Future of visual arts to be decided in January

A resolution on the proposed program elimination to come in early 2024

After nearly six full months of protracted discussions, the fate of the visual arts program at Thompson Rivers University is set to be decided in a special Board of Governors meeting early next year, according to a statement delivered during the Dec. 1 board meeting.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that TRU’s Board of Governors was considering eliminating its visual arts program, citing declining enrollment numbers and high costs. Upon hearing of the move, program faculty voiced their opposition and, with the support of several senators, argued the proper process was not followed.

“The board aims to make this decision at a special meeting in late January,” said board chair Marilyn McLean, reading a statement from the board of governors. “The board is committed to ensuring the decision is collaborative, well-informed and considers diverse community voices, aligning with TRU’s mission and values.”

The proclamation was issued as part of a larger statement loosely addressing allegations from TRU senator Prof. Craig Jones that the board of governors had erred in its duties by not following university policy BRD 8-4.

Titled “Program reductions and eliminations,” policy BRD 8-4 sets out a series of five regulations and six guidelines that the Board of Governors must follow when considering the termination of programs at the university, a process Jones said was not followed.

One example, Jones said, has to do with the timeframe between when the board officially began the consideration process and when a required report was submitted to the board by dean of arts Rick McCutcheon. According to the policy, following consultation between TRU Provost Gillian Balfour and McCutcheon in June, the dean was required to submit a written response within fifteen business days regarding possible ways to allow the program to continue. That report, however, was not completed and advanced until the end of October, Jones says.

On behalf of the board, McLean acknowledged the discussions regarding the policy in both the senate and other public venues. The statement reiterated the board’s opinion that the process was being appropriately followed and that, ultimately, the decision to eliminate the program rested with the board and the board alone.

“The board will continue to proceed with its previously stated intention to consider the proposed closing of visual arts programs. The final decision to close visual arts programs lies with the board, as per Thompson Rivers University Act,” McLean said. “Despite differing views on the process, the board believes the process implemented by the administration to date has been thorough, inclusive and aligned with the policy objectives and consultative principles.”

Although the next public Board of Governors meeting will not occur until the end of February 2024, discussions regarding the visual arts program and board policy 8-4 will continue tonight during the final TRU Senate meeting of the year.