Today at the Governing Council meeting at 4pm in the Simcoe Hall Governing Council Chambers, the last discussion of the restructuring of the Faculty of Forestry took place.
Nicole Tratnik spoke on behalf of the Graduate students (speech attached below), Professor Sean Thomas also spoke on behalf of the Faculty members and Dermont O'Halloran spoke on behalf of the Undergraduate Student Union which supported our concerns. Jack Radecki, a forestry alumni and the former Executive Director of OUFC, submitted a letter about his views on the restructuring.
The following comments and questions were raised:
1) There was praise about the administrative staff positions being retained.
2) There were concerns to the benefits to the Faculty of Forestry being moved to Daniels vs remaining a Faculty. There was an urge to meet the concerns of autonomy, and identity.
3) Concern was raised about the student consultation and if it was done in in a fair way
4) Why not promote the amalgamation of Forestry and Daniels and make an EDU simultaneously?
5) Concern was raised about the lack of institutional framework for forestry. If there was a delay, could an EDU be created? Could the academic board report on this next year? What are the problems in implementing an EDU?
6) Have professional faculty members from other faculties spoken up?
7) An understanding of the governance and how an EDU formed is needed. This cannot happen in parallel. Delaying this would hold up the process of making it an EDU, which takes a whole academic year to form.
8) Of the Faculty members that left, where there any substantive subfields represented?
9) is the primary motivation to save money? If so, how will the restructuring accomplish this?
The responses to these questions and comments included:
Undergraduate students are part of the Arts and Science Faculty, and there will be no changes to their programs. it was noted that the graduate department of Forestry will continue to exist as an independent 'graduate unit'. There can be many different graduate units in one department that reflect the different disciplines and fields.
The policy on academic restructuring was followed very carefully and the consultation was done accordingly.
To create a new academic unit requires an new academic plan to be made. The nature of this structure needs to be decided collegially.
A note on the financial aspect - the Faculty of Forestry was not sustainable - there were not enough students, and the bulk of the funding was from the University fund. It was noted that there are forests sciences being studied at UTM, UTSC and EEB.
A note from the Dean of Forestry - His focus was saving the programs and, in his opinion, this proposal was the best way to preserve the programs - which is what the majority of the concerns were focused around.
Finally, a note from the incoming Dean of Arts and Sciences: The undergraduate consultation was held on a Wednesday for 2 hours, in which 2 students attended and emailed after the consultation to say that their concerns were met and they were in favour of the restructuring. The undergraduates in forestry total 122 students across 8 programs which is not stable with the current amount of faculty.
The motion was carried without opposition and with 2 abstentions.
My name is Nicole, I am the Forestry Graduate Students’ Association Chair. Over the past 6 months we have met with students, faculty and staff to discuss this proposal. I am here today to speak on behalf of the students.
We believe that the proposed restructuring does not serve the University’s mission, and that the concerns of the students, faculty and alumni have not been met.
For those that don’t know the background, the history of this restructuring goes back over two decades when the Forestry’s undergraduate unit was suspended due to lack of interest. But today it is different – the success of our Professional Masters and research-based program shows much more interest and relevance of forestry, especially when climate-change is drastically changing our forests. U of T is one of 2 forestry research centers in Ontario, whose forest industry alone employs 44,000 people and is worth 13 billion dollars.
So how does the restructuring fail University’s mission? It fails to provide high quality research and education in forestry. Currently we are the oldest forestry faculty in Canada with an excellent track record of high-impact publication and a very successful professional program. We are concerned that the restructuring will turn this multi-faceted Faculty into only urban forestry and wood engineering sub-programs.
The proposal fails the University’s mission to be a leading research university. The ‘academic rationale’ does not address the loss of forestry leadership – it only gives financial reasons. And there is no demonstration of how it would help financially if faculty, staff, and programs remain the same.
Finally, despite the official documentation continuously stating this is a unanimous decision, the proposal wasn’t voted on by the Forestry Faculty Council, 3 of the 7 faculty members have left the Faculty, and student concerns have not been met.
We have been told to wait until we move under Daniels before we smooth out the details but this is a strategy based on trust, and the mutual trust is not there. How would our negotiating position improve once we are just a set of programs in a Faculty that knows little about our field?
