Senate highlights — Nov. 26 and Dec. 10

- December 21, 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 Policy for Faculty Reviews of Academic Programs

Senate was presented with an updated version of the Senate Policy for Faculty Reviews of Academic Programs. Senate Chair Kevin Hewitt noted that feedback on policy at the prior Senate meeting (Oct. 22) and further consultation helped address some concerns that were raised.  Senator Katherine Harman, Chair of Senate Academic Programs Research Committee, noted some of the resulting amendments made to the policy, particularly replacing the term “learning outcomes” with “program goals” and the recommendations to include programs at the College of Continuing Education and joint Dalhousie-Kings University had been addressed. After extensive discussions, Senate approved a motion to postpone a vote on the policy approval.

Indigenous Strategy

Professors Keith Taylor (Mathematics and Statistics) and Patti Doyle Bedwell (College of Continuing Education), co-chairs of the Indigenous Strategy Committee at Dal, provided an overview of a draft report of the university’s Indigenous Strategy. The report — developed with input from leadership teams across faculties and units as well as external partners — contains several recommendations, including the establishment of an office of Indigenous relations at the university and an external advisory board. “Our consultations show that there is an incredible amount of capacity and sense of goodwill and a sense that we should be moving forward,” said Dr. Taylor. “Across all the faculties, what’s really lacking is a coherent center to manage all of our activities in those directions. The thrust of our report is that that infrastructure be established.”

Doyle Bedwell said Indigenous people are not just another equity seeking group, but people with constitutionally enshrined rights and recognition. She emphasized the importance of a sense of belonging in everything from curriculum development to symbols to artwork and recognition of gatherings like the Mawio’mi. “Our vision is that . . . Dalhousie will be seen as a centre of excellence, that we would have inclusion, knowledge keeping, knowledge creating, belonging and seeing how we are significantly embedded in Mi’kma’ki and that we are welcoming space for all Mi’kmaw students and otherwise.”

Steps to Make Diversity and Inclusion a Reality

Dal students Aisha Abawaji and Kati George-Jim of the Dalhousie Black, Indigenous, People of Colour Caucus (BIPOCUS) provided Senators with an overview of their advocacy, support, programming and education. They emphasized the group’s focus on combatting systemic racism and the marginalization of BIPOCUS students in particular. They presented tangible strategies for remedying this, including providing non-colonial/non-Western views through readings, facilitated dialogues and opportunities and spaces in the classroom for students to come forward and see themselves positively reflected in the academy. “Ultimately, I hope that folks walk away with an understanding that racism whether implicit or explicit – through the system or individual behavior — adversely affects BIPOC mental health and how they are seen in academic and how they want to be seen in academia,” said George-Jim.

Termination of Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts Institute

Senate approved the termination of the Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts (CYCC) Institute at Dal. Professor Michael Unger, scientific director of CYCC and Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience at Dal, said the group had fulfilled its mandate and that its funding will come to an end in early 2019. “We’re not coming here with a sense of failure. It’s actually a success story,” said Dr. Unger of the institute, which was established in 2013 as a knowledge mobilization group facilitating seminars, training, research meetings and funding opportunities for research around children and youth. “It’s just that it has run its mandate and rather than lingering on . . . it’s time to perhaps divest and move on.” Dr. Unger said that with no new funding coming in, the group has divested some of its work using a social enterprise contract model to carry on some of projects done on a national scale.

President's Report

In his final report to Senate, Dal President Richard Florizone welcomed new Provost, Teri Balzer, as well as incoming interim president, Peter MacKinnon. He also highlighted a few of the successes of recent years that he has been president, including record enrolment, record research funding and new fundraising highs. He noted successes in other areas as well, including the On-Track Program for student retention, innovation in experiential learning and growth in co-op placements, major partnerships in ocean research, and big construction projects made possibly through generous external support. Next, he discussed some of the "important first steps" taken around diversity and inclusion, including the strengthening of the IB&M program and Imhotep's Legacy Academy, exposing and addressing hiring gaps and responses to Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action (especially around curriculum changes). “Thank you again for the privilege of serving as your president," he said, in closing. "We live in an age of knowledge and an age of political uncertainty and an age of great economic, environmental challenge and opportunity. But amidst that context, you can imagine the mission of the university is more important than ever in all of that. I can’t help but really know in my heart that the days ahead for Dal are stronger than ever.”

Farewell to President Florizone

Senator Hewitt expressed thanks to President Florizone for his leadership and service to the university and presented a gift to the president and his family on behalf of Senate. “We wish you every success in your future endeavors and, of course, we will be looking towards the next great things that you do,” said Senator Hewitt. “Thank you for your visionary leadership and enthusiastic advocacy on behalf of the Dalhousie family of students, faculty and staff."

