow for TT appointments in 1996-97 and beyond. It is obvious that the Provost and President, in considering requests for TT appointments, must take into account the long-term plans of Faculties that were initiated prior to 1996-97, particularly where fiscal responsibility was exercised and hardship experienced, in anticipation of TT appointments in 1996-97 and beyond. Not to consider these variables would represent punishment for sound management _ we are not inclined to provide such signals.

c) We do not anticipate that our budget can support the tenured faculty complement that we maintained prior to the early retirement program. In fact, we anticipate that, over the long term, the number of tenured faculty at McMaster will decrease even below the 1996-97 complement. The Planning and Priorities Committee (P&P), with the soon-to-be-constituted University Planning Committee (UPC), will be asked to engage in modelling exercises to recommend a tenured faculty complement sustainable by our resources (see II.1).

5. Our budget situation, coupled with the critical role of the tenured faculty complement in any discussion of a university's mission, stresses that TT faculty appointments represent some of our key strategic decisions. Thus, we do not wish to maintain policies or procedures that might compromise our commitment to faculty excellence. Therefore, we have agreed on the following operational principles:

a) If a tenure-track faculty appointee does not succeed to tenure, in spite of decision I.4.a, the funds for this position will remain in the base budget of the Faculty and the Dean retains the tenure-track position in the Faculty without a requirement for central reapproval.

b) When a department receives approval to recruit to a tenure-track position, it has two years to fill the appointment. Only if the department is unsuccessful in making the TT appointment within two years will the availability of the position be reviewed by the Dean, Provost and President. Even at that time, a bias to allow the department an additional year to recruit an excellent candidate may be appropriate.

6. In the short term, we do not have sufficient resources to fund all legitimate requests for institutional renewal, particularly for new faculty. Thus, to say that we have a commitment to institutional renewal requires that we identify areas that, in the next three to five years, will receive priority consideration for our limited funds. Thus, in September 1996, the senior academic planning group has instructed the Provost to communicate to the University a process by which the institution can identify priority areas for institutional renewal. The framework for this process received consensual agreement and is outlined below.

The purpose of this priority-setting exercise must be very clear. It has never been the tradition at McMaster, nor do we have any intention of starting a practice, of telling faculty members what kind of research they can do, what grants they should apply for, with whom they should collaborate, etc.

However, we have a pragmatic problem. We have more legitimate requests for resources and faculty positions than our budget can support. Therefore, we need to assure that the limited resources we have in the short-term (we hope that restructuring and increased revenue generation will improve our budget situation in the future) are spent in the wisest and most beneficial manner to ensure excellence in some areas. We do not know of a mechanism for doing this that does not call for identification of areas with higher priority than others for institutional resources. If we do not do this, we fear that the whole institution will sink into mediocrity. We are not prepared to let this happen. Thus, to be explicit, it should be clear that designation of an area as priority must influence resource allocation decisions, including faculty renewal, fundraising, TAs, capital expenditures, infrastructure support, etc.

We do not see it appropriate for a group of senior academic administrators to define priority areas in isolation. Rather, we envision a process by which members of the University direct and inform this process. This process, though, is not without constraints. The University has adopted a "Directions" document that describes our values. That document, in concert with discussions at our planning session, leads us to articulate several general principles that will guide the selection of priority areas for institutional renewal.

It should be obvious that these criteria cannot be used in a blind formulaic manner. Also, we are not reluctant to admit the obvious _ in the end, senior academic officers must exercise some subjective judgments to assist the designation of priority areas. Thus, this list represents our biases, and our biases are to designate areas that:

  • involve the collaboration of faculty members from two or more Faculties.
  • demonstrate innovative undergraduate educational experiences, such as co-op programs, theme schools, etc.
  • demonstrate student demand and societal need, either at undergraduate or graduate levels, or both.
  • demonstrate current excellence by providing peer reviews or performance indicators attesting to the current excellence or uniqueness of the group in areas such as teaching, research strengths, facilities, etc.
  • provide a convincing argument for excellence or competitive advantage in areas such as the ability to attract research dollars, excellent students and faculty, etc.
    are able to establish external linkages.

