A memo released last week by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education announced that a prominent student leadership centre for KPE students was to be shut down, its services decentralized to other program areas within the faculty.
The Centre of Leadership Training and Education (CLTE) is a student centre focused on developing leadership skills related to physical and heath education, as well as providing staff training for KPE-related jobs.
It is also one of the biggest student employers on campus.
The announcement of the centre’s closure came as a surprise to many students and staff within the faculty, including those employed at the centre.
One student doing a work-study placement with the CLTE said that while she knew the centre had been under review, “the decision to shut it down was a complete surprise.” Another casual staff member commented on how the memo seemed vague on what will happen to the CLTE in the future.
Kevin Sousa, president of the Physical and Health Education Undergraduate Association (KPE’s student union), noted that the centre had a positive reputation on campus and was seen as a valuable resource by many students both within and outside the KPE program.
But in a formal review commissioned by dean Ira Jacobs during the 2010–2011 year, the CLTE was criticized for what administrators perceived as a vague and unfocussed mandate. It was recommended at the time that the centre’s mandate be streamlined to better serve students.
The review also offered, as one of its solutions to combat the centre’s broad mandate, a redistribution of CLTE services to other program areas within the faculty.
Though the report had been partially informed by student input through focus groups and interviews, student leaders like Sousa felt that student engagement in the final decision about the centre was lacking.
“One of my largest concerns was that the decision was made unilaterally by the senior leadership as there were no students involved in the actual decision process,” said Sousa. “It’s quite problematic to have a governing structure to make a decision without involving students in the process.”
Other students involved with the CLTE feel the same; a casual staff member noted that it did not feel like the faculty was consulting students in their decisions, and that there needed to be more emphasis on student impact in the future.
Anita Comella, one of the assistant deans involved in the decision, said that while the formal report was a factor, the decision was also a business one, informed by a vision to incorporate more experiential learning opportunities within the Faculty.
Comella noted that faculty was changing its academic program. “The intent is to include student leadership and experiential learning within all the courses provided by the faculty — so there would be no need for the CLTE to provide this.”
Comella also noted that the decentralization process will mean the delegation of work-study positions to the appropriate curricular or co-curricular positions within the faculty, and that staff training will be undertaken within these specific program areas.
Though the transition plan from a centralized hub for student leadership to a decentralized one has not yet been detailed, Comella says that over the next six weeks, the CLTE staff and senior leadership will put an effective strategy in place.
The centre is expected to be discontinued by March of 2013.
Currently, there are differing opinions of the future implications of the CLTE closure. To Comella, the decentralization of the CLTE services will bring new opportunities to enhance student leadership and collaboration within the Faculty.
But to many students, the CLTE was also a student centre that brought the KPE student body together. For one staff member involved in leadership programming at the CLTE, “there will be a big difference between a centre that makes leadership development its number one priority, versus someone who does it on the side — the quality of leadership training is going to go down.”
For more on the KPE Sport Model review, see pg 23