Thursday, May 17, 2007

UBC Senate Meeting, May 16th

Aidha Shaikh - GSS councilor, AMS councilor, and Senator - gives us an account of yesterday's senate meeting. Aidha can be contacted at aidhashaikh[at]gmail[dot]com. Agenda and materials are available HERE.

1: Proposal to extend Mid-Term Break in Term 2 2010 at UBC Vancouver (motion passed)
The proposal made was to allow for midterm break to extend for 2 weeks (February 15th -26th) to accommodate the 2010 Olympics for two reasons:

  1. transit services could be freed up for the Olympics (and reduce traffic) and
  2. students can participate in and go to watch the Olympics
    The major consequence of this motion is the exam end date of May 1st 2010 as a number of students living off campus may have rental agreements/leases ending at the end of April.

For reference the comparison of the current calendar entry for the term and the proposed (and now accepted) Olympic term can be downloaded here. [Sorry about the tacky website - but blogger doesn't support charts - ed]

Senate passed the motion to adopt Scenario B: to allow for accommodation of the Olympics. The issue of hardship for students who have to move as of the end of April due to rental agreements was brought up. The option of granting these students "exam hardship" was not feasible since exams have gone into the month of May in the past and thus changing an academic policy on these grounds would likely not happen. However the committee will look carefully into this issue of housing and what accommodations (no pun intended sorry :P ) could be made. For example, students living in residence will be accommodated.

Student senate caucus discussed various ways to mitigate the inconvenience. Any suggestions? Feel free to pass them on.

2: Proposed Policy on Student Evaluation of Teaching (motion passed)

As students we understand the importance of having a high quality of education at UBC. The policy document outlines the guiding principles for student evaluation of teaching. These principles include incentives that should be developed to encourage participation, the idea that evaluations should be student-centered, that these evaluations be administered in ever section of every course, a rating system of 1-5, encouragement of formative feedback, carefully planned dissemination/feedback/response strategies, and that different constituencies get access to different information.

The design is essentially modular: the University module will be available to all groups from the instructor, department head, dean, university designate and student. Questions in the faculty and departmental modules will be available to the instructor, department head and dean whereas the specific confidential teacher module will only be accessible by the teacher. This is because there will be some questions that are designed to help the faculty/department or instructor to gain specific feedback and see what changes can be made based on those. The university module will be broad enough to encompass the general areas of teaching / learning that students will be concerned with.

This motion takes care of the privacy issue raised by some faculty. Only instructors who give permission for their results to be released will. In addition this puts pressure on the university to release the results it gets to students to help ensure a higher quality of education and put pressure on instructors and professors to meet a higher standard of teaching. The policy does not outline what methods would be implemented to release the information to students but encourages a web-based system.

This is definitely a step forward and it was very encouraging to see President Toope enthusiastically supporting the motion.

In the meanwhile, the AMS would like to bring back the yardstick either as a means of discussing educational issues or have feedback from student evaluations placed on the site (only for professors who allow the information to be released, where those who don’t will have the notation that they did not allow the information to be released beside their name unless they wished to provide a reason which would be listed as well).

It’s very refreshing to see these steps forward in matters surrounding the academic quality at UBC

more senate business behind the jump

Other items relevant to students (positive motions passed):

  • A whole set of scholarships to be released to students (I'd list them but it’s a lot - they can be found in the supporting materials on the senate website)
  • New programs: MSc and PhD in cell and developmental biology, Masters of Nursing, and the transfer of the nurse practitioner specialization into the Masters of Nursing
  • More good news: The Drug Research Institute was approved: The DRI is an inter-faculty initiative of pharmaceutical sciences, medicine, science, applied science, dentistry and the Sauder School of business, lead by the faculty of Pharm Sci. This will be the core academic research facility for the Centre for Drug Research and Development which is a joint initiative of UBC, SFU, BC cancer agency, UVic, UNBC, Providence Healthcare, Vancouver Coastal Health, and the Provincial Health Services in partnership with the government and industry.
  • Two ad-hoc committees were approved: 1) Writing and communication skills and 2) academic advising issues relating to a culturally diverse student body. Since there are a higher number of appeals relating to academic discipline from international students, immigrant students and others, this committee seeks to find ways of ensuring these students get resources to help them to avoid these situations.
  • There were some revisions in the admissions for the BEd relating to the recommendation for students to take a course on aboriginal peoples before entering the program. There was also a wording change for applicants from a college or university from "recognized college or university" to "recognized degree program" since the former was undefined.
  • The graduate students of 2007 were approved! :)

One thing that was not discussed at today's senate but was at the student senate meeting was the closure of MacMillan library. This is posted on the library's home page but is not brought to the awareness of students very well. Also the library committee never met to discuss this. Its disturbing how such major decisions can be passed without the senate library committee discussing these things.