Follow-up: Impact on academic ranks?

In our previous e-letter we requested feedback, both to University Council and to the Board of Governors, about new policies and procedures proposed by the College of Medicine which would result in the academic ranks of Assistant, Associate, and full Professor being awarded to ca. 1500 clinicians who currently practice medicine in the province of Saskatchewan and have appointments with the College of Medicine.

Your feedback continues to be important.

Discussion in Council

Submitted to Council and on its agenda last Thursday (Item 9.1) was the draft Policy for the appointment and promotion of Medical Faculty, with linked Procedures Manual, as items for information only. Council members heard that the new Policy was necessary for accreditation, specifically to cultivate greater engagement of Saskatchewan clinicians in the program. The “town/gown split” is believed to be a significant impediment to the college’s success and the policy purportedly would satisfy accreditors by improving engagement of these so-called Medical faculty. The proposed model was inspired by Queens University among others, which addressed the problem of the town/gown split by making every physician a faculty member.

Discussion in Council, however, demonstrated significant disquiet among faculty concerning the implications of the policy and procedure documents. Not only is the role of University Council being sidestepped, but respect for our collegial processes, our faculty members, and other contributors to our academic programs is diminished by this proposal. Faculty members from the College of Nursing and Education observed that large numbers of nurses and teachers in the province also make extraordinary contributions to our programs and to the academic mission of the university without being conferred such ranks. Others noted that while there is respect for practitioners involved in our programs, there is a difference between them and academic faculty members, and subsuming ranks will confuse and obfuscate their respective roles in the university. A differential designation for these medical faculty must be implemented.

Ranks for Clinical Faculty

Other universities across Canada use the ranks Clinical Instructor or Lecturer, Clinical Assistant Professor, Clinical Associate Professor, and Clinical Professor. See, for example:

Even Dalhousie University, which does not use the prefix “Clinical” for the titles of clinical professors, distinguishes between Clinical faculty and other faculty members in its appointment processes (see Regulations, p. 11) and guidelines for tenure and promotion, with separate documents outlining the appropriate criteria for promotion in each group (see website, Guidelines, Reviewer Worksheet – Promotion to Associate Professor (Clinical) and to Professor (Clinical)). There is a separate Clinical Tenure and Promotion Committee for clinical departments (see Faculty of Medicine Procedural Framework & Terms of Reference).

At the University of Saskatchewan, in contrast, the proposed Standards for Promotion and Tenure for faculty in the college largely blurs the distinctions between clinical and non-clinical faculty.

The draft Procedures manual states that “The overall aim of the new Policy for Medical Faculty is to ensure that all medical faculty appointments have equal legitimacy and academic recognition and equal opportunity for academic engagement, irrespective of payment modality. We hope that this move towards a unified medical faculty in the College of Medicine will contribute to improved ability to satisfy future accreditation requirements.”

The claim that appropriating the ranks of academic faculty members will confer legitimacy that is currently lacking and ensure accreditation is perplexing. Are we truly being asked to believe that clinical faculty will not engage with the teaching and research missions of the college if they are designated—say—“Clinical Professor” rather than “Professor”?

What can you do?

Council members are asked to convey comments to Dirk de Boer, Chair of the Planning and Priorities Committee, by April 30.

You can also write to the Board of Governors. Let them know that academic rank is valuable and the College of Medicine Policy and Procedures in their current form should not be approved.

The College of Medicine Standards must be approved by the University Review Committee, which is meeting this Friday and will be discussing the proposed Standards. If you have concerns about the Standards document, you might want to contact members of the committee:

  • Nicholas Low, Food and Biproduct Sciences
  • Nicholas Ovsenek, Anatomy & Cell Biology
  • Marvin Painter, Management & Marketing
  • Ramji Khandelwal, Biochemistry
  • Wanda Wiegers, College of Law
  • Erika Dyck, History
  • Vicky Duncan, Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library
  • Alexandre (Sasha) Koustov, Physics & Engineering Physics
  • Graham Scoles, Plant Sciences
  • Jim Germida, Chair, Vice-Provost, Faculty Relations
  • Maureen Fryett and Bettyann Cox USFA Observers