Newly reappointed TRU president hopes for better faculty relations
Alan Shaver, who was recently reappointed as TRU’s president until 2018, said he hopes to fix relations between faculty and administration as he moves towards his second term.
“There are people on campus that are not happy with their knowledge and engagement with what’s going on, and so I have to do something about that and I’m determined to do something about that,” Shaver said. “We have to work as a team.”
Tensions between TRU faculty and the president’s office came to light last semester when TRU Faculty Association president Tom Friedman wrote a highly critical letter to Brian Ross, the TRU Board of Governors chair and chair of the presidential review advisory committee that made the recommendation to reappoint Shaver. The letter was also sent to members of the faculty association.
“I felt that it was important for me to point out problems that my members had pointed out to me,” Friedman said. “There’s a lot of faculty discontent with the way things have been going, particularly in terms of adequate support for programs. What we’re seeing in particular is that academic programs are being underfunded and understaffed.”
The letter criticized Shaver for his distance from TRU students, staff and faculty and protested an increase of “middle managers” such as associate vice presidents and associate directors, which Friedman said limit contact between administration and those actually dealing with students.
Friedman added, however, that the administration must make difficult decisions in the face of funding challenges.
“The government is strapped for resources and they have priorities in health (care) and K-12,” Shaver told the Omega in December. “That means that we’re not getting the kind of financial support that we think we deserve, but we have to see this through and we’re going to have to see this through as a team, as a community.”
Both Friedman and Shaver said they hope to meet to discuss better internal engagement. Friedman said he plans to reach out to the TRU Board of Governors in January to discuss issues raised in his letter.
“If we want to build a strong university, we’ve got to have people who want to come and work here. We’ve got to make sure we’ve got a workplace that people are proud of working at and that new people considering working at TRU will hear good things about,” he said.
Shaver said that, while he has ideas on how to improve communication at TRU, he also hopes for a more collective solution.
“To engage the community, I should talk about my ideas and listen to their ideas about how we as a community can work better together,” he said.
Shaver and Friedman have already met to discuss faculty concerns.
TRU’s Board of Governors unanimously decided to reappoint Shaver on Nov. 28, following a performance review. The review process included an advisory committee drawn from “all sectors of the university community,” according to Ross, as well as an online survey available to TRU staff, students and faculty.
“I’m extremely upbeat about how the university is progressing,” Ross said. “Unfortunately, some of these critical comments ignore how far we’ve come in our growth, not only in our capital structure but in the ability to deliver courses of a wide variety to a large number of students.”
Ross added that the board originally offered a five-year term, but Shaver opted for a shorter contract.
“[He] felt that three more years would give him the opportunity to achieve some of the goals he’s looking to achieve at Thompson Rivers University,” Ross said.
Shaver has been president of TRU since September 2010. His second term begins in fall of 2015.