York’s vision for a new Faculty

As of July 1, 2009, York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and the Faculty of Arts are set to be dissolved, to be replaced by one new Faculty comprising the humanities, social sciences and related professional programs. In creating this Faculty, says a new document unveiled today by the University, York aims "to achieve the benefits and synergies from the creation of the most comprehensive range of interdisciplinary academic programs and researchers in social sciences, humanities and related professional programs in Canada."

The document, issued by the Transition Steering Committee, contains a comprehensive list of questions and answers designed to inform the full York community on the background and effects of the transition.

Click here to download the full Question & Answer document about the transition to the new Faculty, in PDF format.

A new transition Web site has also been established with background information and the Q & A document available for download. The document will be updated periodically.

Comments and suggestions can be directed to the Office of the Vice-President Academic by e-mail to transition@yorku.ca.

Here is the full Q & A:


What exactly is happening?

In line with the University Academic Plan (UAP) and the will of Senate, as of July 1, 2009, the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and the Faculty of Arts – both at the Keele campus – will be dissolved, to be replaced by one new Faculty comprising the humanities, social sciences and related professional programs.

Why are we doing this?

To achieve the benefits and synergies from the creation of the most comprehensive range of interdisciplinary academic programs and researchers in social sciences, humanities and related professional programs in Canada.

What are the key benefits?

  1. The development of a dynamic learning environment that gives students interested in these areas maximum choice in program and course selection and the flexibility to transfer between programs.
  2. A concentration of innovative graduate programs in the humanities, social sciences and related professional areas.
  3. The ability to support, expand and intensify world-class, interdisciplinary research.
  4. The amalgamation of duplicate programs to increase clarity and coherence for students.

Where did this idea come from?

The UAP calls upon the University to ensure that it has the best structure and units to support its priorities, which include:

  • the expansion and intensification of research;
  • graduate growth and innovation;
  • improved student experience;
  • dynamic interdisciplinary environment;
  • delivers clarity, coherence and choice to students.

After many wide-ranging discussions, members of the York Senate’s Academic Policy & Planning Committee concluded that merging the Faculty of Arts and the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies would help the University to achieve these priorities. The proposal was subsequently approved by the York Senate and presented to the University Board of Governors.

How did we get here?

Atkinson began as a Faculty dedicated to part-time education for mature students, typically after 5pm and in the summer, and Arts concentrated on those students who came directly from high school and completed their undergraduate education primarily in fall-winter, during the day and in a four-year timeframe (101’s). As things have evolved, some of Atkinson’s programs are offered during the day and accept students directly from high school. In the same vein, Arts has many part-time and mature students (as do other Faculties across the campus). The blurring of the mandates of these Faculties led to an extensive review and created an opportunity to consolidate these two strong Faculties into one new Faculty defined by its academic offering rather than by the kind of student the previous Faculties once attracted or the time of day or seasonality of their programs.

So what principles is the restructuring based on?

  • Clarity in relation to our academic mission
  • Enhancement of the research culture and profile
  • Advancement of graduate education
  • Enhancement of the student experience

The restructuring is based on the principles of coherence and clarity and an understanding that the new Faculty will be built upon the principle of the fundamental importance of research and the creation and dissemination of new knowledge. The new Faculty’s mandate will be clear and comprehensible both internally and externally. In practical terms, this means that similar or identical programs are not offered in different Faculties but rather only in one place so that the University and the student knows logically exactly where each program fits and why.

What is the timetable for planning and implementation?

The new Faculty will open its doors as of July 1, 2009. Academic timelines are paramount, providing the critical path for planning; there are parallel timelines to guide the creation of internal administrative structures in the new Faculty and the development of support structures external to the Faculty. Some key academic milestones leading up to the opening are as follows:

November 1, 2007: determination of unit structures and programs in the new Faculty.

Spring 2008: York Senate approval of program/degree requirements for new Faculty, following collegial deliberation, and of disestablishment of the Faculty of Arts and the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies to coincide with opening of the new Faculty.

Spring 2008: search for a Dean of the new Faculty begins.

Fall 2008: recruitment initiatives in place (e.g., Ontario Universities Fair).

Spring 2009: student advising in place.

Is this business as usual under a new name?

No. Together we are creating something new. It is a historic opportunity to create a new Faculty for the 21st-century university environment in line with the priorities established in the University Academic Plan.

Is this one faculty swallowing the other?

No. Both faculties will officially be disestablished effective with the opening of the new, consolidated Faculty on July 1, 2009.

So it’s a merger?

It’s much more than a merger. It is a chance to fashion a brand new Faculty. Thus it is a unique occasion to re-shape the University’s future in York’s 50th year along the lines of the UAP.

