Repeating “there is a plan” over and over, doesn’t make one magically pop into existence

I had a short conversation with the Carleton University Provost, Dr. Peter Ricketts, in an elevator last night.  I pointed out that Carleton Neuroscience was being evicted, and he insisted that we were being taken care of via the recently announced agreement with the University of Ottawa.  I pointed out that our own dean of science told us the agreement (which we have not seen, btw) only covers housing of our animals and access to their Behavioural Core facilities.  This agreement was produced in secret, without the input or consultation of our faculty or the full membership of our Animal Care Committee.  Malcolm Butler stated, in his first meeting with faculty, that “there is no global plan” for how to address the impact to students, and that the agreement did not make provisions for wetlab space. (which is 2/3rds of our work).

Yet the provost kept repeating to me, over and over, “There is a plan”.

Project plans don’t just poof into existence because you insist they exist.  I can click my heels three times over and over and it will have about the same result in producing a real, honest-to-goodness PROJECT PLAN.  According to Wikipedia (which has a pretty good definition), a project plan is:

“…a formal, approved document used to guide both project execution and project control. The primary uses of the project plan are to document planning assumptions and decisions, facilitate communication among project stakeholders, and document approved scope, cost, and schedule baselines.”

We have seen no such document.  And that facilitation of stakeholder communication… well, let’s just say it’s been sorely lacking until late last week, but we still don’t have a physical documented PLAN.

(BTW: Students still have NOT been consulted are awaiting an option for meeting with the dean.)

When I stated that we had seen no signs of an actual plan, Dr. Ricketts said, “You aren’t privvy to all of the planning”- WOAH! But I thought that President Runte said that the administration would be COLLABORATING with us on a plan moving forward?  I mean, aren’t students STAKEHOLDERS in this mess?  Ok. What about faculty?  (they haven’t seen any planning document either). If there truly IS a “Plan” to ensure that our current and future research can proceed unimpeded, why did Dean Butler tell us that no provisions had been made for students or faculty at University of Ottawa?  Why is he putting the onus on our professors to find space with their collaborators for us?

Where are the documented assumptions and decisions?
Where is the scope, and cost?
Where is the schedule?
Where is the procurement plan?
Where is the risk management plan and contingencies?
Who is packing?
Who is moving?
Where is all our equipment going?

I honestly fail to see how a REAL project plan can exist, given that, as of this writing, we have not had a project manager assigned to this project.  In fact, our faculty had to ASK for one to be assigned on December 1.

When I pointed out this fatal flaw in the “planning”, Dr. Ricketts indicated that a project manager was in the process of being assigned.  I told him that a lack of project manager at this late juncture was further proof that a March 1 move-out date was completely unrealistic and infeasible. Dr. Ricketts kept insisting, repeatedly, that the March 1 date was feasible. In the same way he insisted a “plan” exists, repeating that a target date “IS feasible”, over and over again, does not actually make it so.

Maybe what Dr. Ricketts meant is that “The Plan” today consists of “We will hire a project manager and write another PLAN that actually has DETAILS of how, when and where students and faculty, and all their equipment will be moved”…? I fear our administration does not understand how long it takes to construct a proper project plan for a move of this size and complexity.  I hear Carleton has a very good business school, perhaps they offer courses that our administration could take?  (I pity the poor project manager they hire – guess who ELSE will be working over the holidays?)

I just don’t get what is with this institution.  Neuroscience has been SO GOOD for Carleton – our students and faculty are involved in countless community projects to support science in the schools, mental health initiatives, and women in science. Our students are stars in the undergraduate recruitment campaigns, we have one of the fastest growing faculties, and we are one of the most productive research departments, bringing credibility and significant research grants to Carleton.  Our faculty tried very hard to communicate through proper channels and work with our administration, and it all fell on deaf ears.

If our faculty and students tell you that the current course of action will be disastrous and is not just a few weeks of downtime due to a move, WHY WON’T YOU LISTEN and work WITH us to make sure WE are properly taken care of? We didn’t want to make trouble, but the current course of action the administration is insisting upon is truly untenable.  Why does a new building come BEFORE the department that has been working YEARS to establish itself, and has given so much to Carleton and the community?

Do you think we WANT to be out protesting this and shining an ugly bright light on this whole mess? HELL NO!  We’d MUCH rather be focussed on our designing and planning our next projects, but WAIT – I can’t PLAN any more projects, I can’t DO that follow-on study, because we will be in a new location (which invalidates the follow-on) and I have NO IDEA WHAT FACILITIES I’ll have access to.

The biggest heartbreak for many students is the complete lack of respect shown to our department in this whole process. You’ve broken our hearts but not our spirit.

Merry Christmas Dr. Runte. Merry Christmas…


One thought on “Repeating “there is a plan” over and over, doesn’t make one magically pop into existence

  1. I will never again believe anything Carleton’s administration tells us. I arrived the morning of November 28th to find that all the files on my desktop had been encrypted yet I was told that our CCS department had “detected an “attempt” by an external group or individual to hack into the IT network”. I have since lost all those files.
    I was told by President Runte that her administration was working on a solution to the Neuroscience eviction and that “Research will continue with minimal disruption.” Later she assured us that ““Space has been secured today. The University of Ottawa has graciously agreed to make labs and other space available to us. This space is superior in quality to the present location. It meets all requirements and standards”. However, I was later told in a departmental meeting that this space was for animal housing only and the Neuroscience faculty had been asked to negotiate with their Ottawa U colleagues for access to wet lab space.
    I am now concerned for my job. I am the lab manager for Dr. Shawn Hayley. As a grant funded employee, there is always a concern that you may lose your job if your supervisor loses his or her funding. I believe there now exists the possibility that I might be laid off from a very well funded lab due to a lack of wet lab space.
    I never saw this one coming. Teresa Fortin

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