Provost elaborates on white paper on York’s future

Patrick Monahan, York’s vice-president academic & provost, yesterday issued the following memorandum to members of the York community:

This memorandum follows from the President’s announcement initiating a long-term strategic planning process leading to the development of a Provostial White Paper on the future of the University. The purpose of this communication is to share with all members of the York community the goals of the Provostial White Paper and to outline the kinds of community consultation that will guide and structure the process.

York has a well-developed series of planning processes on both the academic and administrative side, including the University Academic Plan (UAP) process. Over the past 20 years the University’s strategic planning has been guided largely by two documents. One is "Vision 2020: The Future of York University", developed over the period 1988 to 1991 and endorsed by Senate and the Board of Governors in 1992. This green paper set a direction for the University’s next 30 years. The second is Vice-President Academic Affairs Michael Stevenson’s white paper of 1999. That paper, "Strategic Planning for the New Millenium 1999-2010", was very much an extension of "Vision 2020," sharpening and detailing the directions of that document.

Left: Patrick Monahan

As the president has indicated, it is now time to develop a new planning statement, through the development of a Provostial White Paper. This white paper is intended to provide a renewed strategic vision, to describe where we want to be 10 to 15 years from now. It asks and seeks to answer the most basic of questions: what do we hope York University will be, what are our aspirations and hopes for this great institution, in the year 2020? Its purpose is to provide a careful, evidence-based and realistic assessment of our future prospects and challenges with the goal of defining how we can substantively differentiate ourselves from other postsecondary institutions.

The white paper is intended to complement and strengthen existing planning processes at York, including the UAP, and to provide a framework within which individual Faculties will operate. At the same time, it will be linked to the development of a broader series of strategic plans that will support its realization including enrolment, complement, infrastructure, capital and operating budget plans that will provide guidance to the University at large.

As the president has emphasized, a central requirement of this planning process will be to ensure the broadest possible level of meaningful consultation and participation from all sectors of the community, consistent with York’s tradition of collegial governance. In preparing the white paper, my office will work in concert with the Academic Policy, Planning & Research Committee (APPRC) and other Senate committees, with Faculties, and with the University community. Once completed, the white paper will be brought to Senate for approval in principle.

A Three Phase Process of Consultation

It is anticipated that there will be three distinct phases in the process. The first, the green paper phase, will involve the Office of the Vice-President Academic & Provost (VPA&P), in concert with the APPRC, producing one or more green papers (discussion documents that precede and inform a policy document). A green paper’s framing of issues, ideas and suggestions is put forward for discussion so that they can be modified, added to, replaced or abandoned in response to community consultation.

In addition, during this phase the Faculties have been asked to provide memos outlining their strategic direction.

Consistent with the need for broad community participation, a white paper Web site will be established which will provide an opportunity for public submissions. It is anticipated that the Office of the VPA&P will use the Web site to survey members of the community on important issues as the process unfolds. Additional opportunities for community input will be provided at key milestones. The precise manner in which my office will partner with APPRC is under discussion. I have already met with the chair and vice-chair of Senate to begin the process of consultation and look forward to meeting with the committee when its membership is finalized.

It is anticipated that the Office of the VPA&P will need to work closely with the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), taking account of the fact that it is at a different stage of the strategic Faculty academic planning exercise. The timeline envisioned here will nevertheless give LA&PS Dean Martin Singer and his new administrative team an opportunity to prepare a draft overview memorandum, informed by the existing documents and the APPRC submission from former deans Robert Drummond and Rhonda Lenton.

The green paper(s) are expected to be made available by mid-October 2009, followed by one or more planning fora or symposia to be organized in conjunction with Senate. All members of the community, including students, administrative units and Faculty Councils, will be invited to respond to the ideas in the green paper(s). There will also be mechanisms to permit online or Web-based consultation.

The second phase of the process will be the white paper phase. In addition to continued collaboration with APPRC, this phase will involve the creation of a number of working groups that will review and consider in more detail key ideas, issues and themes that emerged in the green paper phase. These working groups will be co-chaired by a nominee of APPRC and will draw on faculty, staff and students from across campus who have relevant experience and insight to the mandate of the various working groups. The working groups will report back to the Office of the VPA&P as well as to APPRC with their findings and recommendations by the end of January 2010. During the white paper phase, there will continue to be a variety of other mechanisms and opportunities for ongoing consultation and discussion, as agreed with the Senate planning committee.

The white paper phase will culminate in the publication by the VPA&P of a draft white paper, which is expected to be made available by February 15, 2010. The draft white paper will be discussed at community fora and through other appropriate means between mid-February and mid-March 2010, leading to a revised Provostial White Paper which will be submitted to Senate for approval in principle by March 31, 2010.

Following approval in principle of the white paper, the third stage of the process is the implementation phase. This will involve the development of a Business/UAP Implementation Plan for the academic division for the next three years, as well as the finalization of Faculty and administrative unit Business/UAP Implementation Plans for a similar period. (A memorandum will shortly be forthcoming from the Integrated Resource Planning Office with specifics.) As part of the implementation phase, mechanisms will be created to provide coordination between the priorities established in the white paper and the University budget framework and process. This may well involve significant change in budget practices and priorities over time. Finally, the implementation phase will involve the establishment of targets, reporting mechanisms, benchmarking and an overall accountability framework to regularly measure progress and success in the achievement of the longer-term goals identified in the white paper.


The Provostial White Paper will constitute a strategic vision for the University aimed at the successful differentiation of York over the next decade. Developed through close collaboration with APPRC, this framework will guide Faculties and all members of the community in the various planning exercises that will continue to unfold over this period. It will also provide an implementation framework that will allow for benchmarking, monitoring, the alignment of resources with academic goals, and increased accountability. It will form the foundation of a broader, integrated planning process that will outline the implications of our commonly agreed upon strategic direction for every facet of our operations. On the more intangible level, I expect the document will create a sense of energy, dynamism and optimism throughout the community. I look forward to working with all members of the community on this important and constructive exercise.

For more information, visit the Provostial White Paper Web site.