Well-attended meetings spark ideas 

"I like this school. I came out because what happens here is important to me.”

Poli-Sci student John Murphy Magnifying glass

Poli-Sci student John Murphy

A simple enough comment, but this statement by fourth-year Political Science student John Murphy following Thursday’s open consultation summed up what many have been thinking throughout this fall's open discussions surrounding Concordia's future.

Revisiting the format used in October's open consultations, the gatherings on Wed. Nov 26 at Loyola and Thurs. on the Sir George Williams Campus served as an opportunity for staff, faculty and students to build on the recent world café discussions and offer their viewpoints directly to President Judith Woodsworth and other administrators who were there to listen.

“We have to take it step by step,” Woodsworth said in her opening address Wednesday. “But that’s why we’re here. This is a chance to share and listen, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to look forward.”

And that it was, with about 80 participants at the Loyola edition and more than 200 participants downtown.

As with previous cafés and consultations, the issue of attracting the best minds to Concordia and retaining them here was raised frequently. There were several calls for increased support of graduate students, in particular, and concern for retaining young professors through competitive wages and effective mentoring.

Achieving a balance between accessibility and excellence was raised by many speakers. One professor spoke movingly about the difficulty of assuring a common level of achievement for all students while challenging the excellent students in his courses. He feared that he was too often short-changing his best students.

The impressive level of some of our student involvement and interest was underlined by professors who have taught or are teaching in other institutions. Others spoke of some of some key weaknesses, particularly related to language skills. In fact, the language skills of both students and professors were identified as a potential institutional issue.

Research at Concordia came in for much discussion. It was argued that the initial planning documents had set the bar too low on research and that “activating the future” rather than just meeting societal needs should be the fundamental criterion for research at the university. Others praised Concordia’s new initiatives to support and encourage research, including our new facilities. There were suggestions to audit and review all departments to identify potential growth areas and to target strong departments for enriched support. Others expressed fears of areas being targeted as non-growth areas and being left to wither. Some speakers outlined particular cases where popular and potential revenue-generating courses were not being sufficiently supported by departments.

Going out to “buy the best” by hiring well-recognized professors was suggested by one speaker as a quick road to developing excellence on the departmental level. Others referred to Concordia’s outstanding development over the years and warned against quick fixes or overextending ourselves and trying to artificially inflate our reputation.

The planning process itself came in for discussion and there was encouragement to adopt a simple, clear, measurable, attainable and realistic strategic plan.

The exchange was lively and thoughtful – perhaps an apt reflection of the diversity and richness of Concordia itself. Many other issues were raised, from promoting ethical business practices, to interest-based labour negotiations, to ensuring the primacy of Senate on academic decisions and defining Concordia’s role in Quebec.

The discussion will continue through comments on both the strategic and action plans on the strategic planning web page. You can consult supporting documents including the university’s CRC and CFI Strategic Research Plan, 2008 - 2012. President Woodsworth also encourages everyone to forward comments to her at president@concordia.ca or the strategic planning co-ordination group (stratplan@concordia.ca).

After the holiday break, Woodsworth and her team will begin the process of compiling and distilling all of the feedback, aided by three presidential panels, which will be announced in the new year.

See selected comments from the Strategic Planning site.


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