Letter to Students from Malcolm Butler, Dean of Science

On December 1, 2016, the Dean of Science Malcolm Butler, and the Provost, Peter Ricketts, met with students to discuss issues, hear the student concerns, and answer outstanding questions about the impending eviction of the Neuroscience department from LSRB, slated for March 1.  Many of those questions, particularly around student compensation for this highly disruptive situation, remained unanswered for over 2 months. As the deadline loomed, the students again requested a written response from the Dean. Finally, on the evening of on February 6th, we received his reply (Below). 

Arranging suitable lab space, transportation, insurance, and care for our animals is not something for which you earn a merit badge for – it’s the minimum that should be provided by the university. (As it is, some labs have chosen to make their own arrangements, in order to be able to continue some semblance of their research).  Even so, the uncertainty, last-minute planning (some lab-space agreements are still not formally signed as of this writing), and reduced animal-care facilities has had a significant impact on the students and researchers. This added stress and impact to research plans will continue until we are back on Carleton campus, WITH our full research facilities functioning.  Even now, we are uncertain what we are going to be moving back to, as the chair of the Neuroscience department, John Stead, went on record in 2015 stating that the space allocated to Neuroscience in the shiny new Health Sciences Building, would be inadequate for the current needs of the department, much less future growth.

Malcolm could have done so much more for the students.  If nothing else, an apology for the way this whole situation was mishandled from the start, would have gone a long way. His abdication of the administration’s responsibility in this situation, just adds insult to injury, and this is a sad legacy for him to leave in his wake as he departs Carleton in June.  Many students were so upset by this response that they couldn’t sleep the night they received this email.

Dear Natalie and colleagues,

I have been working since the December meeting on ensuring that the research spaces are available with partners (University of Ottawa and others) for students to be able to work through the summer until a return to the new Health Sciences Building is possible.   Spaces are identified and agreements are in the process of being finalized, but the conversations have necessarily been between the Carleton faculty and their colleagues on this matter.  This includes access to wet lab facilities adjacent to the research facilities secured for housing and studies on both mouse and rats.  The project manager has been involved in these as well, so that she can facilitate the moves and actions required.  She has been coordinating with the other sites in parallel to finalizing agreements so as not to have delays.  This includes issues around insurance, health and safety, and the acquisition and transport of research supplies.

We do still expect to be able to move into the new Health Sciences Building animal facilities before the end of 2017.  If for whatever reason we experience unplanned delays, we have contingency plans to extend our arrangements with the University of Ottawa accordingly.

Facilities Management and Planning is working to finalize appropriate arrangements for the secure safekeeping of the freezers on campus.  These freezers will be accessible and will have backup auxiliary power.

I have also been working with the relevant deans and vice-presidents on matters raised by the students.

As for student specific issues, the Dean of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs and I met with Shawn Hayley and Diane Trenouth from Neuroscience regarding graduate students and risks to progress through their programs.  A process was agreed to for reviewing delays and possible needs for extension, and this has been communicated out to the graduate students.

 I met with Kim Hellemans to review the status of students taking NEUR 4908.   I understand that, at this point in time, all students are expected to complete on time.    We are monitoring and if there are delays due to the March 1st deadline, we will respond to those student’s circumstances immediately with extensions and mitigations as appropriate.

 On the matter of compensation, the reality is that there are many things that can interrupt/disrupt research.  As such, the university is not able to consider any sort of compensation or refund associated with this situation.  The priority is that students are able to complete their programs in a timely way and that the ARISE project and its impacts not delay a student’s graduation.

 I will be setting up funds based on the researcher’s assessment of needs to support extraordinary research costs at UofO or other partners.    There will be some additional costs and I am working to support those as they become clear.

 On transportation, there are concerns, similar to yours, that the shuttle may not provide the right service given the need.  As such, the university will begin with interim arrangements in the form of reimbursement for parking and/or taxi/Uber transportation.   This will provide door-to-door transport and should help those of you with TAs and other duties on campus to move back and forth quickly.  Once we have a better idea of the volume and frequency of travel, we will determine the best type of shuttle service to offer.

 I will be continuing to work on some of these areas, and am meeting with the project manager weekly.   I will send an update next Monday addressing any updates or additions to the information in this message.

Best regards,
Malcolm Butler