    7. To provide a tangible demonstration of our commitment to the linkage between resource allocation and designation of priority areas, we will explore the possibility of establishing named Chairs for faculty positions in designated priority areas. To fund these named Chairs, we need either to divert funds now used for purposes of lower priority or to raise new funds specifically for these Chairs.


None of the individuals who attended the July planning session accepted the possibility of academic planning divorced from budgetary issues. We suspect we would find very few in the University who would endorse this dissociation. In fact, it is recognition of the critical linkage between academic and fiscal planning that led this University to establish the University Planning Committee (UPC). It was natural, then, that our emphasis on institutional renewal, faculty hiring, priority area designation, etc., would be followed by a direct discussion of revenue and funding.

1. We accept as a prime directive of budgeting that the duration of our commitment to an expenditure should match the duration of the revenue available to fund that expenditure. It is this fundamental principle that directs us to believe that a reduction in the number of tenured faculty at McMaster (to whom we have an approximate 35-year salary commitment) is likely. The implication of this matching principle suggests that one- time revenues can fund one-time expenditures. Similarly, grants or donations that provide five years of salary support can fund only a five- year CLA, unless we can identify funds to support a TT appointment beyond the termination of the grant or donation. We do not suggest that we will not take risks. However, the risks must be tempered by a reasonable, and not overly optimistic, assessment of our financial future.

2. The percentage of our operating budget derived from government grants has decreased from 75 per cent in 1992-93 to 62 per cent in 1996- 97. This statistic, coupled with a realistic appraisal of our revenue situation, highlights the importance of revenue generation and fundraising as an activity necessary to maintain academic excellence and research infrastructure. Thus, we expect Faculty Deans, in consultation with the President, Provost, and Vice-President (Administration), to establish a three-year target for revenue generation and a plan for meeting these goals. We expect that Faculties will vary in the amount of revenue they can generate and the mechanisms by which they will raise these funds. It is also reasonable for Faculties to expect assistance with, or strategic investment in, activities that will permit them to attain their revenue generation targets. However, once a consensus target has been established, the success of a Faculty in meeting its goals should influence cross-unit resource reallocations.

3. In terms of expenditure reduction, our sense is that there may be some, but not large, savings with budget cuts restricted to traditional boundaries, e.g., a single department, academic versus support units, etc. We suspect there are opportunities for more substantial savings, particularly of the valuable resource of time, with initiatives that transcend the increasingly blurry distinctions between academic and support services. In this context, we have identified three areas in which we expect careful study and significant progress this year.

a) We plan to establish an Enrolment Management Team, under the leadership of the Associate Vice-President (Academic) and the University Registrar, to co-ordinate McMaster's efforts in recruiting, liaison and student retention. This team is to ensure, among its other activities, that we use our institutional resources effectively to attract the types of students we want and to provide them with educational programs that match our academic mission and vision.

b) The Provost and Vice-President (Administration) will co-ordinate a comprehensive review of McMaster's computing/information systems/communication needs in both the academic and administrative domains. Recent task force reports will inform and guide this review. The mandate of this review is not only to identify our computing/information technology/communication needs but also to recommend amendments to our current structures and resources, particularly those of Computing & Information Systems (CIS) and the Computer Services Unit (CSU), to meet our objectives and needs.

c) By the next round of TA allocations we expect the Dean of Graduate Studies to work with Faculty Deans to redress their consistent concerns regarding the Graduate School and to develop processes that ensure that the resources of the Graduate School are used optimally in the service of McMaster's plans, particularly those for institutional renewal. If the Graduate School and Faculty Deans cannot come to a mutually satisfactory agreement, the Provost will first mediate, but then resolve, any remaining areas of dispute.

4. The senior academic team discussed, and agreed to, two specific changes in reporting structure that have been bandied about for some time but have not yet been implemented. The Associate Vice-President (Academic) will ensure a smooth transition to these new reporting structures.

a) Academic units that now report to the Associate Vice-President (Academic) (e.g., Peace Studies, Women's Studies) will report to Faculty Deans.

b) To improve the co-ordination of student affairs issues with international exchanges, the Associate Vice-President (Academic) will co-ordinate and vet all agreements relating to undergraduate international student exchanges.


