Veronica Kitchen’s April 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, 20 April, 2020

This was our second pandemic Senate meeting. It proceeded with many technical difficulties that we are assured will be resolved by the May meeting; there was even some discussion of whether we ought to continue, or had the requisite quorum of people who weren’t having technical difficulties to continue. We motioned, verified quorum, voted, and continued.

First things first: the April meeting marks the end of the Senate year, and so it is time to thank the [Arts] Senators who are ending their terms:

Outgoing Arts Senators: Tara Collington (French) & Maya Venters (student representative)

Outgoing Senators at large who come from Arts: Shannon Dea (Philosophy) (who is also to be congratulated on her appointment as Dean of Arts at the University of Regina; they are lucky to be getting her and we are sad to be losing her!)

Items of interest on the regular agenda

  1. We approved language for the course calendar on procedures and guidelines for terminating relationships between a graduate student and their supervisor. [See page 79 of the agenda posted on the Secretariat’s website.]
  2. Report from the Appointments Review Committee; there were lots of technical difficulties during this presentation so I don’t have a lot to add to the slides that are in the agenda [page 82], but it sounded to me as if over 10 years Math and Engineering in particular are doing better at appointing women, which: Great If True.

President’s report

I know that at the moment this is what most people want to hear about! Again, I captured what I could, but I’d encourage you to refer to the minutes when they are published for the most correct and comprehensive updates.

  • All buildings are now closed; about 800 students and 82 families remain on campus.
  • A few critical research activities are ongoing, including some related to COVID-19.
  • UW is working with the federal government to understand the various programs for student support (these were released a bit after the Senate meeting).
  • UW has received $400K to help with emergency costs.
  • UW is hiring 300 co-op students this summer to help with online course transition.

Immediate concerns

  • Revenues down, contract research down
  • Costs associated with maintaining teaching, research, and operations from home
  • BIG drop in co-op hires. This is very unusual for UW. Feridun was adamant that UW will not lose co-op as a differentiator.
  • International Students: based on a QS survey (national): 54% of international students will defer 1 year; 15% will not come to Canada at all. Recovery is probably a 5-year project. (These numbers shocked me a little…)

Priorities 

  • Everybody’s health (I’m really glad this was first; judging from some of the quotes I’ve seen going around from university presidents, this is not as much of a given as I thought it ought to be).
  • Figuring out fall 2020 and the academic and financial health of the university in the 2020/2021 AY. Fall thinking currently includes prep for all scenarios, including a ramp up / ramp down scenario. Over the next few weeks, building the financial model for 2020/21. 
  • Next town hall – May (virtual, obvi). 
  • Online orientation for new students, if necessary, with hopefully some in-person follow-on events (I am so sad for the first year students as well as the graduating students – my introverted 18-year old self would have been totally happy to skip most of orientation, but in hindsight it’s good that I didn’t). 
  • Building our online bench strength
  • International recruitment and retention
  • Accelerating the planned Life Long Learning Institute

Initiatives

  • UW created an internal think tank consisting of some super smart colleagues with a mandate to think about the short, medium, and long-term ‘imprint’ of the pandemic and what challenges and opportunities UW may face at each stage.
  • The President put together a “Business Roundtable” to talk about what UW can do to help business recovery (I get the impression that accelerating the Life Long Learning Institute may have been the outcome of some of these discussions).

Items of interest to Arts on the consent agenda

  1. Economics has a two-year update to their program review. I always love to see a department making efforts to upgrade their administrators and devote resources to supporting faculty admin roles also. In light of the pandemic, the recommendation (but slow progress) to build relationships and 2+2 programs with institutions outside of China seems important (we know UW needs to diversify its international student recruitment) but also…challenging in the near-ish future. Congratulations on your milestone, Econ!
  2. New scholarships for incoming arts students (Lots! Yay!):
    • Hedy and Graham Burton Arts Entrance Scholarship ($5000); preference to those studying in the humanities.
    • Traquair Family Award in Arts (to awards, up to $20K); entry scholarship + ongoing award for remainder of university career if they maintain 75% and stay in Arts.
    • Shamim Mapara Philosophy Scholarship ($2K, one or more awards) to upper year Philosophy students.
    • Jack and Annie Scott History Scholarship ($1200) to a second year History student
    • Lynne and Peter Woolstencroft Experiential Learning Awards (varying value): for extracurricular or experiential learning activities for Arts students that will enhance their degree programs. Peter was a colleague and I know experiential learning is close to his heart; I hope the pandemic leads us to more creative ways to provide it to our students, rather than closing out opportunities (I know this is on the President’s mind as well).
  3. An Arts course won the CEL’s Online Course Design Award: Paul Wehr’s PSYCH 101. We should obviously be relieved that we have such a big and important course already online in an award-winning format – and now you know who to go to with questions about transitioning to online learning!

In the immortal words of Bonnie Henry: Be calm, be kind, be safe.

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