What we are asking for are stronger institutional and financial safeguards before the restructuring to ensure forestry can flourish. These suggestions echo those made in the external review, by the Alumni, and in faculty member consultation. They are:
Forestry is unique. It is not just logging, it is the study of a system. To sum up: the proposal has thought a lot about boosting the University’s profile in wood design and urban forestry, which are currently getting a lot of policy attention and funding dollars. It has not thought at all about all the other areas of forestry that constitute the majority of our discipline such as sustainable forest management, Canadian trade, community development and indigenous forest management, to name a few. Why are we not trying to succeed in both?
Yesterday the Academic Board met to discuss the restructuring documents.
Provost Cheryl Regehr spoke on the process and benefits of restructuring.
Professor Dubbins - Chair of the Planning and Budget Committee - gave a short recap of the FGSA's statement and questions asked during the Planning and Budget Committee.
Nicole Tratnik- Chair of the FGSA - addressed the board with the same speech said at the planning and budget committee meeting (shown in a previous post)
Prof. Sandy Smith, a professor at the Faculty of Forestry voiced the concerns of the faculty that echoed the concerns of the students and is written at the bottom of this post.
Many questions arose after these addresses including:
1)The closing of the Faculty of Nutritional/ Household Science happened previously - how does that correspond?
The Faculty of Nutritional/Household Science became part of the Faculty of Medicine and later the the Faculty of Public Health. For this Faculty closing, everyone will remain in the current building.
2)If there is a possibility of making Forestry a high level Extra Departmental Unit (EDU), could it not be done prior to the restructuring?
Making Forestry a high level EDU is part of the collegial process within Daniels. Daniels currently does not have an EDU A or B. Richard Sommer, the Dean of Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design feels that this is a work around for a department and Daniels is a single department faculty. Visibility is important and an EDU could achieve that, but it was not part of the discussion.
3)If this decision was tabled, would that allow the EDU to be discussed?
This restructuring is under the new process with a policy of a 120 day consultation with additional discussions at governing council level.
4) Is the institution's goal to sustain & protect forestry's contribution to science and if so how?
There are many research groups studying sciences in the University and Forestry can continue to collaborate with other faculties and continue their contribution to science.
5) This is moving a science based faculty into a professional faculty. How do we prevent a professional faculty from shaping the science aspect?
Professors have their own autonomy for their research.
6)Apart from the financial aspect of the proposal, how does it help students to elevate?
Faculties need to have student/financial services within its infrastructure. Daniels has many student services that wouldn't have to be replicated. Other units have moved into Daniels and students have benefited.
7)Have other alternatives been considered?
There had been discussions with EEB, Earth Science, School of Environment and UTM. There was an opportunity to explore these options in the last round of consultations and this was presented as the best option.
8) Will there be changes to promotion/tenure policy?
Tenure and promotion policy is University-wide. Committees are built on members who have appropriate background.
Dean Sommer concluded the question period by pointing out that Forestry has its own Professional program and that landscape and forestry have been together in the past and there is a lot of overlap.
The vote passed with oppositions and abstentions.
Executive Committee will meet behind closed doors June 10th to discuss further.
Next, it will be on the agenda of the public Governing Council Meeting June 25th.
FACULTY MEMBERS ADDRESS TO ACADEMIC BOARD
Given by Prof. Sandy Smith
I am here today representing the few remaining faculty members in the Faculty of Forestry. It is almost 26 years ago to the day that I spoke on behalf of the Faculty to the exact same issue; i.e. “its Closure”.
As faculty members, we believe that the restructuring proposal addresses a ‘problem’ that has not been particularly clear, and by way of a long process, not particularly constructive, BUT can be supported - IF there is a written commitment to a distinct Forestry identity that ensures its sustainability.
For us, the proposed restructuring raises a looming uncertainty: Whether our discipline of Professional and Applied Forest Science can be retained and thrive within a major Design School? The current proposal subsumes Forest science into a non-science Faculty. This flags two issues:
1) First, without a clear identity and core, there is no institutional framework to support forest science, leaving significant potential for reallocation of essential resources and ‘mission drift’.
2) Second, without a distinct structural entity, Forestry at the University of Toronto will be essentially invisible; invisible for students pursuing a professional career, for prospective doctoral applicants, for our very generous alumni, and for our national and international research collaborators.
From our perspective, there is only one solution; one that will retain the identity of professional forest science within Daniels, and also make it visible from the outside.
