New Tidbits from Senate

Posted by: | March 30, 2007 | 2 Comments

The UBC Vancouver Senate met and here are some updates:

1. We just established five new Chairs in the UBC Institute of Mental Health, three of which were donated by the Sauder Family through a $10 Million endowment fund, matched by the provincial government: The Sauder Chair of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, SC in Geriatric Psychiatry and Depression, and SC in Psychotherapy.

This establishment, most of which will physically realize itself in the Brain Research Centre (UBC Hospital), is highly overdue. Senator Kirby said it best when he stated that “Mental health has become the orphan of our healthcare system”.

2. We’re in a budget crisis. Hiring “chills” have been implemented. So what? So we need to establish a “mid-level strategic academic planning process” which will enable us plan ahead in a long term budget process that’s sustainable. President Toope has been talking about this for quite a while, and so has the AMS after the NSSE Survey results put us dead last from other colleges in terms of performance in student engagement. President Toope has emphasized that this has been the constant topic of discussion at the Executive Committee.

George Mackie (VP Academic and Provost pro tem) reported to the Senate on the SCAPP (Steering Committee for Academic Planning Process) which has an aggressive timeline and aggressive goals: it wants to ask the questions we’ve been shunning these past years – how do the forces and tensions that run through the University arrive at a planning process for a sustainable budget?

Clearly, there are four “forces” that are immediately identifiable: 1) Trek 2010 which is our Mandate, 2) student needs for high quality of learning and the faculty’s interest in quality research, 3) the government interest in our activities and consequent support, 4) and what we actually contribute to society and the perception of us by the public (insert cynical comment on ivory tower syndrome here).

So how do we arrive at a sustainable budget process keeping all of these dynamic forces in mind? That’s what the Steering Committee plans to address. George Mackie clearly recognizes that the perfect budget process is not a realistic goal given that all universities have been striving for such for hundreds of years and still not succeeded, but noted it was nevertheless integral to work towards.

He’ll be consulting the AMS, Student Senate Caucus, GSS, Faculty Association, Committee of Deans, and so on. What wasn’t addressed (and what I forgot to ask) was who exactly sits on this committee? I just emailed him to find out.

3. Nancy Knight presented on Stage III of the Campus Plan. We are at the Key Policy Directions stage – the thirty broad policies are listed on the website here: Some of personal interest (arbitrarily picked out by me, sorry) are:
University experience
#13. Improve the experience of the University through the establishment of a pedestrian-only core, centred along Main Mall that contains high quality amenities and services, recognizing the need for handicapped access and be supported by improved transit service.

Flexible learning spaces
#3. New buildings should maximize the flexibility in the design of the learning spaces to enable students and faculty to incorporate innovative teaching and learning methods.

#21. Create a campus where people feel safe at all hours of the day. New buildings should provide entrances and windows onto well-lit main streets and pedestrian corridors throughout the campus.
[interestingly, now there is a significant number of students taking night classes (7-10pm) and therefore the original campus plan – to have a very quiet, low lit campus, needs to be revisited. Lots of areas are not safe for students.]

My critique of these policy directions is that they seem suffocating. Unlike the Trek2010 vision, these policy directions leave very little flexibility without sparking imagination of what they actually arrive at. This sentiment was also echoed by other senators last night.

4. English 112 might not be a requirement anymore! There was an ad-hoc committee struck in 2001 that looked at writing and communication requirements for first year students, which unfortunately died in 2004, never to actually report to senate like it was supposed to. Now we’re at a second try and it’s looking like some infrastructural support is willing to occur – Nancy Gallini was mildly in favour of this committee happening so long as the English Department and the Faculty of Arts was involved in the dialogue. Some ideas were that first year students could take other courses so long as they had essay writing components in the course (like a History course or PoliSci course instead of English 112). Currently the only program that has an exemption is one Engineering program. I can’t speak to the course quality itself because I milked my AP credits, but I don’t like how our Faculty Janet Giltrow is making so much profit on the book that all undergraduate students going through this campus have to get their hands at.

5. There’s a fresh crop of student senators (I’m done!). The capable Tariq Ahmed is the new Caucus chair, and the AMS rep is the super keen Alfie Lee. I hope Brendon Goodmurphy will start to show up to Student Senate caucus as it is important that he involves himself as part of this body early such that this relatively new and inexperienced group knows to involve the AMS in its communication and planning – historically there’s been a lot of overlap yet lack of dialogue.

Jaspreet Khangura’s Pass/Fail option is going forward to the senate committee levels – Teaching and Learning and Academic Policy (as the final stop). Jeff and Jas have been working at this a lot and since Jas sits on both committees I am cautiously optimistic that this project will go through. When was the last time a student-driven policy motion passed? A long time. (It’s interesting to observe that our ivy-league crop of faculty members and administrators get slightly nostalgic when this issue came forward. “I benefited from this at MIT, indeed” or “My daughter is at Columbia and boy did she like this option”, or from the President himself who attended Harvard University.)


2 Comments so far

  1. Tim Louman-Gardiner on March 30, 2007 5:44 am

    Good post.

    George Mackie clearly recognizes that the perfect budget process is not a realistic goal given…

    Gina, I think this is libelous!!! How dare you suggest this! I mean you don’t have any proof!!! Defamation!! Libel!!!


  2. Gina Eom on March 30, 2007 5:53 am

    If I wasn’t madly in love with the role of regulatory T cells in autoimmune disorders I’d apply for law school.


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