Tension was in the air at the first Senate meeting of the year.
Senators convened Oct. 5 to discuss budget cuts, gendered violence on campus, and increasing the enrollment of international students.
All motions passed, including updates to the Academic Integrity Policy. The use of AI in classrooms will be left to the discretion of professors.
For the first time, an open questions period was held at the end of the meeting to increase Senate engagement. However, there was no shortage of discussion as Senators were primarily concerned with the $62.8 million deficit described in the Provost’s report.
All eyes were on the new Provost Matthew Evans who fielded questions about the deficit, enrolment rates, and recruitment of international students.
Principal Patrick Deane’s verbal report began the meeting with a daunting message to Senators in reference to ongoing political movements to ban topics and books from schools in North America.
“Public confidence in places like [Queen’s] has declined quite significantly in the last five or six years. Queen’s is not unusual, the whole sector is like this, and those declines map uncannily onto shifts in the cultural climate,” Deane said.
Queen’s is currently running a $62.8 million operating budget deficit. The deficit is being covered by reserves accumulated over previous years. A hiring freeze instituted in May has attempted to stem the flow of money out of the University, but it left some faculties grasping to make do.
Both Deane and Evans blamed the financial deficit on Premier Doug Ford’s tuition freeze and 10 per cent tuition cuts across the board in 2019.
“The causes of these challenges are very much to be found in the realm of public policy,” Deane said to Senate.
Senators want to know what the University is going to do to maintain the student experience, and how the deficit is being shared across faculties. For Arts and Science Faculty Senator Samantha King the top-down mandates to balance the budget coming from higher up in the administration, warranted an explanation.
“We’re looking at the decimation of instruction capacity and therefore the undergraduate educational experience,” King said.
Emils Matiss, graduate student senator, noted since the hiring freeze, two administrators in his faculty have left, leaving one administrator to do the work of three.
In response to both senators, Evans stated the University can’t sustain a budget deficit, and the actions being taken are logical. He acknowledged that Queen’s will need to be more strategic moving forward.
Recruitment of International Students
Senators were eager to find solutions to the financial deficit, with many encouraging the recruitment of more international students.
According to Evans, international students make up roughly 10 per cent of the undergraduate student body but account for two thirds of tuition revenue. In recent years, Queen’s has seen a drop in international students, exacerbating Queen’s ongoing financial stress.
Arts and Science Student Senator Yuxuan Zhao suggested collaborating with international schools in China to recruit more international students to Queen’s. Evans disagreed.
“The biggest growth for us is going to be outside China,” Evans said.
Arts and Science Faculty Senator Stephanie Dickey encouraged the University to focus recruitment
efforts on American students, as they’re Canada’s closest neighbours and Queen’s tuition costs are comparatively cheaper.
“[American students] seem to be our largest potential pool, and perhaps the easiest to assimilate of students from elsewhere,” Dickey said.
Not all senators were supportive of recruiting international students. Engineering Student Senator Lucas Balog raised concerns about housing availability if enrolment numbers increased. Staff Senator Karalyn McRae is unsure if Queen’s has enough support for international students when they arrive in Kingston.
The University has hired a consultant to guide their international recruitment and, according to Evans, is looking towards hiring more international faculty to internationalize Queen’s. Evans wants to assure Senators that recruiting international students isn’t a purely economic endeavour, but a way to diversify the campus.
The Possibility of Violence on Campus
Since the hate-motivated stabbing of a University of Waterloo Gender Studies professor and students in June, faculty at Queen’s have felt the impacts of the event radiate through the community.
Arts and Science Faculty Senator Jacqueline Davies explained to Senate that students and professors don’t feel safe on campus, given increasing homophobic and transphobic violence on and around university campuses.
Davies referenced the Montreal Massacre as a time when faculty at universities felt similarly.
“It seems to me the University hasn’t adequately addressed the impact of that violence on equity issues specifically,” Davies said.
For Davies, equity-deserving groups feel the threat more significantly. Students have reached out to Davies contributing their absences in classes are because they don’t feel safe on campus.
“This was specifically in relation to the anti-trans protests,” Davies said, in reference to the recent 1 Million March for Children protest in Kingston.
Davies directed her question to the Senate Educational Equity Committee, which as of yet doesn’t have a chair, requesting they focus specifically on how rising violence related to anti-LGBTQ+ groups is affecting equity deserving groups on campus.
“It’s really distressing when we’re told things are being done and we should feel safe,” Davies said.
Arts and Science Faculty Senator Philip Jessop proposed the University compile a list of best practices including protocols or numbers to call, for staff to use in case of sudden violent events on campus. He proposed the list be easily accessible on Queen’s website, so faculty are able to handle sudden situations to the best of their ability.
At the end of the discussion, Principal Deane acknowledged it is a difficult time to be working in education.
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