Highlights from the December 10 meeting

Steps to Make Diversity and Inclusion a Reality

Ingrid Waldron, associate professor in the School of Nursing, spoke of the different ways she has incorporated diversity, equity and social justice into the Nursing graduate and undergraduate curricula, teaching and student supervision and mentorship. “My overall objective as an educator is to instill in learners a scholarly appreciation for how issues of race, culture, gender identity and sexual orientation, age, disability, citizenship and other social identities and differences impact the social and economic and political wellbeing and health of diverse communities.” She said she gives equal attention to all social identities in her courses, “allowing diverse students in my classroom to see themselves reflected in the curriculum.” Through teaching, classroom discussion, assignments, she engages students in critical interrogation of “dominant” knowledge.

As co-lead of the new African Canadian health research cluster at Dal’s Health Populations Institute, she brings together multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral team comprised of faculty and students from diverse disciplines from Dal and other universities in Halifax as well as community partners to address structural factors that impact health in diverse African Canadian communities through research, publications, knowledge mobilization and healthy public policy and community capacity building. A key component of that will be to provide training to students and junior faculty.

Senate Policy for Faculty Reviews of Academic Programs

Reviews of academic programs are a vital part of ensuring their quality and is central to Senate’s quality assurance mandate. The Senate Policy for Faculty Reviews of Academic Programs was created to provide Dalhousie with the basic, faculty-informed procedures/guidelines to complete this important task. Senator Hewitt noted that discussion on the policy over the past two meetings had been considered by the Senate Academic Programs and Research Committee (SAPRC) and by university administration. Senator Katherine Harman, Chair of SAPRC, presented the motion, while senator Pemberton Cyrus, acting associate vice-president, academic, spoke about the purpose of the policy, which is about establishing and maintaining the high quality of academic programs at Dal. He said the policy provides more standard procedures and forms, creating a coordinated and consistent approach for the review of our graduate and undergraduate programs, such that the reputation of the university is enhanced.

Modification of the Admissions Process for the Master of Applied Computer Science (MACS)

Senate approved a motion from the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee to modify the admissions process for the Master of Applied Computer Science program. Senator Andrew Rau-Chaplin, dean of the Faculty of Computer Science, proposed augmenting the existing application process with a carefully designed remote technical interviewing process that tries to better assess the technical knowledge and skills of the applicant. He said that although the program has attracted students who have flourished academically, secured industrial internships and joined the Nova Scotia tech industry, students who enter the program without some core technical competencies can struggle. “We’ve come to believe over time that admitting students into MACS without first confirming that they have the required technical background to succeed is actually a great injustice given the high financial and opportunity cost of a student embarking on this kind of graduate education.” He said admitting unprepared students also impacts the quality of the education Dal can offer the rest of the cohort.

Summary of 200th Anniversary Events

Catherine Bagnell Styles, assistant vp of comms and marketing and Dal 200 lead, and Chris Moore, dean in the Faculty of Computer Science, gave an overview of highlights from Dal's 200th anniversary. Dr. Moore described it as a “spectacular” year guided by principles supporting the university's mission: teaching and learning, research and service to community. Bagnell Styles explained the university's 'layered' approach to the bicentennial, which included signature events and initiatives, faculty and unit-level projects and conferences and other events. She highlighted everything from the Bicentennial Launch centred around George Elliott Clarke’s epic poem on Dal history and seven tremendous Belong Forum speakers to full alumni events in cities across the country, noting the importance of community partnerships and sponsorships in making it all possible. She also noted the many building openings and the Faculty of Computer Science's success with its closing the gender gap campaign that attracted more female undergraduate students.

Bagnell Styles also provided a snapshot of some figures from the year to showcase the reach and impact of the celebrations. There were 150 initiatives, more than 80 events, 20,000 buttons given out, 2,000 cookies, 5500 pieces of 200th swag sold in the bookstore, and a chair in Rebecca Cohn named after Viola Desmond. She also noted that social media impressions increased by 30 per cent over the past year and paid media impressions topped 96 million while earned media topped 240 million impressions. In total, 32,000 either came to a Dal 200 event or watched online as it happened. “I want to say thank you. If I look around the room, I see people who led an initiative, supported an initiative, or invited somebody to an initiative," she said.

Report by the Presidential Transition Team

Candace Thomas, Vice Chair of Dal’s Board of Governors, and Leanne French-Munn, Assistant Vice-Provost, Planning and Strategy, discussed different aspects of planning around the presidential transition at Dal. Thomas is chair and French-Munn is project manager of the presidential transition steering committee. Thomas said there are four different parts of the planning process, including: Richard’s departure and paying tribute; presidential search itself (committee struck, work underway); the appointment and onboarding of acting president Peter MacKinnon; and onboarding and working with the new president during his or her first year. Thomas said they want to ensure Dalhousie maintains the momentum that President Richard Florizone has already started. “Really how we’re defining success in transition is making sure that there’s progress and momentum going forward,” said French-Munn.


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