The University does not exist to maintain an administrative structure. But it is folly to think that an institution can exist without some administration when it has to deal with some 20,000 students, more than 3,000 employees, and annual revenues of more than $335 million from operating income, ancillary enterprises, research grants and contracts, endowments, trusts and capital funds. There has been considerable discussion at the University whether our administrative structures are suited appropriately for the times. People opine that we are overly bureaucratic and have too many layers of bureaucracy. Others, though, resist any change to our historic administrative structure and fear that any reduction in the layers of "checks and balances" represents a power grab by imperialist administrators. We do not believe that, in one fell swoop, we can, or should, change our administrative structure in fundamental ways. But we do worry that some aspects of ouradministrative bureaucracy impede our ability to respond efficiently to a fast-changing set of pressures. Most importantly, we have to recognize the reduction in resources that has occurred and, like many other organizations, seek to eliminate work, to simplify procedures and to build controls into processes so that unnecessary checking and rechecking are eliminated.

1. We believe that a professional, effective administration is key to academic operations. We sense that McMaster has been remiss in failing to invest in activities that promote the training and professional development of individuals key to effective and efficient administrative operation. Thus:

a) The Provost and Vice-President (Administration) will collaborate on a professional development seminar series for academic and support service administrators.

b) We seek input from academic (e.g., Faculties) and support (e.g., Student Affairs, Human Resources) units on particular training, administrative or service needs required for effective administration within their units.

c) We are asking Faculty Councils to reconsider a previous suggestion of extending the term of department Chairs to five years. We believe, reinforced by the suggestion of others, that three years is insufficient for department Chairs to acquire the requisite training/experience and to exert the leadership role expected of individuals in these positions. The job of department Chair is one of the key academic administrative posts at McMaster. It is inappropriate for these individuals to have some of the shortest-duration administrative posts. If Faculty Councils are receptive to this suggestion, we will pursue the approval process necessary to extend the term of Chair.

d) We do not minimize the time and attention demands placed on faculty who assume the position of Chair, and we recognize that we lengthen this load by recommending an extension to the term. In recognition of the importance we place on this position, we are inclined to grant an automatic administrative leave to department Chairs who complete the full five-year term. Details of this leave will be determined if the term is extended.

2. Undergraduate programs are the heart of this University. There was consensus among the senior academic team that Undergraduate Council has not played the leadership role for undergraduate programs that was expected or desired. If it had, there would be no reason to entertain a change to the administrative structure overseeing the undergraduate curriculum. We note, further, that each Faculty has an extensive administrative structure, including a leader, typically an Associate Dean (Studies), who worries about undergraduate programs. Most recently, Senate established the position of Associate Vice-President (Academic). This portfolio includes, among other matters, the undergraduate program. We wish to ensure that an administrative structure exists to play the leadership role within the University for undergraduate matters and to develop policies and initiatives at the undergraduate level to serve McMaster's academic mission. Thus, we recommend a council of the Associate Deans, the Registrar,the Associate Vice-President (Academic), and the Assistant Provost (Student Affairs), to parallel the Provost and Deans group, to replace Undergraduate Council. This council, to be chaired by the Associate Vice-President (Academic), would be responsible for playing the leadership role within the University for undergraduate matters and for developing policies and initiatives at the undergraduatelevel that serve McMaster's academic mission. This council must address the issue of appropriate student representation on committees that formulate and discuss the undergraduate curriculum.

3. The Associate Vice-President (Academic) is a senior academic officer who deals with undergraduate affairs, particularly if III.2 is implemented. The Associate Vice-President (Academic) is also the conduit between groups discussing undergraduate issues and more senior academic bodies, such as Senate. Thus, because of the key place of undergraduate matters at a university, we recommend that the Associate Vice-President (Academic) have a seat and voice on Senate. Because of the constraints of The McMaster University Act, the Associate Vice-President (Academic) will have no vote until such time as the University chooses to amend The McMaster University Act, and we do not recommend such an initiative at this time.

