Open letter from TYP Students in response to proposed administrative change to TYP
Dear Members of the Faculty of Arts & Science Council,
How do you trade 40 years of history for a promise? A promise that offers no solutions. A promise that consists of drastic changes to fundamental components of a program without consideration for the implications of said changes or the opinions of those who would be most affected.
Decisions at the Transitional Year Programme (TYP) are made on a consensus basis, as mentioned on the first page of the Transfer Proposal from the administration. Where is the consensus for the recommendations in this document? There is no consensus – and how could there be – faculty, staff and students found out about this document on Wednesday October 14, after it was posted on the Arts & Science website. In fact, the overwhelming majority of faculty, staff and students are opposed to the recommendations in this document, so of course the section on consultation neglects to mention how people responded to consultations (pg. 5 of proposal). TYP’s internal decision-making process has been subverted to push through a proposal that would otherwise be rejected by those it would affect the most.
The Transfer Proposal refers to the fact that TYP was reorganized in 1976-77 as a separate teaching division with a direct reporting relationship to the Provost, but neglects to mention the reasons for this reorganization. From 1970-76 TYP was administratively and physically housed within a college where it ran into frequent challenges in delivering its mandate to support historically excluded students. TYP was closed for a year in 1976-77. The 1977 Kelly Report, which re-opened TYP made several important recommendations including TYP’s establishment as an independent academic unit with autonomy to serve its students, a direct reporting relationship to the Provost and its own distinct space. This has allowed TYP to excel in its mission to make excellence accessible for 40 years and graduate so many students.
The challenges that TYP faces are clear: funding and prioritization. Access and equity has not been made a priority by the central administration. Un-replaced faculty retirements combined with budget cuts have endangered the program. The proposal in front of you does not contain any solutions to these real and immediate challenges. What is being proposed is an administrative move, not a solution to these problems. In fact, we see more problems on the horizon if this proposal were to pass. These include:
1. Autonomy:Under the proposal, the TYP director will report to the Principal of Woodsworth College, who reports to the Dean of Arts & Science, who reports to the Provost. This new reporting relationship will put TYP in an increasingly marginal position where it will be subject to greater interference and competition for scarce resources. Moreover, as per the proposal, the Woodsworth College Council will be the authority on all decisions relating to curriculum and the program, eroding the democratic, self-governing nature TYP.
2. Space:Administrators have made disconcerting statements about sharing space already in use at Woodsworth and better “integrating” TYP students. TYP is housed at 49 St. George. When you talk to TYP students, they talk about 49 St. George as a place that makes them feel safe and at home. It is a place on campus where we can go to share our experiences with people who have a shared history, and get the dedicated academic and personal support we need. We call 49 St. George home and taking away our dedicated space compromises the delivery of the program.
3. Teaching Staff:By not addressing the issue of replacing retired faculty, the situation will only grow more dire. From 2008-09 to 2009-10 there has been a dramatic shift towards reliance on stipendiary instructors (see pg. 3 of the proposal). Part-time lecturers are simply not given the compensation or hours to support TYP students’ complex intersecting challenges in and out of the classroom.
4. Budget:Like the issue of replacing retired faculty, TYP’s eroding budget is not addressed in the proposal either. Despite its unique function as a special access program, TYP’s operating budget has been halved due to cuts last year. By adding two levels of budgetary competition to defend itself from (in Woodsworth College and Arts & Science), the proposed administrative move is no kind gesture towards TYP or its ability to function in the future.
5. Student Body:One does not need to formally change the admission criteria for TYP or dictate changes to the curriculum to substantially affect the type of students that will be able to access the program. To allow the level of support to drop in the ways outlined above will mean that the program will be unable to fulfill its mandate and that the face of the TYP student body will inevitably change. The program will have to cater to students who face fewer barriers to accessing education. TYP may continue to exist in name but not in practice.
TYP services the most marginalized communities in Toronto. It provides access to a high quality university education to members of these communities. The changes TYP alumni have made to this city are immeasurable. Many minority educators, business owners, social workers and many other marginalized professionals got their start at TYP.
The proposal before you is procedurally out of order. It has not received the consensus support of faculty and staff nor does it offer solutions to very real problems. We ask that the members of the Arts & Science Council not to trade in 40 years of history for an empty promise.
Transitional Year Programme Preservation Alliance