Board of Trustees October 13 meeting recap

Board discusses equity, JDUC revitalization, graduate student experience


The Board of Trustees met on October 13 for their first session of the 2017-18 academic year to discuss changes and developments at the University since their last meeting in May.

Principal’s Strategic Update

Principal Daniel Woolf opened the meeting by providing his strategic update to all trustees. He began by highlighting the new faculty renewal plan, through which Queen’s plans to hire 40 new faculty members per year for the next five years.

To share the 200 open positions by 2022, the University has created print and digital advertisements. In the hiring campaign, Woolf says the University will be focused on enhancing both diversity and research excellence among new faculty.

In the update, Woolf shared equity and reconciliation updates with the board, noting recent efforts to form the University Council on Anti-Racism and Equity (UCARE) and the creation of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

Woolf also told the trustees that Queen’s is one of four finalists nominated for an institutional award for global learning and research engagement from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. 

With the other three finalists being the University of Calgary, Washington University and Michigan State University, Queen’s has been recognized for its efforts to welcome more international students.

According to recent statistics presented by Woolf, Queen’s welcomed approximately 560 international students this year. Not only was this a drastic increase from 116 international students in 2013-14, but Queen’s has already surpassed its goal of bringing in 390 international students in 2019.

These statistics also illustrated student feedback on the quality of their student experience, which revealed that graduate student engagement is below the provincial average at Queen’s. As a result, the University is now brainstorming ways to increase student-faculty interaction, experiential learning opportunities and effective teaching methods to boost these numbers.

“We know we’re top drawer on the undergraduate side … we have some work to do on the graduate side,” Woolf said.

Woolf also mentioned the University’s ongoing review of the renovation of the JDUC, which AMS President Jennifer Li covered extensively in her subsequent address.

AMS President’s Update

President Li spoke to trustees about the importance of the University investing funds into the renovation of the JDUC.

Over the past five months, Li and her colleagues have worked to collect student feedback, conduct feasibility studies and come up with cost estimates for the prospective project. 

According to Li, even though the JDUC has officially been “designated as an advancement priority” by the University, they now need to commit financially.

In surveys conducted by the AMS, the inaccessibility of the JDUC proved to be a key concern for students. The majority of respondents said they will support the revitalization of the JDUC through a student fee, but only if the University provides their fair share of the funding.

Li said she plans to bring forward a “mandatory and non-reviewable” student fee for this project at the February referendum, but urged the University to provide their funding commitment by December. Until the University provides their contribution, Li can’t determine the exact cost of the student fee.

“This is an ambitious project, but one that is achievable and urgent,” Li said.

According to Li, construction will likely begin in summer or fall of 2019, following the completion of the Innovation and Wellness Centre. Given that the JDUC would be demolished and rebuilt, the renovations will likely take one to two years to complete.

SGPS President’s Update

Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) President Adam Grotsky reported on current efforts to improve the experience of graduate students at Queen’s, which he said “is really lagging compared to the undergraduate experience.”

In an attempt to improve relationships between graduate students and their faculty supervisors, Grotsky said he has pitched the idea of creating a student-supervisor contract. While the contract wouldn’t be legally binding, Grotsky said it would serve as a guiding document for their relationship and serve to establish agreed upon deadlines and expectations.

Grotsky also said the SGPS has recently negotiated to expand and revitalize the second floor graduate reading room in Stauffer library. He noted that it’s “important that grad students do have that space to call their own.”

Although a small space outside the current room will be integrated to expand its size, Grotsky said this is just a “starting point” and that “there is absolutely a need for more space.”

Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Update

Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Teri Shearer provided the Board with an update on recent developments in Indigenous affairs and equity on campus.

With the creation of the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, a new bursary for Aboriginal students, the upcoming expansion of the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre and the recent installation of information Indigenous plinths on campus, Shearer said the increased commitment to reconciliation is very noticeable.

“I’ve observed a huge increase in momentum around Indigenous initiatives on campus … scarcely a day goes by when I don’t hear of a new one,” Shearer told the Board.

Shearer also mentioned that all faculties and schools have been tasked with developing a five-year implementation plan for integrating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force recommendations through things like curriculum revision. These plans are due to the Provost by December 1.

According to Shearer, a similar “positive energy around change with respect to the PICRDI [Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion] report” has also been observed.

Efforts such as UCARE, the continued use of the Diversity and Equity Assessment and Planning Tool and renewed equity-focused hiring all stem from the PICRDI report recommendations.

Finally, Shearer shared that the University is in the process of collecting metrics on the implementation progress of PICRDI recommendations that will be finalized later this year. 

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