Mark Jones, e-Queen’s Misrepresents Senate (1 November 2011)

“Senate in Brief,” in the e-Queen’s Bulletin for 1 Nov. 2011, reports on Senate for 24 October 2011.  As it explains, “The Senate Academic Planning Task Force (APTF) submitted a notice of motion with the results of its work to allow discussion to take place prior to the senate vote at the November meeting.”

But it then claims that “There was a question about why references to certain practices – such as online learning – had been removed from the document. APTF member Iain Reeve replied that the document is meant to provide overarching guidelines for the university, not specific, direct instructions” (emphasis added).[1]

This is a misrepresentation that makes it appear that the APTF submitted to Senate—as it should have done—the draft for which it sought Senate approval with its notice of Motion for 22 November.  What actually occurred is that the APTF attached to its notice of Motion a draft that was not ready for approval.  It was in fact the same draft as the APTF had posted on the evening of 18 October 2011, though it was repaginated to fit as Appendix Gb to the agenda for 24 October.   It still included (and includes) its references to online learning (see pp. 18-19).[2]

In the October Senate, the APTF in fact said that that it was planning to remove, that it would remove (it used the future tense) all references to online learning and to undergraduate TAs.  And in fact, Senator Morelli objected to this announcement and was overridden.  To quote the Senate Faculty Caucus’s own October Senate Notes:

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?

The e-Queen’s Bulletin’s misrepresentation is, however unfortunate, good news insofar as it signifies an implicit acknowledgment on the part of the APTF and Queen’s Administration that it is unacceptable for the APTF to submit notice of motion  to Senate attaching one draft and then to hope for Senate’s approval of a different draft.  The whole point of a notice of motion is to give those responsible for considering the motion time to consider it (and approval of the Academic Plan is certainly a case that will take time for proper consideration).  Changing the texts to be approved by the motion after the notice is, in effect, changing the motion.  Where that occurs, those responsible for approval are worse off than if they had had no notice at all, for they have been misled as to the particulars of the motion.

This is merely one of several lapses in process in relation to the creation and approval of Queen’s academic plan.  Senate should seek assurance that the draft it is asked to approve has actually been created and duly approved by the whole of the Task Force that it has itself appointed, rather than by the Chair or one or two individuals.  And Senate should be very wary of approving a draft that has been switched up or of approving anything on a rushed basis.  To approve a document as important as the Academic Plan, it should have due notice and sufficient time for close and proper consideration.

Note.

[1] “e-Queen’s Misrepresents Senate” responds to the “Senate in Brief” as it was originally posted on 31 October 2011 and as it appeared until late on 1 November. Sometime in the evening of 1 Nov., “Senate in Brief” was silently revised in response to this post and to minimize its misrepresentations. The passage in question now reads: “There was a question about how certain practices – such as online learning – would be addressed if they were removed from the plan. APTF member Iain Reeve replied that the document is meant to provide overarching guidelines for the university, not specific, direct instructions.” This covers up the embarrassment, but it merely substitutes a new misrepresentation of what was said in Senate.

[2] Even as I write this, at 11:45 a.m. on 1 Nov. 2011, the old draft of 18 October remains the one posted on the APTF website and on the Senate website (for the agenda of 24 October). It still includes all of the old references to virtualization. So how could anyone in Senate on the 24th have asked “why references to certain practices – such as online learning – had been removed”?

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