Notes for the Senate Faculty Caucus Meeting (25 April 2011)

As emailed by Mark Jones to Faculty Senators, 25 April 2011:

Dear Colleagues,

The Senate Faculty Caucus will meet tomorrow morning (Tues., Apr. 26) at 9:30 a.m. in Watson 207, to discuss the Senate agenda for Apr. 28.

With thanks to Cathy Christie and Jordan Morelli, here are some possible issues for our agenda, whether or not you are able to attend the meeting.

1. III.1.b. Proposal to introduce a Medieval Studies/Minor/General Plan — under “Analysis and Discussion” it is said that that enrolment in the “Medieval Studies Special Field Plan (SPF) . . . . was recently suspended pending an academic review” (p. 16). Who would review it? Why is the current (SPF) program unsustainable?

In the proposal prepared by Professor Greenfield — under “Objectives” (p. 19) — he states that the SPF was deleted. Who deleted it? It is important to raise these questions and concerns publicly in Senate.

2. III.1.c. Spanish/Latin American Studies Minor — this is another case of a 5-credit Minor being introduced to replace a 14-credit special field concentration. In both cases, part of the problem with the SPF was the difficulty students had registering for courses with departmental prerequisites in various departments. Is Queen’s watering down its more rigorous humanities programs because the Administration can’t solve the “barriers” problem of departmental prerequisites?

3. III.2.a. Report from the Academic Planning Task Force.
I’m on this task force. We’re unable to meet the April 28 deadline for delivery of the academic plan, but it’s a big job with a short time-line, and some of us have been busy. We hope to have some sectional drafts posted at http://www.queensu.ca/saptf/ by early tomorrow.

In response to a question from Jordan Morelli, the APTF received many of the Unit responses to Principal Woolf’s Where Next? in March (we have over 40), but it has recently come to my attention that we don’t have all of them, and in fact we don’t have a complete list of them, so we’re not even sure what we’re missing. Among those we don’t yet have are those for the School of Nursing and many units in Arts & Science including Anatomy and Cell Biology, Art, Classics, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Classics, Geology, Life Sciences, Hebrew, Japanese, Linguistics, Medieval Studies, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Physiology, Spanish and Latin American Studies, World Language Studies, and The Writing Centre. These units are taken from the Arts and Science listing of departments, programs and courses, and some of them may not have filed responses. But we do need to read all of the responses that were filed.

4. III.4. Nominating Committee Report. Can administrators serve as faculty reps on committees? Stephen Elliott, Dean of Education, is listed here as a faculty representative on SORC.

5. III.5.a., SORC’s latest proposal for revisions to the “Functions of the Senate” document. This has a history going back to November 2010 (see related items on the Caucus blog). SORC posted a re-revision with a notice of motion at the March Senate, and David Mullan wrote a critical commentary on April 2. SORC has accordingly re-redrafted since March, and has bent on some points to Prof. Mullan’s suggestions, but it still insists on omitting the language (of the old functions 9 and 10) providing for Senate’s input on budgeting and on planning for “buildings and other capital facilities.” Prof. Mullan’s memo of Apr. 2 expresses serious reservations about the removal of this language, but SORC has merely responded:

the Provost is required to report to Senate monthly regarding the budget of the University and QUPC activities. Therefore, Senators have regular opportunities to ask questions and seek further clarification on budgetary matters and planning issues. [Jean Stairs, SORC Report addendum, p. 58]

If that is so, then these “opportunities” are in fact a Function of Senate and should be listed in the Functions document. The Administration is reasoning in two ways here, as is most convenient in each case:

(1) Diane Kelly says (in a letter attached to the March Senate submission) that since “approving” is Senate’s de facto function, it should be so specified in the “Functions of the Senate.”

(2) Jean Stairs says that since having “opportunities to ask questions and seek further clarification on budgetary matters and planning issues” is part of Senate’s de facto function, it does not need to be specified in the “Functions.”

A logically prior issue here is the validity of the first point made in SORC’s “Analysis and Discussion” section, i.e., that “The authority of Senate is enshrined in the Charter and it cannot be diminished” (p. 59). If this is true in principle, it is not true in practice. A major function of the “Functions” document is to inform Senators (esp. incoming Senators) of the Senate’s functions and powers. And if any of these functions and powers are left out of the “Functions” document, such that many Senators are unaware of them, then practically speaking Senate will be less able and likely to exercise them. For practical purposes, it is therefore critical that the “Functions” document represent Senate’s theoretical and legally sanctioned functions fully and accurately.

Cathy Christie has written Jean Stairs (chair of SORC) about these points, and I thank her for sharing them with me; it is important that Faculty Senators be aware of them for Thursday.

6. III.5.b, Proposed Terms of Reference for Cyclical Program Review Committee:

  • It seems that the Provost should be on this committee (not just be represented by a delegate).
  • The composition of the committee has changed. In the past, faculty Senators could be up 5/10 of the committee; but in the proposed structure there will be 3 administrators (ex officio) and 3 faculty Senators on the 9-member committee.
  • That they have removed the need to report to Senate is also a matter of concern.
  • There are issues of concern in the rephrasing of the terms of reference (pp. 67-68):
  • “Internal Academic Review” suggests that the perspective of review will be academic. This is replaced with “cyclical program review,” from which the term “academic” is conspicuously absent, and the terms of reference (see the 2nd box) include this rather muddled clause: “to advise the Provost annually on the institutional perspective regarding final assessment reports from the undergraduate and graduate academic programs” (my emphasis). The term “academic” is there only as a descriptor of the programs, and the review of them is represented only by an “institutional perspective.” Also omitted is this clause: “The purpose of conducting internal reviews is to ensure that all academic activities contribute to and are consistent with the mission of the University” (my emphasis). In sum, the new language seems to weaken the assurance that an academic viewpoint will be taken on what were “academic reviews.” Taken together with the fact that QUQAPS has already ceded internal authority to external authority, this could be serious.
  • In the bottom box on p. 67, the new policy deletes the provisions that the program review committee will “appoint the Review Team and Consultants [and] solicit comment from the university and external communities.” The QUQAPS document provides (in sec. 4.2.2) for the composition of review teams, but does not appear to specify who appoints the Review team. So if it is not specified here, the responsibility would seem to fall to the Provost, who “is responsible for the CPRs and reporting their outcomes to the Quality Council” (4.2). If there is to be some faculty input into the specific constitution of the review teams, the review committee should be given that responsibility here.

Hope to see you in the morning–Mark

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