Academic Plan gets go-ahead

Unanimous Senate support for revised recommendations

The Academic Plan was shortened from 89 specific recommendations in the Sept. 27 draft to 22 recommendations. These are some points that were cut out before the final Plan was passed at Senate on Nov. 22.
The Academic Plan was shortened from 89 specific recommendations in the Sept. 27 draft to 22 recommendations. These are some points that were cut out before the final Plan was passed at Senate on Nov. 22.
Graphic by Justin Chin

The Academic Plan that will direct the University’s academic future was unanimously approved at Tuesday’s Senate meeting.

The current plan includes 22 specific recommendations, eight general university standards and six guiding points for the planning process.

This is a significant reduction from the 89 recommendations that were initially presented to Senate by the Academic Planning Task Force (APTF) on Sept. 27.

During the September meeting senators voiced concerns around the over-specificity and financial motives of the plan.

“[The APTF] took anything objectionable out of the Academic Plan,” Senator Jordan Morelli said, referencing points included in the September plan like a mandatory year-long English course for first-year students.

During the Sept. 27 Senate meeting, the task force was given approximately two months to present a finalized plan.

“Realistically, they just ran out of time,” Morelli said.

Morelli, an assistant professor in the department of physics, engineering physics and astronomy, drafted an amendment to the motion that carried on Nov. 22.

As a result, the Academic Plan will be updated on a yearly basis with specific recommendations made to Senate. In the fall of 2012, issues of faculty renewal and online learning will be discussed.

The amendment states the University must use the Academic Plan as the first of many documents in the planning process and that year-long task forces will be responsible for leading the changes instead of the Provost.

Each fall, a new task force consisting of students, faculty and staff will be voted in by Senate to research and recommend changes for the plan regarding specific issues.

Each task force will recommend issues for their successors to work on.

Morelli said this year’s task force will be created in either January or February to present their findings on faculty renewal and online learning in the fall term.

He said this was the most effective way they could democratically decide what was in the best academic interests of the University.

“[The Provost] is in a bit of a conflicting position being someone whose first loyalty lies with the Board of Trustees,” Morelli said. “I hope that, as recommended, the administration will consider the academic implications not just the financial implications.”

Morelli also presented an alternative motion to the plan, calling for Senate to reject the current plan and consider each point in the September draft one-by-one.

The motion was endorsed by the Queen’s Undergraduate Faculty Association and the department of art.

An online petition urging Senate to support Morelli’s motion was opened and since Oct. 20 it received 631 verified signatures from the Queen’s community including professors and students.

He withdrew the motion after his amendment passed.

Morelli said during the Nov. 19 weekend he worked with Senator Petra Fachinger, who sat on the APTF, to draft the amendment as a compromise between the APTF and the community.

“The fact that the [Academic Plan] carried unanimously indicates that there was a compromise made but it was a compromise that the majority of people found some merit in,” Morelli said. “The people signing the petition felt we need to specify the process going forward and not just leave it up to another committee or the Provost.”

APTF Chair Peter Taylor said if he had more time he would have included recommendations regarding resource scarcity.

“There are many members of the community who feel the plan should have focused more on what are essentially financial issues, which we didn’t,” Taylor said.

“That’s actually what people wanted to talk about, and I think that’s where the conversation now has to go.”

He said during the year-long work on the Academic Plan there were many issues that divided the task force and community.

The APTF included eight members and continually met with and took advice from the Queen’s community and Senate.

At the end of the Tuesday Senate meeting the APTF was dissolved.

“Everyone left feeling fairly good about the future of academic planning and that’s quite possibly worth a lot,” Taylor said.

The plan's points

Student learning experience

• Prioritize the teaching of fundamental academic skills such as writing, critical thinking and inquiry

• Develop a model for an expanded Queen’s Learning Commons, including the Writing Centre and Learning Strategies Development

• Fund pilot projects that develop fundamental academic skills Disciplinarity/interdisciplinarity

• Value medials and dual-concentration degrees to facilitate interdisciplinary learning

• Remove administrative, financial and structural barriers to cross-listing of courses and team-teaching by professors in different disciplines

Reaching beyond: globalism, diversity and inclusion at Queen’s

• Create an Aboriginal Studies Certificate, which could develop into an Indigenous Studies Program, and make the Aboriginal Council part of the Queen’s decision making process

• Attract and engage female students in science and Engineering

• Promote the importance of foreign language as an academic and employment skill

Health, wellness and community

• Ensure there is well-promoted academic, health, wellness and financial support to help students get through persistent issues and difficult periods

• Implement a University-wide equity plan and in addition encourage all departments and faculties to develop their own equity committees and plans

— These are excerpts from the 22-point Academic Plan.

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