September Senate Notes (27 September 2011)

These notes are not comprehensive and are not meant to usurp the place of official minutes,  but only to inform members of significant developments in Senate, pending the appearance of the minutes.

Senate met on 27 September. The major issue on this meeting’s agenda was the Academic Plan (item III.3), slated for a 30-minute discussion. The draft Plan (see text here) was first discussed at Faculty Board in Arts and Science on 17 September and first announced publicly in an eQueen’s bulletin on 27 September. A member of the Task Force sent out a dissenting view on the morning of Senate; on the other hand, Principal Woolf welcomed the new draft in his report to Senate as an “excellent document.”  Comments in Senate included reservations concerning

  • excessiveness in the number and detail of recommendations;
  • the predominant focus on Arts and Science and the undergraduate experience;
  • the comparative neglect of graduate and professional students;
  • the recommendations for systemic use of undergraduate TAs and tutors;
  • the proposal for a “four-week non-credit on-campus remedial  summer course developing academic literacy,” since this would interfere with students’ schedules, summer employment, and housing arrangements;
  • the fact that the APTF had, sometime over the summer, decommissioned the transparent and interactive aspects of its website.

The APTF was urged to restore its website to its former levels of functioning, and Senator Morelli called upon all Senators to pay close attention both to the draft and to the dissent referred to above.

Other matters in Senate:

The Provost reported that low global interest rates and market returns may pose financial difficulties for the university.  But he said that all unit budgets for 2012-13 will remain at 2011-12 levels.  He said that Queen’s is reversing the 1.5% cut to department budgets that was related to Queen’s pension obligations.

In Question Period, Senator McIntire asked the Principal to explain the urgency with which Queen’s Board of Trustees has sought to end deficit funding.  She noted that other institutions and governments the world over had relied upon deficit funding to maintain their functioning during periods of financial difficulty.  The Provost responded that Queen’s had run a deficit four years running, which was worrying; that deficit funding was the source of many of the world’s problems; and that Queen’s administration’s role was to do the Board’s bidding.

Senator Morelli asked the Secretariat to explain why the URLs for Senate documents had been changed over the summer, without notice and without any provision for forwarding in the case of broken links.  He noted that this affected many documents that linked to Senate documents.  Celia Russell responded that this was a housekeeping necessity and that all links should be repaired by late October.  She said that anyone encountering difficulties in this respect should contact the Secretariat by phone.

Operations Review Committee proposed that vice-provost Cole be admitted to Senate as a Senator.  Sen. Morelli asked how this addition of an administrative ex officio position would affect the longstanding principle that faculty hold the majority of positions in Senate.  Sen. Woolf responded that the vice-provost is also a faculty member and that in any case Senate makes no distinction between faculty and adminstrative positions.

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One Response to September Senate Notes (27 September 2011)

  1. Roberta Lamb says:

    The Principal’s comment does not make sense. The Senate rules clearly differentiate between administration, faculty, student and staff.

    I am concerned, also, that the Provost says the Administration’s job is to do the Board’s bidding. Is it not the Admin’s job to provide honest reports to the Board on the effects of its bidding? Is it not the Admin’s job to make suggestions to the Board that could be improvements on the Board’s bidding? If the Admin only does the Board’s bidding, then perhaps the Board could save a few million or so by getting rid of the Administration and dealing directly with the department heads.

    I sense that it is important for all of us to increase our awareness of Senate activities. Fundamental changes appear in Senate that are changing the mandate of Queen’s University.

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