More data on BFA to be presented as TRU continues talks about cutting program

No decision yet on TRU cuts

Further data on the beleaguered visual arts programs will be presented to Thompson Rivers University’s senators next week as university officials continue to discuss their elimination.

The university’s Academic Planning and Priorities Committee (APPC) said in a report going to senators Monday that TRU President Brett Fairbairn asked the committee to present an assessment of the “educational losses and financial or other resource savings” for the proposed eliminations.

APPC said the programs under review would only include the Bachelor of Fine Arts, the visual arts minor, diploma and certificate but wouldn’t include two additional certificate programs put on the chopping block in September, as they weren’t included in any formal notification originally given to the department in June.

The report states that the diploma, certificate and minor “replicate the logic of the BFA in smaller packages” and allow for add-ons or early exit opportunities, but depend on the BFA program for their sustainability.

An APPC survey showed 16 per cent of respondents are or were employed in an area related to the degree and 28 per cent were in occupations slightly related.

The same survey showed the median annual income of respondents from the BFA cohort was $41,254 and saw an unemployment rate of 10.7 per cent.

“The pathways identified lead to meaningful employment, but the programs listed have limited career opportunities that are not also available to other program graduates,” the report says.

The report from APPC states none of the programs have transfer agreements with other post-secondary institutions, and it is not linked to other academic programs at TRU and “therefore there will be no educational losses.”

“As an add on credential for students in other programs, the minor has minimal student participation,” the report states.

APPC said in the report that the “resource-intensive facility” required to sustain the breadth of upper-level studio offerings for the BFA and the minor produces students with a narrow graduate profile.

“As presented to senate, the faculty of arts wishes to pursue new programming areas that will require new resources, such as faculty positions and multi-use classrooms, from within an existing budget allocation,” the report reads.

“The dean’s responsibility is to steward a budget towards programs that meet the research profile of faculty, seek to align with broad community needs, and student demand.”

In the same agenda, senator Craig Jones will propose a resolution to request a presentation from APPC after receiving a written request for advice from the Board of Governors, in accordance with the program elimination and reduction policy, despite the presentation already scheduled in the same meeting.

Jones has previously raised concerns about policy not being followed, saying the board of governors never motioned to ask senate for advice on the proposed reduction of visual arts programs.

“The board, which I'm a member of, has stated very plainly and follows its usual practice, that it passes motions only when it's making a decision on an item,” Fairbairn said at a senate meeting in September.

“It doesn't want to vote on something until after it's received the advice of senate. So that's very much the board's understanding in terms of how it's proceeding.”

Jones told Castanet past practice doesn’t trump the requirements of the board bylaws and could put the university at legal risk.

One of Jones’ proposed motions states APPC would provide senate with advice on educational losses, expected financial and other resource savings and possible alternative actions for cost reduction.

Another proposed motion from Jones states senate won’t provide advice to the board of governors until a written request for advice is received.

In April, TRU announced the BFA program would be phased out over three years. The university then backtracked on that and said the program was under review. Applications were suspended in April pending that review.

In a presentation in May, dean of arts, Richard McCutcheon, told senate the basis for the potential program closure was three-pronged — student attrition, financial concerns and workload inequity all being contributing factors.

Gillian Balfour, TRU provost and vice-president academic, told Castanet that the board of governors is expected to make a final decision on the fate of visual arts programs at an upcoming meeting.

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