External Review of the Faculty of Arts 2015

An external review of the UBC Faculty of Arts was conducted September 21-23, 2015.  The Report and Response, along with the Terms of reference and other information about the Review are available on the Provost’s webpage.

Click here to download a .pdf copy of the External Review Report

Click here to download a .pdf copy of Dean Averill’s Response to the Report

These documents (and the message that follows) were forwarded on November 12, 2015 on Dean Gage Averill’s behalf for distribution to faculty and staff in the Faculty of Arts.

The Faculty of Arts participated in an external review at the end of September. The reviewers identified a vibrant Faculty, committed to excellence, innovation and leadership in academic program development. They found Arts to be an “outstanding Faculty and one which richly merits the confidence and support of the UBC administration.”

I am pleased to provide you with a copy of the Review Report along with my response, which was written in consultation with the Dean’s office, heads and Directors, and senior administrators. In the External Review you will find not only accolades for where we excel, but recommendations for those areas where we can improve, and I have pointed out a couple of areas where we have a respectful difference of opinion concerning the findings.  I hope you consider the feedback constructive, and I encourage you to discuss those areas that you can affect with your colleagues and administrators.  

I would also like to thank all those who worked very hard to help prepare the content of the external review document. This was a significant undertaking that will have far reaching implications for our immediate and future success.  


Strategic Employment Systems Review

Click here to download a .pdf copy of the report:  Strategic Employment Systems Review, Faculty of Arts, UBC (April 23, 2012) – revised May 16, 2012.

Continuing the Conversation

We are pleased that the Strategic Employment Systems Review identified no systemic employment barriers within the Faculty of Arts.  At the same time, I consider this to be the start rather than the end of a conversation about equity and diversity within the Faculty.  The recommendations affirm and expand the work that my Office has already begun around equity issues and about job satisfaction in general within the Faculty.  I welcome the opportunity to work with Human Resources and the Equity Office to implement the recommendations of the Review.

Major conclusions concerning faculty include the following:

  • Women faculty still represent only 28 percent of Full Professors and, assessed against national availability data, women are under-represented among faculty in six units.
  • The data for Aboriginal Peoples, Persons with Disabilities, and Visible Minorities is based on self-identification and likely too unreliable to draw firm conclusions.
  • Faculty expressed the need for more effective orientation and mentoring.
  • Spousal hiring practices are perceived as lacking in transparency.
  • A number of those who participated in interviews or focus groups expressed the need for more training in equity/diversity/human rights issues and more resources from Faculty Relations.

Major conclusions concerning staff include the following:

  • Women are represented at or above availability in all groups. Visible Minorities are represented above availability in the Clerical group.  Representation is below availability in the other groups.
  • Staff believe that their contributions are undervalued and that their status is that of “second class” partners; they expressed concerns about disrespect by faculty and conflict arising out of role definition.
  • There is insecurity among some administrators about the support of Department Heads. There is a perception that management staff can be/have been terminated without cause; with that comes a sense of vulnerability in that group.
  • There are perceptions that social connections with the hiring and promoting authority are more significant than qualifications.
  • Concerns were expressed about inadequate orientation for new staff and about a lack of information and mentorship around promotion and career development.

The Review elaborates on a number of recommendations, the following of which are directed to the Office of the Dean.

1. It is recommended that the Dean undertake to communicate to Department Heads, Directors of Programs, and Administrators that diversity and inclusion are important policy issues for the Faculty. The Dean should identify appropriate methods for outreach and consideration for units in which an under representation of equity groups has been identified.

Our strong focus on equity, access, diversity, and inclusion was signaled in our strategic plan (A Place and Promise for Arts) in the Fall of 2011, and we have reshaped the position now called Associate Dean of Faculty and Equity to serve as the point position for this area of our strategic plan. We have recently enacted new guidelines for hiring faculty members that require equity and diversity issues to be explicit at every stage of the search process. We are working with Faculty Relations and the Provost’s Senior Advisor on Women Faculty, Rachel Kuske, to train members of Faculty Search Committees around issues of equity and diversity. And we intend to work with Professor Kuske to engage individual departments around “best practices” for mentoring individual faculty members and fostering collegiality. We are working with Departmental Administrators and Heads on principles and practices to ensure equity in the hiring of staff.

2. The Dean’s Office should examine the current initiatives related to orientation and mentoring staff and faculty and undertake to improve these two initiatives.

The Associate Dean of Faculty and Equity met with new faculty in the fall to discuss existing practices and areas that could use some improvement and intends to work closely with the Senior Advisor on Women Faculty on these issues. At the moment, we do not have a clear idea of what practices are in place in various units. This is a topic that requires discussion and would benefit from sharing information at future Heads and Directors meetings (see point 4 below). As one form of mentoring, the Associate Dean of Faculty and Equity intends to hold a series of meetings with junior Faculty and Heads in the early fall around tenure and promotion; this will likely involve visits to individual or groups of departments. Our Assistant Dean of Facilities and Human Resources will work with Departmental Administrators to share best practices and develop a faculty-wide approach to orienting and mentoring new staff.

3. The Dean’s Office should strengthen the exit interview process.

We have begun to do this but need to develop a more systematic plan with Heads, Directors, and Administrators.

4. The Dean should examine the best mechanism to create a safe and informal opportunity for Department Heads and Directors of Programs to learn from each other.

