Gaffield’s departure raises concerns of SSHRC leadership vacuum

April 25, 2014

Chad Gaffield’s announcement on April 1 that he will be stepping down as President of SSHRC as of August 31 has raised concerns about the direction the organization will take. Douglas Peers, Dean of Arts at the University of Waterloo, pointed to the fact that NSERC has been without a permanent president since March 2013. “I think if you go too long with someone as an interim without a clear mandate, especially as we start to move into the next [federal] election, things could just flounder for a while,” said Peers. Noreen Golfman, Dean of Graduate Studies at Memorial University, expressed her concern that the position would be filled by someone “who isn’t as committed to research in the humanities and social sciences as Dr. Gaffield.” Gaffield’s departure comes as many PSE institutions are being asked to emphasize skills training. In British Columbia, the presidents of Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria cautioned against sacrificing a classical liberal arts education while pursuing skill development. “The mistake is trying to say one thing is important and the other isn’t,” said SFU President Andrew Petter. UVic President Jamie Cassels added that many of the skills identified by Canadian executives as being most valuable “describe perfectly what a humanities education equips you with. What’s a better way to learn about how people think, learn and behave than, say, studying literature or cultural studies? These are exactly the skills that you need to deal with that uncertain future: adaptability, problem-solving, the ability to research, the ability to communicate. Those are 21st-century skills.” University Affairs | Vancouver Sun