Is this a cost-cutting exercise?

No. The key motivation here is academic, not financial. The new Faculty will be organized in such a way as to eliminate duplication and deliver coherence and clarity to students. However, if the new Faculty’s creation generates greater efficiencies in costs or time, those resources will be re-invested in the new Faculty to reflect UAP priorities such as research, graduate studies and the student experience.

Who is drawing up these plans?

Several working groups have been struck under the direction of the Vice-President Academic. These committees are broadly-based and are meeting frequently. The mandate and members of each committee can be seen at www.yorku.ca/vpa/transition. Committee members can be contacted with regard to issues that may arise during the transition process.

Are the unions being consulted?

Yes. Regular labour-management meetings are taking place with all York’s affected unions.

How do I keep up to date with the consultations?

A special Web site has been created at www.yorku.ca/vpa/transition to keep the entire community informed of any issues that may arise. There will also be regular updates in YFile and Ylife (for students).

Where can I send comments and suggestions?

These can be directed to the VP Academic’s office via e-mail to transition@yorku.ca.


How will the creation of the new Faculty benefit research at York?

The creation of the new Faculty will provide a critical opportunity to expand and intensify research across many of York’s humanities and social science departments and related professional programs through a focus on increased participation and performance and through harmonized and focused complement planning. It will also provide an opportunity to expand research into new areas through the development of visionary interdisciplinary research programs and cross-cutting research clusters. The new Faculty will also help the University to provide needed research infrastructure and deliver the most effective, leading-edge and efficient research support services to faculty members by re-investing the financial savings found through the merger into the new Faculty.


As a student will this affect my degree?

The short answer is no. Students currently enrolled in degree programs will be ‘grandparented’ which means that they will be allowed to complete these degrees with the same rules and degree requirements that exist now. Degree designations (e.g., BA, BAS) will not change. One of the goals of the restructuring, however, is to consolidate programs offered in both Arts and Atkinson such as English or Sociology. This will inevitably require some changes as the curricula and requirements from two programs are integrated into one program. The aim is to provide stronger programs with greater course selection and scheduling flexibility for students. Programs that are offered only in Arts or Atkinson such as Anthropology or Administrative Studies will move intact into the new Faculty.

How will the new Faculty support the needs of graduate students?

The Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Research Centres and Faculty-based initiatives will continue to operate as usual during this process and thus graduate students will not be directly affected. However, restructuring will better align the undergraduate programs with the graduate programs rather than having separate undergraduate programs in many of the humanities and social sciences. This stronger alignment will allow for better planning of undergraduate and graduate courses, and will bring together faculty members and students with common research interests.

What about York’s commitment to part-time and mature students?

York remains committed to its diverse student population including a) mature students, and b) those students who need or want to study in the evening, on the weekends and/or in the summer. The new Faculty will be providing flexible programming where appropriate so that students from across the University will benefit from Atkinson’s rich history and experience in teaching part-time and mature students in accessible formats.

So is York losing the Atkinson name?

No. As of August 1, 2007, York has established the Atkinson Centre for Mature & Part-time Students whose mandate is specifically to advocate for the distinct needs of these students and to enhance the quality of their academic experience. The Atkinson Centre is located in the ground floor of the Ross Building at 111 Central Square, ext. 55770; Web site http://www.yorku.ca/acmaps/.

Will the existing student-focused initiatives continue in the new Faculty?

The best practices for integrating various student-focused initiatives into the new Faculty will continue to evolve through ongoing discussions. Creating a new Faculty presents many unique opportunities to share innovative ideas developed within Atkinson and Arts about how to best support student engagement and success.

What will happen to the currently established Faculty-based student organizations and clubs?

We have been in consultation with student leaders in Arts and Atkinson to discuss this. We believe that the establishment of the new Faculty is an excellent opportunity to incorporate the best of both existing Faculties into new student organizations and clubs.

Where will I go for advising and student services such as petitions? What about writing and ESL assistance?

Offices will be set up in the new Faculty to provide these services; in the meantime, students will continue to be served by their current Faculty. We are working to ensure that the level and nature of writing assistance and ESL provided to students will not be diminished as a result of restructuring, and to better coordinate access to these services across the University.

Will I continue to be eligible for scholarships and bursaries?

Students will continue to be eligible for various kinds of financial support at the University and Faculty level, although the criteria for some Faculty-specific awards may need to be adjusted to reflect the new Faculty structure.

I am a student representative of my Faculty Council or York Senate; will I be able to continue?

Faculty Councils in Arts and Atkinson will be disestablished when the Faculties are disestablished, and a Faculty Council will be created in the new Faculty at the same time. There will certainly be student representation on the Council and its committees and provisions will also be made for student representation on Senate for the new Faculty’s students. The details are being worked on and students will be consulted and informed along the way.

