Open letter to McMaster University President, Dr. Patrick Deane, regarding the University Library Review

Dear President Deane,

In your letter dated June 1, 2011 addressed to then MUALA President Rick Stapleton announcing the review of the University Library, it was stated that, "While we do not normally seek approval by interested parties of the members of a review committee, it is our intention to strike a committee that is acceptable to MUALA, to the management team of the Library, and to the broader campus community. It is our sincere hope that the review team will then be able to advise us unencumbered by any concerns of bias." MUALA believed this to be a positive step forward in labour relations. Recent exchanges with the Provost, however, leave the union concerned about the direction taken in the implementation of this seemingly promising review process.

Our concerns have been raised with the Provost in a series of letters regarding the formation of the external reviewers committee.

The Provost’s June 1, 2011 letter stated that MUALA would be asked to provide nominations for external reviewers for the committee. However, there was no opportunity specifically given to MUALA. Instead a memo dated June 30, 2011 addressed to Deans and Library staff, was circulated. In response to this request, MUALA submitted three names.

Upon receipt of the nominations, the Provost proposed a selection process for external reviewers which stated, in an email dated September 9, 2011, that University Library administration and MUALA leadership would eliminate names in a turn-by-turn fashion, with each side being permitted to strike up
to three names. Between the University Library administration and the Deans, it appeared that twenty names were submitted for the committee. It was apparent that all MUALA nominees would be eliminated through the use of this process.

In MUALA’s response, dated September 16, 2011, we raised concerns regarding the overwhelming number of names submitted by the administration and Deans, and the implications of the selection process mentioned above. In good faith, MUALA proposed two alternative processes: one that would assure a MUALA nominee on the final list and one that would balance the amount of submitted names.

The Provost responded to MUALA’s objections in a letter dated October 7, 2011, stating that the University will be undertaking the review using guidelines normally used for academic programs, and that the proposed winnowing process for selecting names was fair. Our suggested alternatives were deemed inappropriate. At no time was the union shown review procedures that included reference to the process of elimination. Our most recent letter, dated October 17, 2011, sought to clarify the nature of how the committee is formed, and to raise our concerns over the discursive policy changes, including what is in the union’s opinion the significant departure from the McMaster Policy on Academic Program Reviews, section 5.4.1. Much to our disappointment, our letter went unanswered.

Rather than answering MUALA concerns, the Provost sent a letter to University Librarian Jeffrey Trzeciak and myself. The letter dated November 8, 2011 states that the Deans were presented with a list of names and their preferences were solicited. The University Library review will proceed once the review team is finalized. Effectively, MUALA has been removed from the selection process.

MUALA is greatly disappointed by this series of arbitrary changes in position around the formation of the external reviewer committee for the University Library review. We had hoped this productive and progressive idea of a University Library review would begin to address the many issues raised by MUALA. As previously stated to the Provost, MUALA believes that it is very important that we address the ways in which the review can be managed to preserve its potential value. Given that this review is being undertaken in a system rife with morale issues, it is all the more imperative that this review be managed in a way that is mindful of the context and specifically the role of the union and its members.

In the union’s opinion, the Provost’s departure from the established policy, and from your promise of an inclusive process, is a disturbing outcome.


Nick Ruest
MUALA President