Following each meeting of the Dalhousie University Senate, Dal News highlights some of the presentations and decisions made.
Senate is the university’s senior academic governing body, with membership consisting of elected representatives from Dal’s Faculties and the University Libraries, elected student representatives, a representative from the University of King’s College and Dal’s senior academic administrators. Senate is responsible for approving new programs; granting degrees/diplomas; managing the reviews of Faculties, centres and institutes; and setting academic regulations and the academic calendar.
Senate meets on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, from September through June. Learn more about Senate and its business at the Senate website.
Employment Equity/Federal Contractors Program Dashboard
As a recipient of federal government funding, Dalhousie is required to produce regular reports and analyses on employment equity as part of the Federal Contractors Program compliance process.
Arig al Shaibah, Dal’s vice-provost of student affairs, and Meghan Wagstaff, equity data analyst in Dalhousie Analytics, provided Senate with an overview of the electronic dashboard tool Dal uses to track such information and make informed decisions about employment equity planning and implementation.
While the federal program currently identifies four categories for tracking (Aboriginal, racially visible, persons with disability and women), al Shaibah suggested Dal needs to push for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as an equity seeking category, too, as laid out in Dal’s own employment equity policy released last fall. “We think there are opportunities . . . to be thinking about how we potentially lobby for the consideration of those designated groups,” she said.
Revised Election Guidelines for Faculty Academic Unit Reps on Senate
Senate passed a Planning and Governance Committee motion allowing for revisions to the Senate’s existing election guidelines that will help diversify faculty membership in the university governing body. Senate Chair Kevin Hewitt explained that the changes would help to remove from the election process any potential implicit bias or potential barriers to access or participation of equity seeking group members. Going forward, faculty academic units are encouraged to consult with Human Rights and Equity Services for advice on developing processes that would help bring forward a more diverse and inclusive slate of candidates from respective units. “Diverse and inclusive organizations have been demonstrated to make better decisions, and we’re in the business of making decisions,” said Dr. Hewitt. He thanked Arig Al Shaibah for drafting and championing these changes in her role as acting executive director, Human Rights & Equity Services.
Dal President Richard Florizone began his report by thanking all those involved in organizing the university’s successful Bicentennial Launch event on February 6, as well as Carolyn Watters, Dal’s Provost and VP academic, for her leadership at Dal over the years as she prepares to leave administration.
From there, the president moved on to discuss the ongoing push for increased federal research funding. He said he and other U15 presidents have been putting sustained pressure on the federal government to implement recommendations from the Naylor Report released last year that called for major increases in funding from Ottawa. Dr. Florizone said he expects work-integrated learning to show up as a priority in the federal budget as well, further emphasizing the importance for Dal in offering such opportunities.
Finally, the president offered sympathies on behalf of Dal to the family of Colten Boushie and Indigenous people across the country impacted by the acquittal in the trial over his murder and said Dal administrators are working to ensure appropriate supports are in place for students who need them.
Senate Chair Kevin Hewitt’s update highlighted the ongoing work to create a definition of Academic Freedom for non-bargaining unit members. A new committee is being struck by the Senate Planning and Governance committee to consider this.
He also provided a verbal update on the outcome of Senate’s engagement with the Board and its representatives on putting into action the report of the ad hoc committee on Fossil Fuel Divestment., highlighting the broad representation, including experts with investment experience and former members of Dalhousie’s Investment committee along with the co-chair of the Senate ad hoc committee and a student member from DivestDal. A written report will be provided at the next Senate meeting.
In his written report, he highlighted that February is African Heritage Month and the Feb 1 launch event, congratulating Education Advisor in Human Rights & Equity Services, Shakira Weatherdon and her team. (For more on the event, read the Dal News story.) He also highlighted the Dal 200 Belong Forums, beginning March 1 with Craig Steven Wilder and continuing March 9 with Justice Murray Sinclair. Dr. Wilder will speak about the research that went into his 2013 book, Ebony and Ivy, which explores the role of race and slavery in the development of several Ivy League universities in the United States. For more on Dr. Wilder, read the Dal News preview story.
Steps to Make Diversity and Inclusion a Reality
Kate Shewan, executive director with LGBTQ2+ advocacy group The Youth Project, spoke to Senate about transgender issues and how they fit into broader discussions around employment equity. She said research shows that transgender and queer people still face extremely high levels of discrimination in our society, particularly when it comes to looking for work. Inherent biases in the hiring process, bullying and trans phobia all take a toll, she said, highlighting that while the trans community has a high proportion of people with some post-secondary education (71 per cent), more than half of them make less than $15,000 annually. She said employers should adapt employment equity policies to include gender identity and gender expression as a way to help address these systemic injustices.
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