Senate highlights — Sept. 10, 2018

- September 14, 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.

Senate members on the presidential search committee

Senate approved four nominees from its own membership for inclusion on the search committee tasked with finding a replacement for current Dal President Richard Florizone, who will depart from the university at the end of the year. Chaired by Dal Board Chair, Larry Stordy, the committee also includes other board, staff and student representation.

The Senate Planning and Governance Committee selected the following four individuals out of eight seven  nominations received after a call for nominations was sent this past July:

  • Roberta Barker, Faculty of Arts and Social Science
  • Frank Harvey, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science
  • Kevin Hewitt, Chair of Senate, Faculty of Science
  • Louise Spiteri, Faculty of Management

Tanya Packer, Senate’s vice-chair of student affairs, presented the motion for confirmation of the Senate nominees, providing a bit of background about the process and noting that there are an equal number of Board-appointed members (six) and non-Board appointed members (six) on the committee. The majority of non-Board-appointed members are appointed by Senate.

The full membership on the search committee is available on the Presidential Search website.

Report on Dentistry

Ben Davis, dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, provided an update on recent progress in the Faculty toward implementing recommendations made in a report by the task force set up after the discovery of a misogynistic Facebook group in December 2014. It is the last update required of the Faculty as per a recommendation in the task force’s report.

Dr. Davis said his number one priority since becoming dean in January 2018 has been to enhance workplace culture in the Faculty to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. To augment and build upon the valuable work done on this priority over the last few years, Dr. Davis decided to bring in an external facilitator who has helped set up four working groups around key issues: employee feedback and development; developing guiding principles; succession planning for the future; and practical workplace changes. “We are trying to fully engage all our staff and faculty in this work,” he said.

Dr. Davis highlighted other work underway around increasing diversity of students and employees in the faculty, including youth outreach programs, international post-secondary partnerships, and a mandatory workshop on microagression and allyship for students, staff and faculty. Other initiatives underway include a suggestions/comments box, the hiring of a new Human Resources advisor, web updates on the restorative justice process and weekly protected time for staff meetings and lunch and learns sponsored by the dean.

Research and innovation strategic direction

Alice Aiken, Dal’s vice-president of research and innovation, provided an overview of Dalhousie’s new research strategic direction for 2018-2023.

The direction is the result of an inclusive and collaborative planning process that engaged more than 400 faculty members, students, staff and external partners in impact sessions, summits, surveys, submissions and consultations and will serve as a guide for the allocation of the university’s research and innovation resources in the years ahead.

Grounded in discovery, innovation and impact and designed to ensure that Dal’s research activities have an even stronger influence on the local, regional and global landscape, the direction lays out five signature research areas and two overarching themes— all framed within the United Nations Sustainable Development goals for 2030. Dr. Aiken walked Senate through each of the areas and themes in turn:

Signature research clusters:

  • Sustainable Ocean
  • Healthy People, Healthy Community, Healthy Populations
  • Clean Tech, Energy, the Environment
  • Culture, Society, Community Development
  • Food Security

Cross-cutting themes:

  • Big Data
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship

The direction also lays out research values and identifies strategic implementation goals, including propelling research and innovation excellence, advancing an integrated research culture, encouraging collaborative research and partnerships, and driving impact through translational research and innovation.

“We want Dalhousie to be the go-to place for public policy as well as a driver of social and economic development,” said Dr. Aiken.

The full Strategic Direction can be reviewed at

Gender-affirmation policy

Jasmine Walsh, Dal’s assistant vice-president of human resources, and Karin McLay, Dal’s HR legal advisor (international), gave an update on the development and steps for implementation of the university’s first gender-affirmation policy.

Developed over the past year and a half by a large working group with feedback from community groups, Dal’s policy confirms the university’s commitment to providing a safe and respectful living, learning and working environment for trans and gender-variant people. It also codifies the university’s existing legal obligations under the Human Rights Act and outlines Dal supports that are currently available to members of the trans and gender-variant community.

The policy requires the approval of the Provost Committee and the President. A communications and implementation plan is now being developed to support the rollout of the policy and will be provided to the Provost Committee and President prior to requesting their approval on the policy. , which will then be presented with the policy to the Provost Committee and then the president for required approvals. McLay said the hope is to have the policy approved in time for the Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20.

Steps to increase student retention

Leanne Stevens of the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience spoke to Senate about different initiatives happening in the Faculty of Science to help increase retention of first-year students. Faculty wide, new initiatives include monthly coordination meetings with all first-year science instructors and an early program management process that helps identify students who are struggling in their first term and provides them with resources. In her own home department, Dr. Stevens has created a short, customized visual handbook and one-page guides that simplify program requirements — an approach other departments have also begun to adopt. And for her own classes, Dr. Stevens has begun sending personalized emails to students at key junctures to help them if they are struggling and to encourage them if they have shown improvement. She uses software to streamline the process.

Reports from the President and Chair of Senate

Dal President Richard Florizone welcomed new and returning senators to the first Senate meeting of the academic year. He welcomed Ivan Joseph, who joined Dal in August as new vice-provost of student affairs, and expressed his excitement about incoming Provost Teresa Balser, who joins the university in November. He also thanked Chris Moore for his work as acting provost. The president noted that Dal is entering this term with record enrolment numbers, a testament to the great work of faculties. He then drew attention to a number of upcoming events this fall, including Fall Convocation as well as 200th celebrations such as the Ignite Gala dinner and upcoming Belong Forums. He also said that he hopes to have some news related to the expansion of the Dal Arts Centre sometime in the coming months.

Professor Kevin Hewitt, chair of Senate, reported on some of the priorities identified by Senate officers at a retreat in August, including an international student support strategy, academic innovation, creating a more equitable admissions policy, strategic enrolment management, ways to create a more efficient Senate, and Dal's senior administration appointments policy. He also noted an upcoming forum this November on tenure and promotion standards and inclusivity that will aim to help socialize the university community to recognize non-traditional forms of scholarship. Dr. Hewitt said a number of Senate standing committees will examine their terms of reference this fall, following updates to Senate’s own constitution last year to address diversity, equity and inclusion in its membership.

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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