Provost releases revised white paper on York’s future

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

I am pleased to release the Provostial White Paper, "Building a More Engaged University: Strategic Directions for York University 2010-2020".  It can be downloaded from the Provostial White Paper Web site. Colleagues will note that we are in fact releasing two documents: the first is an overview, which sets out the broad themes and framework that have emerged from the consultations, while the second is a detailed substantive paper, that elaborates on the themes and ideas in the overview. This is in response to numerous comments made during the consultations urging us to produce a shorter and more concise strategic document.

These two documents, which are intended to guide York’s directions over the next decade, are the product of extensive consultations that have taken place during this academic year and involved several phases, including a green paper phase intended to explore issues and options, followed by the release of a draft white paper in February.

Since the release of the draft white paper, there have been numerous opportunities for members of the community to provide input: my office and Senate Academic Policy, Planning & Research Committee co-sponsored two planning forums focused on the draft white paper; there was an open forum at the February Senate meeting; I visited all Faculty Councils to present the draft and hear feedback; I met with numerous other committees and groups, including staff, alumni and student groups; and we provided an e-mail address for submission of written comments. Literally hundreds of members of the York community participated in these consultations.

In general, we have heard strong support for the broad directions proposed in the white paper, centring around the overarching goal of enhancing academic quality by building a more engaged university. There was also overwhelming support for the white paper’s attention to research intensification, teaching and learning, the student experience (and the particular importance of the first-year experience), and academic programs (including the objective of diversifying programs and enrolments to enhance our comprehensiveness) as areas of focus. Finally, the consultations reflected enduring commitments to long-standing values of quality, diversity, accessibility, equity, and social justice, as well as support for adding sustainability to those values. Suggestions for revisions to the paper focused around a number of themes, and we have done our best to address each of these in the revised documents:

  • We were urged to shorten and provide more focus for the white paper; it was also suggested that we might prepare two separate documents, a shorter, overview document, accompanied by a longer substantive paper that could elaborate on the themes identified in the shorter document. As noted above, we have taken this recommendation on board and are therefore presenting two separate documents for review by our colleagues.
  • We were urged to more clearly identify and celebrate our strengths and indicate how they provide a foundation for moving forward.
  • At the same time, we were urged to be open and realistic about the challenges facing us as an institution, in particular with regard to the resources needed to support new initiatives in the current financial constraints.
  • We were asked to more clearly articulate the relationship between quality and engagement; how, we were asked, would a focus on enhancing engagement lead to higher quality?
  • We were also asked to define more clearly what we meant by terms such as “engagement,” “experiential learning” and various terms relating to technology assisted learning.
  • We were encouraged to define engagement in ways that would encompass engagement within York as well as engagement with external communities.
  • Many felt that the faculty complement must be firmly established as the bedrock for quality in teaching and research and that an increase in the full-time complement is fundamental to enable us to move forward.
  • The need to put in place plans, priorities and strategies through the array of academic and administrative planning processes at York in order to realize our objectives was impressed upon us.

I look forward to the opportunity to bring these two documents before Senate on April 22 and to ask for that body’s endorsement of the directions set out; and then to building on the momentum that has developed during the white paper process by moving forward to the next stages of planning and implementation.

I want to express my gratitude to all those members of our community – faculty, staff, administrators, students, alumni – who have contributed to the process of developing this white paper by participating in open forums, Faculty Council and other meetings, submitting written comments, and drafting the various reports that fed into the final version. Further planning and implementation of the directions the white paper proposes will also require broad community participation and support, and I look forward to working with colleagues from across the University to make these directions a reality.