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U of M merger of faculties on track

Professors' union still not on board

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The merger of four faculties at the University of Manitoba is largely a done deal, while a fifth faculty is looking for partners and a sixth appears to be breaking into small pieces.

It's all part of a master plan unveiled two years ago by president David Barnard to reduce the university's 20 existing faculties to 13 or so, to be in line with other large Canadian research universities.

Merging of minds

WHAT'S prompted the merger of faculties?

To be similar to other large Canadian universities, president David Barnard wants the 20 faculties reduced to around 13 by 2017.


What does the first merger include?

As of July 1, 2014, the faculties of medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and nursing will become colleges within the new faculty of health sciences. The school of medical rehabilitation will also become a college, while the school of dental hygiene will become part of the college of dentistry. Kinesiology and recreation management declined to join. Human ecology, once touted to be part of the new faculty, appears destined to be broken up and absorbed into several new faculties.


What happens next?

So far, no further mergers are ready for public unveiling, but talks are underway.

What could happen?

The U of M identified five clusters of faculties with common interests. That doesn't mean any of the units within the clusters will partner up, though two or more within a cluster may do so.

But the professors' union hasn't liked the idea from Day 1 and still isn't buying it.

"UMFA (University of Manitoba Faculty Association) is still not clear what the advantages are going to be," UMFA president Sharon Alward said this week.

As of July 1, 2014, Dr. Brian Postl, the dean of medicine, will become dean and vice-provost of the new faculty of health sciences, while remaining dean of what will become the college of medicine.

"This has been an ongoing discussion for more than two years," Postl said.

The new faculty will also include the colleges of pharmacy, dentistry and nursing, and the school of medical rehabilitation will become a college within the new faculty.

But kinesiology decided against joining and is looking for other merger partners, while the faculty of human ecology -- touted by the U of M to be part of health sciences -- instead appears to be scattering its programs into new units.

Postl said family studies and textiles -- which feature research into micro-organisms -- could join health sciences. Human nutrition could move to agriculture.

With the exception of nursing, all the colleges within health sciences are already geographically clustered into contiguous space within the Bannatyne campus, Postl said.

Nursing has a relatively new building on the Fort Garry campus -- and will stay put until a yet-to-be-formally announced capital campaign finances a new nursing building that would be built on the Bannatyne campus, said Postl. That would be built on existing parking space, he said.

Postl said there will be no immediate change in the number of administrators in the new faculty of health sciences. Within the colleges, each would have a dean.

Still to be decided is what name would appear on students' degrees, though Postl noted most students would want the name of their college front and centre.

UMFA has feared members could be suddenly swallowed up by much larger units unfamiliar with their areas of expertise, especially when professors come up for promotion or for approval of research projects.

"We'll look at things like promotion and tenure... (so that) people won't be put at any disadvantage," Postl said. Professors up for tenure would still be evaluated by their own colleagues along with one outside person: "It would still be primarily from the college," he said.

Alward said both pharmacy and dentistry had objected to a person being a dual dean of both the faculty and a college within a new faculty. "They felt it would be a conflict of interest," the union president said.

UMFA is uncertain what faculties will merge next, but, Alward lamented, "human ecology will cease to exist. There's a very long tradition of human ecology here.

"They're going to have no status as a college. You can imagine how anxious the (professors) are" about where they'll end up, Alward said.

Three of the existing faculties carry the names of eight-figure donors: $10 million apiece for the I.H. Asper School of Business and the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources, and $20 million for the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music.

The U of M has declined to say if those enormous gifts carried any written guarantees the names and status of faculties would not be changed, though the donors have said they don't anticipate changes.

John Danakas, the U of M's director of marketing and communications, said talks are continuing among potential merger partners, but the university will not announce anything until faculties come forward with formal proposals.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2013 A5

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