We request that the current proposal include a written commitment designating a ‘School’ of Forestry’, led by a Director, Chair or Associate Dean. This would ensure the necessary autonomy for professional forestry education, research, recruitment, alumni, and out-reach, and would continue the University’s leadership in the Canadian and global forestry sector.
While not yet perfected, this is the first time in Canada (or North America I believe) that such an innovative blend of Faculties will be brought together under one institutional space. It has the potential to be truly outstanding; But only if forestry is assured of a recognized, sustainable home for our discipline.
We ask that the restructuring document be modified to commit to an educational unit (EDU) where this can happen.
The closure of a 112-year old Faculty is a significant event. If restructuring proceeds, it will be the first time a Faculty at the University of Toronto will be terminated; the first time a Dean removed from Governing Council. This makes it even more significant, and that it be done in the best way possible.
As faculty members, we need the restructuring to renew Forestry, not diminish it. The current proposal recommends that Forestry be dissolved. While this offers a unique opportunity for transformation, without clear commitment to a distinct identity and defined structure, we do not see a clear trajectory for its sustainability.
Canada is a Forest Nation, the City of Toronto an Urban Forest. The changes being proposed must embed an appropriate structure that enables the ambition of the University of Toronto in forestry education to be realized.
In this, we support our inspired students and their well-voiced concerns around the restructuring.
The Academic Board meeting will be held Thursday May 30, 2019 at 4:10 pm in Simcoe Hall on the 2nd floor Governing Council Chamber. The agenda can be found here.
The FGSA will be in attendance and has been granted speaking rights at this meeting.
Faculty member Professor Sandy Smith will also be speaking at this meeting.
Since this is an open meeting, we urge everyone to come show support for the Forestry Students.
Representatives from UTSU and UTGSU will also be present.
Since the planning and budget committee meeting, there have been a couple Varsity articles covering the planning and budget committee meeting and the opinion of this process some of our students that cover some of this process in more detail.
In addition, to give more context in to the suggestions and comments made by students, alumni and faculty alike to the provost, we have compiled the letters sent out during the consultation period here.
The FGSA does not fully oppose joining the Daniels Faculty of Architecture Landscape and Design, but we believe the proposal in its current form leaves out many details and safeguards that can ultimately lead forestry to fail. We would like to see Forestry succeed.
At the Planning and Budget Committee meeting on May 9th, 2019, four FGSA executive members, Nicole, Juliana, Emmett and Julian, and two other FGSA members, Janani and Peter K. were present.
Following the Provost's address about the restructuring details, Nicole gave a 3 minute speech, addressing the committee about the students' concerns about the overall restructuring. The speech is added at the end of this post.
Following the speech, there were a handful of questions such as :
The motion carried with no oppositions.
The next step is to be voted on by the Agenda Committee for recommendation which will be held May 21st, 2019. This is a closed session meeting meaning public attendance is not allowed. The next step will be in an open session with the Academic Board May 30th, 2019. The FGSA plans to be in attendance.
Speech made by Nicole to the Planning and Budget Committee
My name is Nicole, I am a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Forestry and the Forestry Graduate Students’ Association Chair. Over the past 5 months we have met with students, faculty and staff to discuss this proposal.
We believe that the proposed restructuring does not serve the University’s mission, and that forestry education is being misrepresented. The proposal says this is a unanimous decision, however, 3 out of the 7 faculty members that did not agree, moved to other departments, and the proposal wasn’t voted on by the Forestry Faculty Council.
We ask for stronger institutional and financial safeguards before the restructuring to ensure forestry can flourish. We have made several suggestions that echo those made in the external review, and Alumni, and faculty member consultation. None of these suggestions have been incorporated in the proposed restructuring document. They are:
1. Retain the distinct identity of Forestry by making it a high level Extra Departmental Unit (EDU). This will also keep Forestry’s interests intact by allowing Forestry to have administrative autonomy, and is important for professional support especially for the re-accreditation process in 2020.
2. Make the details more explicit, namely,
In the vague statements of the proposal, there are no guarantees the 1 million dollar funding will go strictly to the Forestry program over the long term or that the new FTEs will serve Forestry’s diverse needs rather than only the needs that relate directly to architecture, landscape or design. We have been told to wait until we move under Daniels before we smooth out the details but this is a strategy based on trust. Since the start of the restructuring we have had a strained relationship with the administration, and the mutual trust is not there. Moving Forestry under a high level EDU would resolve this.
