The Head of the Department of History has reviewed the External Review Committee report and has begun to respond to its recommendations.
In general, the ERC found many strengths in the History Department, including its well-defined programme, its high standards, excellent syllabi, creativity of faculty members, and responsiveness to students. Indeed, student response to the programme was overwhelmingly positive; they enjoy their classes, appreciate the availability of professors (sometimes after hours), and feel that the Programme equips them well with skills for future academic and career success. The ERC also commented favourably on the international and national scholarly reputations of several faculty members.
Faculty Hiring Process
Over the past decade the department has had little input in the identification of hiring needs or in the selection process. Indeed, the ERC commented that "it is remarkable how little say the Department as a collective has in who will be hired and in what areas." The Department and I share this concern. In the future, the Department will identify its hiring needs/priorities and, once funding for a position is available; will be actively involved in the selection of a candidate. This is the normal practice in most university History Departments.
Fields of Faculty Expertise
The ERC expressed concerns that the RMC History Department's geographic and temporal focus has become increasingly narrow, focusing heavily on the Western world, especially modern Canada. This narrowing reflects the fact that the department has had little input into the selection of new hires (thus, departmental priorities have not been adequately considered). It has been aggravated by the fact that all four of the faculty members who are departing as a result of the recent Workforce Force Adjustment (WFA) process are specialists in non-North American fields. In the short-term, the Department will seek to redress this problem through the hiring of limited term sabbaticant replacements that have non-North American expertise. In the medium-term, the Department will prioritize the hiring of a specialist in a non-North American field.
Numerical imbalance between Francophone and Anglophone faculty
As a result of WFA, the number of faculty members who teach in French exclusively has declined from six (6) to four (4) over the past two years. The impact is that Francophone undergraduate History students have fewer electives than do their Anglophone counterparts. With the current teaching complement, the History Department can meet its core teaching obligations and offer only 8 electives in French each year. This is the bare minimum that can be offered in order to ensure that students can obtain their History degree in French (taking into account timetable conflicts that inevitably arise and which prevent students from taking a particular elective.) Even so, this means that Francophone students will continue to have less choice in their programme than do their Anglophone counterparts. While this may be workable in the short-term, it is essential that the next faculty member hired in the Department have the capacity to teach in French.
Overall the ERC's Report was very positive. It highlighted the many strengths of the programme and of the faculty who deliver it. However, the reviewers also identified valid concerns regarding the staffing process and the increasing narrowness of areas of specialization in the wake of WFA. I concur with the Department Head who believes that these concerns can be addressed by judicious use of sabbaticant replacements and prioritizing the hiring of faculty members with a non-North American specialization who can teach in both English and French. At a more general level, going forward the Department should also have more input in identifying hiring priorities.