4. We affirm Senate as the venue for the highest-level discussion of academic matters. Thus, we wish to ensure that discussion at Senate is fully informed. At this point, several individuals who have the capacity to provide valuable input to Senate are fettered in their participation because they may not speak unless requested, by a Senate member, to do so. Senate members do not always have the foresight to make this request. Thus, we will ask Senate to amend its bylaws so that the University Registrar and the Assistant Provost (Student Affairs) each have a seat and voice on Senate. Further, to redress the reduction in the Faculty of Health Sciences representation on Senate when the positions of Dean and Vice-President (Health Sciences) were amalgamated, we will recommend to Senate that the Associate Dean/Vice-President (Health Sciences) have a seat and voice on Senate. None of these additions will have a vote on Senate.

5. A major recurring theme at the planning session was our desire to provide more flexibility to students in the design of their programs and to foster interdisciplinary activities. To this end, the Acting Dean of Humanities and the Dean of Social Sciences commit:

a) To explore the possibility of a common Level I program, Arts I, that would lead to Level II programs in both the Faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences.

b) To explore a structure that would accommodate the multidisciplinary programs in which these Faculties collaborate, particularly in light of II.4.a.

6. We recognize that effective and open communications are necessary, but not sufficient, for effective administration. Thus, we expect a spirit of consultation and communication in order to arrive at the most informed decisions possible. We recommend, further, that coincident with any decision is the need to identify who will communicate the decision, to whom the decision will be communicated, and how that communication will take place. For example, for the decisions emanating from this planning session, it has been determined that the Provost will communicate the decisions to the individuals involved in their implementation and to the entire University community (see Action Plan).

7. There has been considerable discussion at McMaster about our presumedly over-bureaucratic structure and our need to render decisionmaking more efficient and streamlined. We consider the recommendations below reasonable first steps towards achieving a more efficient academic administration. We will initiate the paperwork (if necessary) to seek the approvals to implement the following:

a) We ask each Faculty to review its bylaws and practices and to abolish committees that do not meet with any regularity or that, in its view, do not appear to serve a useful function.

b) All "acting" appointments up to and including one year in length shall be recommended directly to Senate by the individual to whom the acting person would report. Naturally, we expect appropriate consultation among the relevant parties before an appointment is made.

c) Faculty Deans shall recommend directly to Senate the appointment of Associate Chairs of departments on the recommendation of the department Chair.

d) Each Faculty Dean should communicate to the Senate Committee on Appointments (SCA), for its review and approval, the searches they wish to control internally without the requirement for Senate involvement. The Senate Committee on Appointments shall indicate its consent or refusal to permit such actions. The planning group wishes to affirm its conviction, however, that the appointment of key academic administrators (Provost, Deans, Chairs, directors of multi-Faculty research programs, etc.) should continue to be supervised by Senate.

8. The senior academic planning group has a commitment to open and informed administrative operations. To this end, we take this opportunity to announce a decision implemented in June: the Planning and Priorities Committee shall now include those individuals who participated in the Provost and Deans meetings, i.e., Faculty Deans, the Associate Dean/Vice- President (Health Sciences) and the Assistant Provost (Student Affairs).


It is hard for us to imagine a purpose for this University that does not have its students and academic programs as central. The types of students we wish to attract, and the educational experiences we wish them to enjoy, are defining and differentiating features of a University. We have indicated, previously, our commitment to establish an Enrolment Management Team that will co-ordinate our activities in the recruitment and retention of students. Beyond that, though:

1. At the undergraduate level, we appreciate that grades are not the sole criteria on which we wish to select students. Several units in the University already use supplementary information to assist the admissions process. We encourage the use of supplementary information more generally to help select those students who have the attributes desired by the University or unit.

2. We cannot purport to have involved students fully unless we provide them with opportunities for genuine involvement in key University functions. Thus:

a) Particularly in light of decision III.2, we charge all Chairs and Deans to ensure that students are represented effectively on curriculum committees.

b) In response to requests from student leaders, we wish to recommend to Senate that it amend its bylaws to give the president of the McMaster Students Union, the president of the McMaster Association of Part-time Students, and the president of the Graduate Students Association each a seat and voice on Senate.

