Senate addresses a lack of staff, Aboriginal students, & science reviews

Sept 27. Senate recap: Woolf discusses plans to combat decline within faculties and in international rankings


Senate kicked off their year of meetings on Sept 27. by reviewing highlights of the summer and putting forth focused plans for action in the 2016-17 academic year.

A verbal update was provided regarding the Fall Term Break Task Force, which Principal Woolf called “an interesting ongoing item.” The Task Force has been given the job of investigating the feasibility of implementing such a break at Queen’s.

See our previous coverage of the fall term break proposal here, here and here

Principal’s Report

To start the meeting, Woolf delivered his Principal’s Report, summarizing key events that took place over the summer and outlining the University’s goals and priorities for 2016-17.

The first subject of concern was that of faculty renewal. According to Woolf, the issue of many faculties being vastly understaffed is a systemic issue that extends beyond Queen’s.

“We really do need to take some decisive action as an institution to address this trend,” he said.

According to Woolf, the University plans to address this issue by re-energizing research and graduate programming, and by completing demographic analyses within each faculty to understand how to best rejuvenate them.

Another key priority for the University is supporting experiential education beyond co-op and internship opportunities for students. The Ontario government has increasingly noted this an area of concern. The University plans to address this by focusing on increasing research prominence at Queen’s.

Provost’s Report

New Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Benoit-Antoine Bacon began his five-year term on August 1. The Provost delivered his report during the first meeting in his new position.

“I have to say I feel the weight of the occasion,” Bacon said. “The role is vast, the institution is big and complex, and it’ll be some time before I’m completely comfortable.”

According to the Provost’s report, there are 71 self-identified aboriginal students in this year’s class, which is a four per cent increase from last year. Acceptances from international students have increased to 438 students, which is a 41 per cent increase from last year. The overall admission average of the incoming class is 88.8 per cent.

Senator Jordan Morelli replied to Bacon, expressing his disappointment that Queen’s doesn’t currently have a 10 per cent target of Indian status holders for incoming classes.

Bacon replied that it’s his understanding that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission task force will be responsible for proposing such enrollment goals, but he encourages continued involvement in that discussion.

Senate Educational Equity Committee (SEEC) & Senate Governance and Nominating Committee (SGNC) Reports

SEEC addressed a letter to Senate from Queen’s alumna and former editor-in-chief of The Journal, Anisa Rawhani. The letter appealed to Senate, the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Department of English language and literature to diversify their faculty.

See our coverage of Rawhani's letter and the Senate response here.

Canada Fundamental Science Review

The Canada Fundamental Science Review has called on Queen’s, among many other institutions, to provide input regarding “the current structure and functioning of Canada’s support for science and scientists in Canada, including the Tri-Council and other federally funded organizations,” according to a letter presented to Senate written by Dr. David Naylor, Chair of Advisory Panel for Canada’s Fundamental Science Review.

“The findings will serve to build and strengthen Canada’s global standing in fundamental science and ensure scientists have the required supports and tools to excel,” the letter said.

Members of Senate were asked to consider and evaluate program gaps in Canada’s fundamental research funding ecosystem, and to discuss useful solutions for the government to address them.

Senators agreed that this was a key issue for the panel to consider. However, senators from math and other humanities felt it dangerous to solely focus on the “big” sciences, and the projects taking place in shiny laboratories.

Woolf noted that one of the reasons that Queen’s is “sinking in international rankings” is that other jurisdictions across the globe are putting massive amounts of money into improving their schools. Other senators countered Woolf’s note, saying that money isn’t the only needed change.

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