Veronica Kitchen’s March 2020 Senate Report

Veronica Kitchen is an Associate Professor of Political Science and an elected Arts Senator who produces a great summary after each University Senate meeting and has agreed to share them here. Her reports understandably focus on items relevant to Arts faculty and are not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all the agenda items, nor should they be viewed as a substitute for the official minutes on the University Secretariat’s website.

University of Waterloo Senate Meeting, 30 March 2020

Well, colleagues, this was different. The February Senate meeting was cancelled (not enough material). We had an extra-ordinary (but in hindsight rather ordinary) confidential Senate meeting on March 9, and then—well. You know. 

Kudos to Karen Jack, Emily Schroeder, the President & VP Academic, the IT folks in the background and everyone else who managed to pull off a 90-ish person Senate meeting on Microsoft Teams having never done it before. Now that was extra-ordinary. 

Items of interest (to Arts) on the consent agenda

Much of the Senate’s business was moved to the consent agenda in order to make it easier to vote on everything at once. There was an opportunity for Senators to ask to move any individual item onto the regular agenda, but this was not necessary.

  • The Clinical Research Ethics and Human Research Ethics Committees have been renamed Boards, in alignment with common practice at other universities.
  • The MASc in Applied Psychology is to be renamed the MASc in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
  • Final Assessments for English Language and Literature and Italian Studies were approved.
  • For reference, the consent agenda includes the two motions passed earlier this month: to change the academic year dates for the Spring 2020 term, and to allow students to convert a received numerical mark for the Winter 2020 term to CR/NCR easily.
  • A call for nominations for honorary degrees.
  • An interesting report from Johanna Wandel re: the December meeting of the Council of Ontario Universities’ Academic Colleagues meetings.

As always, you can find all of these in further description in the minutes.

President’s Report

As you can imagine, the President’s report was about the university’s response to COVID-19. I captured as much as I could of the discussion and here are (some of) the important bits. There is fuller information on most of this on the University website:

The President and senior response team are in 2x a day phone meetings. Key strategic issues are:

  1.  Continuity for Canadian students (ie incoming first year class, graduates)
  2. Loss of international students and recruitment
  3. Impacts on research
  4. Securing research from cyber threats (phishing)

Other key points in the discussion:

Residences: At the moment, there are no confirmed cases on campus. About 1000 students remain in residence. There is a protocol for managing any student who must self-isolate / quarantine. Public Health is still the mechanism for communicating any further measures and communications which ought to be taken.

Graduation: I did not have total clarity by the end of whether the spring ceremony will be added to the fall ceremony or held separately – I think probably this is not totally confirmed yet. What was clear is that spring graduands will have their degrees conferred in absentia so they have them in hand for jobs, graduate programs, etc.

Library: Digital access only for the foreseeable future. No print reserves for spring but librarians are happy to speak to instructors about finding alternate sources. All the Ontario university libraries are working together to get better / easier / more comprehensive access to a better range of digital sources.

Fall Term: Lots of communication at national and Ontario universities about this. No clear consensus about whether we will be done social distancing by then (and frankly, the consensus on this from university Presidents is not the consensus anyone is most concerned about…) There are preliminary plans for an alternative fall term, but the President feels there’s not much point in discussing them in too much detail until we have more information, both about the virus, but also about how Spring term enrollments look. International students are still enrolling for the moment but we will need to build new plans for international recruitment.

Graduate Students & Research: The principle for students is to allow them to remain enrolled and active if they want to. Charmaine Dean shared that they are thinking about some mechanisms to allow some experimental research to continue safely, but no further details are available yet. Tri Agency is coordinating on guidelines for field research – these are coming.

VP Academic & Provost’s Report – Budget

There were already some existing geopolitical issues taken into consideration when the budget numbers were prepared, but James Rush stressed that the current budget numbers (see Senate minutes) should be taken as provisional: “a reference point to pivot from.” These will be a little less provisional once we have summer enrollment numbers.

This report feels like a drop in the informational bucket compared to both what’s already available on the website and what we all really want to know (but can’t). I encourage everyone to look at the minutes when they are available for more detail on specific items.

Meanwhile, please stay healthy, hug the people in your immediate household, and best of luck with the end of term.

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