What about College affiliation?

Discussions in relation to College affiliation are occurring with the Council of College Communities. Students in the new Faculty will be affiliated with a College. We are aware of these issues, and they are being considered as part of transition planning. More information will be available at a later date.

What about health and dental plans?

Full time students will receive coverage under the York Federation of Students plan. We are working with our student government partners to address part-time student needs.


I’m a faculty member in Arts/Atkinson; will I be redeployed to the new Faculty? What about my program affiliation? What processes will be followed?

We are working with YUFA and AER to address these issues; experience from the creation of the Faculty of Health will guide the process. Redeployment is governed by the collective agreement. We do not anticipate requiring people to move to a particular program in the new Faculty; if individual faculty members do not wish to move with their current program, we will work with them to try to make alternate arrangements through appointment to some other appropriate program. Cross-appointments between two programs will continue to be possible.

I will be considered for tenure after the new Faculty is established; how will I be affected?

It is a long-established practice that faculty are considered for tenure under the criteria that were in place when they were appointed. Colleagues in "merged" programs will be working together to develop common statements of standards for future appointees.

How will governance structures and processes be affected by the establishment of the new Faculty?

The new Faculty will have a Faculty Council. Faculty Councils determine their own membership, rules and procedures, committee structures, etc. (subject to York Senate approval). The University is looking at ways of putting in place interim governance processes until the new council is formally in place in order to facilitate joint consideration and approval of proposals (for example, legislation on general education). Once unit and program structures in the new Faculty have been determined, colleagues in merged programs will begin more detailed discussions about curriculum and requirements, internal governance structures, etc. The University is putting in place a "streamlined" approval process for programs and curriculum in consultation with the York Senate Committee on Curriculum & Academic Standards and the Academic Policy & Planning Committee.

Atkinson currently has had a mandate for summer and evening teaching; what are the commitments and plans for continued offering of courses and programs in summer and evening in the new Faculty?

There is a commitment that there will be no reduction in the availability of summer and evening courses and programs, and opportunities will likely in fact increase. Each program will be expected to examine its capacity to offer evening and summer courses and programs and the demand for them, and to reach a determination about offerings on the basis of these considerations. Offering of online courses will also be a part of these discussions. We do not anticipate that individual faculty members who do not wish to do so will be required to teach summer or evening courses. It should be noted that the Atkinson Centre for Mature & Part-time Students will have as one of its responsibilities to work with units on behalf of part-time and mature students to ensure continuing access to summer and evening programming for them and all students. 

Is it intended that departmental and University offices will be open in the evening to serve students? If so, will staff be required to work in the evenings?

Whether departmental offices are open in the evening will depend on whether that particular unit offers evening programming. Colleagues in the Atkinson Centre will work with University offices to ensure that appropriate levels of services are provided to evening students. Any changes in staff hours will be governed by the relevant collective agreements.

Will the merger of duplicate programs result in moving colleagues from those programs into a common space?

Over time, the goal is to bring all members of merged units together in one location or contiguous locations and we will work towards this in space planning, but the acute space shortage on campus makes this impossible immediately. Therefore, in the short term, most individuals and units will remain where they are.


As an alumnus or alumna of one of the affected Faculties, will the nature of my relationship with the University change?

As an alumnus or alumna who attended either Arts or Atkinson, your York degree will not change because of their dissolution or because of the creation of the new Faculty. This initiative will not rewrite your history at York, so if you need to request a new diploma or transcript, it will still list your original Faculty.

However, since the programs you attended will continue to thrive in the new Faculty, you will start to receive information and communications about those programs under the banner of the new Faculty. In addition, we are looking to transfer the best alumni programs from both of the existing Faculties to the new Faculty.

Finally, the Alumni Office is eager to work with any Arts and Atkinson alumni who would like to establish a Chapter to capture some of the energy and enthusiasm from the Faculties that will be closing. The Alumni Office can be reached at alumni@yorku.ca.

The new Faculty will be launched in York’s 50th year in 2009 so it will be a landmark in York’s academic history. Alumni will be kept up to date via e-mail, Alumni Matters and the Alumni Web site.


How will previous donations directed to either Arts or Atkinson be treated?

Programs are continuing, so it is anticipated that gifts made previously will continue to be directed to the originally designated program (if applicable). General gifts to either Arts or Atkinson (for instance, to general student support) will be reviewed and considered in consultation with the new Faculty.

I have established a named endowed fund in either Arts or Atkinson – what will happen to it?

The York University Foundation will be communicating with individual donors on funds that are directly affected.