Lloyd Fraser scans the room, not to look at the portraits and busts of notable Dalhousians — including Lord Dalhousie himself — but to make eye contact with faculty and students seated at six long, heavy tables. They are members of the Senate, the governing body that makes all decisions related to Dalhousie’s academic programs.
Dr. Fraser’s experience, gained over seven years as chair and a previous five-year stint at vice-chair, are in evidence.
Eyes flit up from laptops and tablets, but there is no response.
“Are you ready for the question?”
A motion is read and the response comes, in virtual unison.
And, like that, the Senate tweaks its own constitution — adding some additional “checks and balances” and “clarity” in Dr. Fraser’s thumbnail analysis which he shared before calling for the question.
“I always felt it was important that people knew what they were voting on,” says Dr. Fraser, who is retiring as chair of the Senate and professor in the College of Continuing Education this month.
Sitting in a bright office in the Mona Campbell Building, Dr. Fraser is modest about his ability to synthesize material and present it to his colleagues — which, for motions at the June 9 meeting, ranged from a new Student Code of Conduct, to a new Bachelor of Technology in Landscape Architecture program.
“The full package for [the] meeting was about 350 pages,” he says. “Virtually nobody would go through all of that.” He’s often seen drafts of proposals multiple times at the committee level during the preceding months. “I’ve always felt an obligation to say to folks. ‘Okay, now here’s the story on this.’”
For Dr. Fraser, a smooth Senate meeting is a reward for work done elsewhere.
“We’ve got all those bodies that are vibrant and active and playing a significant role,” he says of the seven committees of Senate, the scene of much back and forth about contentious issues.
“We’ve tried to encourage an environment where if people have concerns or a different viewpoint that we hear them.”
The current committee structure is a result of a complete overhaul of the Senate constitution that took several years of his time as chair and resulted in fewer, more robust committees.
“I think that was important groundwork,” says Dr. Fraser, highlighting the creation of the College of Sustainability and a revamped student discipline process as two other achievements of the Senate during his time as chair.
“Dal has just grown tremendously over the years and that’s been a huge collective effort,” says Dr. Fraser, who came to the university 1981 after working for Oxfam-Canada and in Continuing Education at Saint Mary’s University. “It’s really a huge team effort and so I take satisfaction from having been part of the overall team.”
Making the most of it
Dr. Fraser taught negotiation and conflict management in the College of Continuing Education in partnership with the Schulich School of Law. As a mature student himself, he completed his doctorate in adult education at the University of Toronto in 2001. Increasingly, though, his role as chair of Senate has taken most of his time.
“It’s been a terrific role because you get to work with everybody across the university. So that to me has been a real delight.”
Under the constitution that he helped to craft, the chair may serve only two three-year terms. The Senate waived that provision for one year to provide some continuity during the first year of Dr. Richard Florizone’s presidency.
“As a result I’ve been able to serve a seventh year, which normally wouldn’t be the case,” says Dr. Fraser. “I leave it with very fond memories… and I can’t say with regret, because I think it’s time.”
His only firm plan in retirement is to attend the baptism of his youngest grandchild — one of 10 — in Italy, and then travel the country with his wife —and their backpacks — for three weeks.
At the most recent Senate meeting, Alan Pinder — vice-chair of Senate, student affairs and faculty member in the Department of Biology — was selected to take over from Dr. Fraser as Senate chair. Look for more on Dr. Pinder on Dal News in the near future.
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