The history of this restructuring goes back over two decades when the undergraduate unit was suspended at a time when interest in forestry dwindled. The situation today is different – the success of our Professional Masters and research-based program shows the massive uptake of interest and relevance of forestry, particularly in a changing climate. U of T is one of 2 forestry research centers in Ontario, a province whose forest industry alone employs 44,000 people and is worth 13 billion dollars.
The restructuring proposal only gives a financial and no academic rationale. It is unclear how it would help financially if faculty, staff, and programs remain the same. If $1 million and 5 FTEs are available to help rejuvenate this Faculty, why close it? The $1 million would increase our budget by 30% alone. Also, moving under architecture would incur extra costs, like the emotional cost of removing a 112 year old Faculty, and the cost of rebranding forestry under architecture. Moving Forestry under a high level EDU would resolve this.
Forestry in Architecture could be something novel and rewarding, but, if done badly, could result in the loss of Canada’s oldest institution of Forestry, a pillar of higher education and research excellence at a time when Canada’s forests face unprecedented change. Especially since this would be the first Faculty closing at UofT, this process should be taken with consideration and time.
We have an opportunity to put aside the legacy of conflict between forestry and the administration and set this growing and vital field on a sound financial and academic footing. We urge you to improve the restructuring proposal – remember that you chart the course not for next fiscal, but for the next century.
Thank you to everyone who contributed during the consultation period!
Following the end of the consultation period, the proposal will have to be passed through Governing Council. The proposal will have to go through the following meetings:
Planning and Budget Committee (May 9, 2019)
Agenda Committee (May 21, 2019)
Academic Committee (May 30, 2019)
Executive Committee (June 10, 2019)
Governing Council (June 25, 2019)
The first meeting - Planning and Budget Committee meeting - is an open session and members of the public and UofT are able to attend.
The agenda is posted on the governing council website with the current report on the proposal of the restructuring of the faculty of forestry, which can be seen here.
The report to the Planning and Budget Committee shows two minor changes to the previous proposal in sections 5.1 and 5.12.
We encourage you to check out the report, and contact us with any comments or questions you have.
There is only one week left to voice your opinion about the restructuring proposal of the Faculty of Forestry.
Based on the student survey we conducted (results here) the FGSA has put together a letter to the Provost indicating our stance on the matter.
You can find the letter below.
If you are a current Forestry student we encourage you to sign your name here:
Currently, the proposal for academic restructuring is open for consultations, nothing has been set in stone. The consultation period is open until April 1, 2019.
Under the proposal, the Faculty of Forestry would be dissolved and the Forestry graduate unit (including the Centre for Biocomposites and Biomaterials Processing and the Mass Timber Institute) would transfer to the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.
The graduate unit would continue to physically reside at 33 Willcocks, and the forestry program would continue to be a "life sciences" program (Division 4). All facilities (labs, offices, etc.), would be maintained. The proposed change would come into effect on July 1, 2019.
All current programs offered by the Faculty (MFC, MScF, PhD) would continue to exist. The accreditation of the MFC has been extended (it is up for review) until after the restructuring is complete.
Accreditation will remain as long as course material still reflects all the competencies required. Current Faculty of Forestry endowments will be maintained and continue to contribute to the Forestry programs.
Under the proposal, the position of the Dean of forestry would cease to exist, and a Forestry Graduate unit Director would be appointed by the Dean. Administrative staff would remain with Forestry. The restructuring would provide an additional $1 million (annually) to Forestry's budget and would enable the faculty to add 5 additional FTE (Faculty) to its cohort. Emphasis will be put on adding an RPF to the Faculty. Until these new faculty hires are made, two CLTAs (contractually limited term appointments) would be brought on by July 1st to bridge the gap.
We encourage you read the proposal put forward by the Dean, and to get in touch with him if you have any questions or comments. We also encourage everyone to attend the townhall meeting on February 15th and to ask any questions or raise any concerns you have there. You can also send us a list of your questions (link below) or comments and we will ask them for you at the townhall if you wish to remain anonymous. Someone from the provost's office will be there recording student questions and comments.
If you have any further questions, feel free to reach out to us (email@example.com)
Links & Important Info
Governing Council Minutes
Faculty of Forestry Restucturing