Senate highlights ‑ February 26, 2018

- March 8, 2018

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.

New name for School of Human Communication Disorders

Senate approved a name change for the School of Human Communication Disorders in the Faculty of Health. The school will now be known as the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, pending final approval from the Board of Governors.

The new name “is much more recognizable throughout North America and is much more representative of the type of school it is,” said Professor Michael Kiefte, explaining the change to Senators. In particular, the new name highlights that the scope of activities is much broader than simply treating “disorders,” including a strong emphasis on speech-language pathology and audiology on promotion of speech and hearing health.

Items from the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee

Three items were moved forward to a Senate vote following review and approval by the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee. All three of these changes were approved.

  • Three “options” offered as part of the Bachelor of Engineering degree will now appear on academic transcripts: the Computer Engineering Option of the Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degree, and the Infrastructure Option and the Earth and Environment Options of the Bachelor of Civil Engineering. The changes are designed to assist students in professional engineering registration and future career development and advancement.
  • The dismissal policy of the Bachelor of Commerce Co-op program was amended such that students who fail the same core course twice, or who fail their second attempt at the same work term course, will be dismissed. This brings Commerce closer in line with other professional co-op programs at the university and creates a two-step dismissal process that will better enable advisors in Commerce to intervene and help those students who are struggling to succeed in their studies. 
  • The Graduate Academic Calendar was amended in two areas: clarification around Advancement Placement credits, and around Independent Study, Directed Readings and Special Topics courses.

2016-17 Ombudsperson Annual Report

The first annual report of the Dalhousie Office of the Ombudsperson (Diane Hawco, ombusperson) was delivered to Senate in a presentation by Lisa DeLong, associate ombudsperson.

A joint initiative of Dalhousie University and the Dalhousie Student Union, the Office of the Ombudsperson provides independent, impartial and confidential advice and oversight of student-serving systems at Dalhousie. Between the office’s launch in November 2016 and the end of last academic year (August 31), the office saw 119 individual visitors and 235 additional meetings/contacts. Nearly half of the students who sought the office’s services were international students, while the majority of concerns (83) related to academic matters.
The report also makes recommendations, in line with the office’s mandate, for improvements to university policy and practice including establishing guidelines for informal resolution processes; improving efforts to ensure staff and faculty are aware of policies related to student privacy and accommodations; and developing clear and transparent timelines for Senate Appeals processes.
“It’s our aim to do more outreach to faculty and staff as well, to ensure that they are aware that we are resource for any concerns they may have about matters falling within our jurisdiction,” said DeLong, noting that faculty and staff are sometimes best situated to notice that student may be struggling, or a policy or practice may seem unfair.
The full report will be posted to the Ombudsperson website in the near future. Additionally, the president has requested that his office and the University Secretariat review the recommendations with a view to identifying individuals and/or units with responsibility to follow up on these recommendations.

Outcome of engagement with the Board of Governors on the Ad Hoc Committee of Senate on Fossil Fuel Divestment

Senate Chair Kevin Hewitt updated Senate on outcomes of the report of the Ad Hoc Committee of Senate on Fossil Fuel Divestment. That report, completed in January 2016, was followed by a March 2016 Senate vote that approved the committee to engage with the Board of Governors with the intention of reviewing institutional policy and practices on ethical investment and other strategic initiatives to address climate change.

Dr. Hewitt provided Senators with a report summarizing discussions with Dalhousie’s Treasury & Investments Team on the challenges of implementing targeted investment / divestment and offered suggested possible edits to the university’s Investment Policy to address them. Dr. Hewitt agreed to return this item to the agenda of a future Senate meeting once Senators had more time to review the report.

Steps to make diversity and inclusion a reality

This meeting’s presentation on diversity and inclusion came from Tereigh Ewert-Bauer, senior educational developer (diversity and inclusivity), who joined the team with Dalhousie’s Centre for Learning and Teaching two months ago. In her new role (which follows 17 years at the University of Saskatchewan), she collaborates with faculty and instructional staff to situate inclusive pedagogy and practice within the university community. She offered advice for senators to better incorporate diversity and inclusion into their teaching, including to “begin with humility,” take responsibility for educating themselves, and invite and accept any and all feedback.

“Many people say they or others are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing when it comes to being more inclusive and more appreciative of the diversity in our classrooms,” she said. “But we also cause harm by doing nothing.”

Additional notes

Senate Chair Kevin Hewitt acknowledged the passing of Dr. Howard Douglas McCurdy (1932-2018), founding president (1968) of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the second African Canadian Member of Parliament, University of Windsor Biology professor (1959-) and head of the department, last president of the Black Coalition of Canada, NDP federal human rights critic and a Canadian civil rights leader.

Learn more about the Dalhousie Senate at its website. Minutes for past Senate meetings are available on DalSpace. Minutes for this meeting will be posted once approved by Senate.


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