3. For a research-intensive University, as we purport to be, graduate students represent a barometer of our success. Thus, in the context of the review of graduate studies (II.3.c), we expect a detailed analysis of the apparent downward trend in the number of graduate students at McMaster, and recommendations for procedures or strategies to increase research productivity in the graduate student cohort by an increase in the total number of graduate students, the quality of the graduate students, or other strategies.

4. As noted before, a recurring theme in our discussions is the need to introduce flexibility into our undergraduate programs to enhance our capacity to implement innovative undergraduate programs, such as theme schools, interdisciplinary programs, co-op, etc. We perceive that a current impediment is the percentage of units prescribed for honors programs. There is considerable sympathy, for a host of reasons, for relaxing this number. Thus, we are asking curriculum committees in each Faculty to decrease the number of units required for an honors degree. We would expect significant progress in this area by this year's round of curriculum changes. We expect this task to be co-ordinated by Undergraduate Council until such time as it may be replaced by the recommended council (see III.2).


Recommendation Action
I.1.a Communicate to University Planning Committee (UPC)
I.1.b Provost to begin immediately
I.2 Provost and Vice-President (Administration) to initiate discussions with stakeholder groups
I.3 No action required
I.4.a Senate secretariat to advise if changes to policy required
I.4.b No action required
I.4.c P&P and UPC to report
I.5.a, b No action required
I.6 Provost to announce process in September 1996
I.7 President and Provost to review
II.1 Commitment to prime directive to be remembered
II.2 Faculty Deans to submit targets in 1997-98 budget submissions
II.3.a Associate Vice-President (Academic) and University Registrar to begin discussions immediately for implementation in 1997-98
II.3.b Provost and Vice-President (Administration) to announce process by Dec. 1, 1996
II.3.c Deans of Graduate Studies and Faculties to report by January 1997
II.4.a Associate Vice-President (Academic) to initiate immediately
II.4.b Associate Vice-President (Academic) to establish process in consultation with McMaster International and Assistant Provost (Student Affairs)
III.1.a Provost and Vice-President (Administration) for seminars in 1996-97
III.1.b Faculty Deans and co-ordinators to provide input by Jan. 1, 1997
III.1.c,d Faculty Councils to report by Feb. 1, 1997
III.2 Associate Vice-President (Academic) and Associate Deans (Studies) to report to Provost by Dec. 1, 1996
III.3,4 Senate secretariat to advise on process by Oct. 1, 1996
III.5.a,b Deans of Social Sciences and Humanities to recommend by Jan. 1, 1997
III.6 No action required
III.7.a Faculty Deans to initiate process with councils in Fall Term 1996
III.7.b Senate secretariat to co-ordinate recommendation to SCA by Feb. 1, 1997
III.7.c Senate secretariat to co-ordinate recommendation to SCA by Feb. 1, 1997
III.7.d Deans, via Senate secretariat, to forward to SCA or approval by March 1997
IV.1 Registrar to initiate for 1997-98 admission
IV.2.a Faculty Deans immediately to review student representation
IV.2.b Senate secretariat to forward recommendation to Senate by Jan. 1, 1997
IV.3 Deans of Graduate Studies and Faculties to report by January 1997
IV.4 Faculty Undergraduate Curriculum Committees for incorporation into 1997-98 curriculum


Michael Atkinson Associate Vice-President (Academic)
John Bienenstock Dean and Vice-President, Faculty of Health Sciences
David Conrath Dean, School of Business
Alexander L. Darling Vice-President (Administration)
Peter George President and Vice-Chancellor
George Granger University Registrar
Fred A. Hall Acting Dean, Faculty of Humanities
Mark Hatton Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies
Jim Johnson Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences
Mary Keyes Assistant Provost (Student Affairs)
Raelene Rathbone Associate Vice-President, Faculty of Health Sciences
Mamdouh Shoukri Dean, Faculty of Engineering
Peter Sutherland Dean, Faculty of Science
Harvey Weingarten Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Distributed to the McMaster community Aug. 29, 1996.