This year we initiated opportunities for Heads and Directors to meet informally and will pursue this again next year. We have also begun to dedicate more time at monthly Heads and Directors meetings for this kind of sharing of information. We are keen to work with Heads and Directors to create as many opportunities as they require or find useful. Our office met this spring with several Heads and those who provide the Faculty-wide Academic Leadership Development Program (ALDP) to develop a more effective training program for new Heads and Directors and to facilitate sharing of information across the Faculty. Departmental Administrators have been meeting monthly for the past decade and continue to work on creating an atmosphere for safe and informal information sharing and problem solving. We have also begun to host meetings of the Departmental Graduate Advisors and Coordinators. The Review suggests that equity and diversity may be better realized in some units than in others, and we have already begun to connect units in which there are heightened concerns to university resources and training.

Faculty of Arts Recommendations for Future Strategic Employment Systems Reviews

We appreciate the opportunity to pilot the strategic employment systems review process and feel that some of what we have learned should be used to revise the review process for future reviews in significant ways.

  1. We are disappointed that the report provides little detail from interviews and focus groups. We recognize that this is a systems review and that details specific to individuals cannot be revealed. However, there is ample opportunity to convey specific information that might be used, for instance, to create new programs for orientation and mentoring without violating norms of and expectations about interviewee confidentiality; indeed, trained qualitative researchers do this all the time. In future employment systems reviews, more effective use of qualitative information is essential; the current report represents a significant missed opportunity in this regard.
  2. More thought needs to be given to benchmarks, that is, what we are defining our aspirations against.  The present report measures success against national availability within different disciplines. We consider this to be a modest benchmark at best and invite a fuller discussion and a broader range of benchmarks. We embrace our responsibility to take leadership in this area across Canadian universities. Other benchmarks could include: comparing faculty composition to the demographics of our undergraduate and graduate student populations or to the broader communities in which we are located. In many areas of strategic importance for the University, for example Aboriginal faculty and staff, we would hope to be well in front of the national availability statistics and at the forefront of Canadian universities. Beyond a wider range of benchmarks, we need a more comprehensive discussion of goals. Is it good or bad, for example, that a unit exhibits more gender parity than one would expect when the national availability data suggests a preponderance of women? We generally tend towards the view that gender parity is advantageous in such cases, but there is room for discussion depending on the specific context of each unit.
  3. Although we are conscious of the importance of privacy legislation and the prohibitions against requirements that candidates or employees disclose sensitive information, we nonetheless hope that the University and its Faculties are able to assemble better data on representation beyond gender, and specifically around employment of members of LGBTQ, Aboriginal, and visible minority groups as well as persons with disabilities.

Given the recommendations and the steps that are underway to respond to the recommendations, we look toward future Reviews for more systematic and broader considerations of such issues.

If you have comments or questions please do not hesitate to contact the Office of the Dean via Judy Barry  If there is sufficient interest, we intend to host a forum to discuss the report in more detail.

Gage Averill, Dean

June 2012

Liberal Arts Education for the 21st Century in a Research-Intensive University


To faculty, students, and staff in the Faculty of Arts:

In 2005, the Faculty of Arts began a five-year planning process that focused on the undergraduate learning experience in Arts. This document, “Liberal Arts Education for the 21st Century in a Research-Intensive University,” is the fourth in a series* of this planning process. In articulating the importance of a liberal arts education in a research-intensive university, the document reveals the central role that the Faculty of Arts plays in the attainment of the University’s vision set out in its strategic plan, through its “opportunity for transformative student learning through outstanding teaching and research, enriched educational experiences, and rewarding campus life” (Place and Promise, 2010). It sets the Faculty of Arts on a path of becoming a leading centre of innovative research-based learning that engages all students in its influential scholarship.

Throughout the evolution of the Faculty’s planning process, many recommendations were discussed and tested through pilot stages before being fully implemented. This process continued with each planning document. Since the launch of the initial stage in September 2005, we have successfully introduced a number of significant changes to the undergraduate learning environment, including:

  1. the establishment of the Coordinated Arts Program (CAP) which offers students an opportunity to participate in a first-year learning community that takes a multidisciplinary approach,
  2. a 9-credit Writing and Research Requirement (6 credits have been implemented), which engages students from first year to fourth year in the practices and values of research culture the establishment of the Centre for Arts Student Services (CASS) which has improved and coordinated student services at the departmental and faculty levels,
  3. an increased level of student engagement through a variety of initiatives and special events such as the Arts Last Lecture, Career Expo, Graduating Leaders recognition event, and regular forum for students to meet with the Dean’s Office, and
  4. better access to high-demand majors so students can pursue their academic passions.

Although many ideas in this document have been implemented after consultation with faculty, staff, and students, several remain as “works in progress.” I hope that you will take the time to read the document and continue to provide feedback that will keep our learning environment dynamic and intellectually exciting.

Nancy Gallini

Former Dean, Faculty of Arts (2002-2010)

*The earlier planning documents are: “Reaching Global Heights: Trek 2010 in the Faculty of Arts” (September 2005); “Reaching Global Heights in the Undergraduate Learning Environment: Trek 2010 in the Faculty of Arts – Phase II” (October 2006); and “Strengthening the Core: Transforming Arts Education at a Research-Intensive University” (December 2007).

Download Document (PDF)

Liberal Arts Education for the 21st Century