October Senate Notes (24 October 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 24 October 2011.

Among the most important items on the Agenda were two notices of motion for the Senate of 22 November 2011 concerning approval of the academic plan:

(1)  The Academic Planning Task Force (APTF) gave Notice of Motion (Agenda item III.4.a) and submitted a 53-page draft for the November vote.

(2)  Senator Jordan Morelli gave notice (Agenda item V.4) for an alternative “Motion for Approval of the Completion of the 2010-11 Academic Planning Cycle, and for the Institution of a Cyclical Annual Planning Process.”  This “compromise” motion entails rejection of the APTF’s draft and the “institut[ion of] an ongoing, annual process” in which Senate specifies planning issues each fall and strikes a task force to consult and report on those issues.  It also proposes that Senate consider for approval certain draft sections completed by Task Force members earlier in the year in order to complete this year’s “cycle.”

Senate conducted an unplanned half-hour discussion of the Academic Plan.  Senator Morelli objected that the Plan was not listed on the agenda as ‘for discussion’ and that many senators were therefore not prepared to discuss these matters.  The Chair ruled that the discussion could proceed and Senate overruled Senator Morelli’s objection.

Senator Morelli inquired about the APTF’s composition and its process for replacing members.  Specifically, he asked how Chris Rudnicki had been replaced but Mark Jones had not been.  No cogent answer was given to this question.

The APTF stated that it would be withdrawing from its draft all references to virtualization and to the proposal to increase the use of undergraduate students as teaching assistants.   Senator Morelli raised a point of order:  the APTF’s notion of motion specified and attached a particular draft of its proposed Academic Plan; if the point of such a notice of motion is to allow time for consideration of a text up for approval, how could the notice remain valid if the text kept changing in the interim?[1]  He concluded that the APTF’s Notice of Motion was premature and should be ruled out of order.  The Chair dismissed this objection; Senator Morelli challenged the Chair’s ruling, and the Chair’s ruling was confirmed by vote of Senate.

Several members of the APTF spoke during the discussion.  Senator Remenda, an APTF member, spoke to concerns about the heavy emphasis on “task-based learning” in the APTF’s proposed draft. She talked about her own experience with this approach and suggested that the concerns around task-based learning are largely a product of disciplinary differences. The Task Force intends to change all references to “task-based learning” to “inquiry-based” learning.

Senator Fachinger, another APTF member, talked about the important work the task force had done in collaboration with the Four Directions Centre and with the Human Rights Office.  She pointed out that the APTF’s draft includes recommendations that, if implemented, would improve equity at Queen’s.[2]

Senator Adams thanked the members of the APTF for their efforts. She expressed disappointment that the importance and difficulty of their work on behalf of the University had not been acknowledged through the provision of appropriate release time. Senator Adams said that, like others, she finds much to appreciate in the document, but that there are aspects of the proposed plan that would be hard to support. She asked members of the Task Force how they see the plan going forward.  Senator Reeve, a Task Force member, suggested that the plan be viewed as a document that will evolve over time.

Senator D. Moore requested that the November motions concerning the academic plan be conducted by ballot.  The Chair said that Senate does not use secret ballots.  Senator Morelli pointed out that wasn’t necessarily true, since Senate rules of procedure defer to Bourinot’s Rules on matters of that are not otherwise specified, and Bourinot does provides for the use of secret ballots (4th ed., p. 55). Senate Secretary G. Moore directed Sen. D. Moore to present his request as a motion to Senate, and Senate then voted to reject it.


Senator Morelli had given notice of a motion to reconsider the motion passed by Senate on 27 September 2011 (Sept. 27 Minutes, p. 3) to create an interim ex officio position for the new Deputy Provost.   As he noted, this increased ex officio places by one and thus contravened the principle of faculty majority, since it reduced faculty positions in Senate to only 50%.  A committee is supposed to address this issue and Sen. Morelli, having been advised of this by the Secretariat, withdrew his motion to reconsider.

Senator Morelli also introduced a motion to rescind motion 09-42 to introduce a new grading system at Queen’s (see the motion and the Minutes for 20 May 2009, pp. 5-8).  He argued that motion 09-42 had been passed after procedural abnormalities at a May meeting at which many student senators could not be present, and that its implementation was disadvantaging some students. In the discussion, Registrar Joanne Brady and others spoke to the process through which the new system had been adopted. An undergraduate student senator said that students had not been adequately represented at the meeting where the final vote took place. The motion to rescind did not pass.  This student Senator also confirmed that the new grading system was disadvantaging some students, including herself.

At the start of the meeting Senator McIntyre noted that the minutes of the September 2011 meeting of Senate did not accurately reflect her question and objection concerning the Board of Trustees insistence to not run a deficit after 2013 and that this position was having a detrimental effect on the quality of education at Queen’s.  Senate was assured that the minutes would be changed to reflect this, but that has not yet happened as of 28 October 2011.

[1] On 19 October, Peter Taylor replied to a query about the APTF’s final text:  “A new draft can be found on the website now. We expect that comments received over the next couple of weeks will lead to minor changes from time to time, but the draft that we post for the November meeting will of course be final.” This appears to mean that the APTF will not stand by a final draft until it has to be sent out with the November agenda (Senate meets on 22 November, and the agenda usually appears less than a week beforehand). If so, this is a serious breach of process.  The academic planning issues are both complex

[2] It is worth noting that the “Pillar III” section referred to here is up for approval under the Morelli motion as well.

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