May Senate Notes (22 May 2012)

The following notes are not comprehensive and are not meant to usurp the place of official minutes, only to inform members of significant developments pending the appearance of the official draft minutes next September.

Senate met 22 May.  About 40 members attended, and the meeting lasted from 3:30 till after 6.

Agenda / Agenda Committee.

The agenda was amended to include four motions rejected by the Agenda Committee.[1]  All four had been revised in response to the Committee’s objections.

First was a “Motion concerning Queen’s Travel Policy”:  “that Senate endorse Prof. Marc Epprecht’s letter of 10 April 2012 to Associate Vice Principal Donna Janiec, and that it support Queen’s Administration’s requests that the MTCU rescind or revise its new guidelines for travel expenses accordingly.” (This motion was later passed unanimously.)

Sen. Morelli then moved to challenge the Agenda Committee’s rejection of three motions concerning allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s and HEQCO.  As he noted, the Agenda Committee has explicit authorization to reject submissions if they exceed Senate’s jurisdiction but not otherwise (Rules, III.17). The Committee had rejected these motions on grounds that the OCUFA Statement to which they refer is “not factually correct” (though it did not specify or substantiate this claim).  But it also rejected the motions a second time after they had been revised to make no assent to OCUFA’s claims.  Sen. Morelli’s motion to challenge the rejections passed 20-19, and the three revised motions were placed on the agenda.

For Information. 

The Principal announced that there will be a joint Senate-Board of Trustees meeting on Saturday September 29.

The COU Academic Colleague’s Report includes interesting information on provincial developments, including the “three cubed” proposal, the proposed Ontario Online Institute, and initiatives to improve credit-transfers among PSE institutions.

Also of interest is Sen. Notash’s question concerning recent changes in “the ‘mature student’ category for admission at Queen’s.”  She notes that “students who formerly would have been admitted as mature students must now take a series of online courses (amounting to 4 full courses) before they will be admitted to on-campus courses.”  The respondents, Sen. MacLean and Associate Dean-Studies Brenda Ravenscroft, said that  “mature students” has always been an imprecise term, and that some of these students prefer online courses.  Sen. Notash questioned whether this entailed that all students in the category should be required to take online courses.

SCAD (Senate Committee for Academic Development) submitted a draft of its “Recommended Procedures for the Suspension of Admissions to Academic Programs.”  This is the report mandated by Senate in January on a student motion, which was inspired by the suspension of admissions to the BFA last November.  The draft is also posted on the Secretariat website; SCAD requests written responses from community members by 17 September so that the Procedures document can be approved in the fall.

Motions.

Sen. Jones’s motion “That Senate endorse the statement by CAUT and QULA concerning Access Copyright” was defeated.  The motion referenced (a) CAUT’s critique of Access Copyright and the AUCC’s “model agreement” and (b) QULA’s (Queen’s Librarians and Archivists’) Open Letter urging the Provost and the University Librarian “not to sign on to […] Access Copyright.”  Jones also cited more recent statements  opposing Access Copyright by QUFA and the SGPS.  But Queen’s signed a non-binding  letter of intent with Access Copyright on 15 May, he said, and seemed poised to finalize an agreement.  The motion was supported by most of the student senators present, whose concerns included excessive costs that would be borne entirely by students.  But the University Librarian expressed concerns that not signing with Access Copyright could incur costs to the university and said consultation was still in process.  The university must decide whether to sign by the end of June.

Discussion of the motions concerning allegations of research misconduct at Queen’s extended the meeting past 6. The Provost, having strenuously opposed the inclusion of all three motions on the agenda, led opposition to all three.  He claimed that the OCUFA Statement was “erroneous”; that OCUFA had not consulted with the University beforehand or invited it to reply; that the research project contracted with HEQCO had involved delays; that the primary researcher was not just a student but an employee; that she had signed a contract with HEQCO (thus waiving her moral rights); and that she had subsequently re-posted her research report with the title supplied by HEQCO.

The supporters of the motions responded that none of the Provost’s objections were relevant. This was not a question of the legality of HEQCO’s research contract (which OCUFA itself conceded), but one of academic integrity.   And whether OCUFA had acted impolitely, and whether it was mistaken in particulars were both irrelevant, since (a) the motions were phrased to avoid committing Senate to OCUFA’s version of events, and (b) the fact remained that a damaging allegation of Queen’s breach of academic integrity had been made public by a highly respected and credible source, and something needed to be done about it.  The central accusation of academic concern to Queen’s (and hence the responsibility of Queen’s Senate to investigate) was that Queen’s and HEQCO had doctored the results of a research report and then published the doctored report under the authors’ names without their consent or knowledge, and in fact with a disclaimer explicitly stating that the views expressed in the report were those of the authors.[2]  Such a practice, even granting its legality as a matter of contract, would still be a flagrant violation of  “academic integrity,” a principle to which Queen’s Senate explicitly subscribes in its “Academic Integrity Policy Statement,” and which it defines as comprising “the five core fundamental values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.”[3]  Sen. Jones reminded Senate that Senate had affirmed the principle of “Academic Integrity” in 2006 as an alternative to “academic dishonesty.”  The change in policy was promoted in the name of replacing the “reactive” practice of punishing individual students for “violations” with a “proactive” and “educational” “institutional culture” that would “engage students, professors, staff and administrators in the broader values which support the scholarly mission of the university.”[4]  The definition of “Academic Integrity” approved by Senate in January 2006, and since enshrined in practice (e.g., in the Faculty of Arts and Science’s Regulation 1) ends by affirming that “Queen’s students, faculty, administrators and staff therefore all have ethical responsibilities for supporting and upholding the fundamental values of academic integrity.”[5]  Thus, the “proactive” “culture” of Academic Integrity does not just focus on student misbehaviour, but requires that “faculty, administrators, and staff” set an example of integrity.  Sen. Jones noted that the University could not credibly enjoin its students to embrace “academic integrity” if it was not seen as respecting these values itself.[6]

It was objected that Sen. Morelli’s motion (essentially, that Queen’s researchers be advised against research contracts that waive moral rights or constrain academic freedom) was premature since it presumed the outcome of any investigation of the allegations, and that all three motions assumed the validity of the OCUFA Statement and presumed the guilt of parties they referred to, such as Research Services.  It was also objected that the Provost was already investigating the allegations. When the Provost was asked whether it was untrue in his view that Queen’s and HEQCO had been involved in “changing the conclusions of a research paper without the knowledge or consent of its authors, and then publishing that work under the authors’ names,” he responded that he had no proof that the claim was true.  When asked when Senate could expect his report on his investigation, the Provost responded that it would be done when it is done.

The votes on these motions occurred after 5 p.m., when many Senators had departed, and all three were defeated.  It was, nonetheless, a lively discussion.

[1] The Rules of Procedure state:  “If a Senator believes the Agenda Committee’s ruling is in error and wishes to challenge the ruling excluding such a resolution, he or she may do so in the Senate meeting when the Senate considers the adoption of the agenda as recommended by the Agenda Committee. Under the present Rules of Procedure, a vote of a majority of Senators present would be sufficient to have such a resolution included in the agenda” (III.17).

[2] OCUFA, “Statement,” pp. 1, 3.  It is worth stressing, though it was not mentioned in Senate, that the charges against Queen’s have been made not only by OCUFA but by HEQCO itself.  Harvey Weingarten’s response of 10 April 2012 on behalf of HEQCO to Jennifer Massey and Sean Field affirms:

  • In September 2011, in an attempt to release the report, we approached Queen’s University’s Associate Vice-Principal and Dean of Student Affairs, Ann Tierney, and discussed two options:  (i) abandoning the project and HEQCO not making the final payment under the terms of the original contract, or (ii) having other staff at Queen`s University complete the final revisions to produce a publication-ready final report;
  • Queen’s chose the latter option.   Both the December 2010 and June 2011 versions were provided to Chris Conway (Queen’s University’s Director of Institutional Research and Planning) who delivered a final report to HEQCO in December 2011 (18 months after the original due date).

[….] HEQCO neither wrote nor inserted or deleted any portions of the final report.  The HEQCO contract had been signed with Queen’s University, and because the original principal investigator had not satisfactorily fulfilled her contractual obligations, Queen’s University chose to proceed with final revisions, which we subsequently published. (Posted by the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario in “Research misconduct and HEQCO” (http://cfsontario.ca/en/section/192)).

[3] Senate’s Academic Integrity Policy Statement opens with this definition:  “Academic integrity is constituted by the five core fundamental values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility (as articulated by the Centre for Academic Integrity, Clemson University; see www.academicintegrity.org).”

[4] SCAD, “Final Report of the Subcommittee on Academic Integrity,” 26 Jan. 2006, as Attachment Fa to the January 2006 Senate Agenda, pp. 14-22; quotations from pp. 16-17.  The “Final Report” and its definition of “Academic Integrity” were approved by Senate in January 2006 (Senate Minutes, Jan. 2006, p. 5).

[5] “Final Report,” p. 19, and Senate Minutes, Jan. 2006, p. 5.  See also the statement by the Centre for Academic Integrity, to which Queen’s subscribes:  “Every member of an academic community—each student, faculty member, and administrator—is responsible for upholding the integrity of scholarship and research” (“The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity” (Oct. 1999), p. 9).

[6] It is worth noting, though it was not mentioned in Senate, that the Faculty of Arts and Science Academic Regulation 1: Academic Integrity lists “Falsification” under “Departures from Academic Integrity,” and includes “fabricating or falsifying laboratory or research data” among its “examples” (Sec. 1.2.1(v)).   It also lists “Facilitation (enabling another’s breach of academic integrity)” (Sec. 1.2.1(iii)).

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This entry was posted in Academic Integrity, Access Copyright, Agendas and Agenda Committee, HEQCO, Misconduct, SFC Notes on Senate Meetings. Bookmark the permalink.

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