On 13 May 2019, Carleton University president Benoit Bacon published his latest blog post, imploring graduating students to attend convocation. While I am respectful of his attempt to gather people together for such an event, here I would like to highlight the misguided and hypocritical nature of his arguments.

Benoit Bacon rightfully claims that we are “always at the beginning of something”, which truly does apply to completion of a university degree. But why does he call this “convocation”? The term convocation was originally used for religious ceremonies, which is a very peculiar use for a university like Carleton that was never associated with religion, at least not until its absurd affiliation almost a decade ago with Dominican University College and its equally absurd recent purchase of the still consecrated Dominion-Chalmers church. The term convocation literally means “with a vocation”, playing into the ridiculous Ford trope (tripe?) about “being open for business”. If completing a university degree really is a beginning, then why don’t we call this event “commencement”, as do many of our colleagues in the States? Personally, I prefer the simpler and less pompous term “graduation”, which connotes that students gradually transition from one phase of their lives, school, to another phase of their lives. Given that most people hold paid employment while they are students, this really does seem gradual.

Benoit Bacon claims that the term convocation “evokes a call to gather together.” If true, then why does Carleton hold nine (9) separate convocations each spring? That seems more like separation into nine different ivory towers than it does coming together as a single community. While there are logistical difficulties holding a single convocation each spring, these are worth surmounting.

If convocation is really meant to bring the community together, then why don’t we also invite and celebrate those students who did not finish all of their degree requirements? Are students that had to drop out of school for financial reasons or family responsibilities any less worthy of our celebration than all the rich white people that still make up too much of Carleton’s graduating class?

Benoit Bacon’s blog referred to the “power of convocation”. The term “power” connotes authority and even coercion. It is a militaristic term. How is that appropriate for a celebration, especially for students who have been subservient to faculty and administrators for too many years? We might as well have camouflage regalia.

Benoit Bacon makes the insulting claim that convocation “marks the passage to adulthood”. I am not sure what constitutes adulthood, but legally in Canada that milestone occurs when someone turns 18 years old. Thus, most Carleton students were adults when they first arrived on campus. I was 45 years old when I finished my PhD. Does that mean our university president considered me a child until then?

I applaud that Benoit Bacon did not attend his own undergraduate convocation. The way we currently run university convocations imposes extreme conformity on all graduating students, which is the antithesis of what we hope that our students have become: unique, idiosyncratic, free-thinking individuals. Benoit was right that modern convocation ceremonies are medieval, which to me means hegemonic, anti-intellectual, and needlessly European. Carleton still uses a medieval weapon, a mace, as the ceremonial centerpiece of convocation, highlighting colonial oppression during an era when we purport to care deeply about reconciliation. No wonder some people chose to skip such a hypocritical event as convocation.

I want to end by truly congratulating all of our students, whether they met all of their degree requirements or not. You have worked hard and enriched the lives of so many people around you, including the lives of those who taught you. Thank you!


For years, I complained that Carleton’s Senate is foreclosed by the president’s office from having any meaningful role in drafting Strategic Mandate Agreements with the province of Ontario (e.g. see here). Instead, in 2014, the university president only provided Senate with the final approved version of the Strategic Mandate Agreement, without Senate consultation. Then, insidiously, the president proposed a motion that Senate acknowledge receipt of this document. At the Senate meeting of 28 March 2016, the university president promised to do better by letting Senate ratify the next round of Strategic Mandate Agreements before drafts were sent to the province in 2017. Yet the president and provost reneged on that promise in early 2017, at which time they completely avoided consultation with Senate.

Strategic Mandate Agreements are the most important academic documents that exist for universities in Ontario. They stipulate how much existing academic programs will be allowed to grow and stipulate which new academic programs can be created. Strategic Mandate Agreements are much more important than strategic plans, which some have argued are just line items on CVs of provosts to help them gain employment elsewhere. Senate is supposed to be the ultimate body for deciding all academic matters at Carleton. So why does Carleton’s Senate only get to approve receipt of Strategic Mandate Agreement documents once sent to the province? Does circumvention of Senate in drafting Strategic Mandate Agreements contravene the Carleton University Act?

Unfortunately, the aforementioned problems are not unique to Carleton. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, OCUFA, recently reported that Strategic Mandate Agreements at many provincial universities are drafted by upper administration fiat, without any meaningful consultation with Senates or with Faculty Associations. OCUFA’s recommendation is that the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development require that faculty be meaningfully consulted in drafting of Strategic Mandate Agreements.

Ontario funding formula for universities

The university president and vice-presidents discussed the new provincial funding formula and the inextricably tied strategic mandate agreements, albeit with an extremely narrow focus, namely that there will only be one possible way for universities to garner additional provincial funds. They claimed that paid co-op like experiential learning will be the only way to get additional revenues from the province, with the amount of additional monies being proportional to the number of students enrolled in such programs. The president and vice-presidents stated that only paid experiential learning will qualify, which excludes things like field courses, engineering capstone courses, and volunteering with the Science Student Success Centre. Furthermore, in order to count, the experiential learning must appear explicitly in program and course descriptions. The upper administration seemed to be trawling for ideas for things that might count for such provincial funding. The vice-president for students and enrolment (but, conspicuously, not the dean of graduate studies) suggested that TA and RA opportunities might count as paid experiential learning. This would help Carleton, but not as much as for research-intensive universities, especially given all the coursework-only graduate programs that Carleton has recently instituted and that Carleton now promotes faculty to full professor even if they conduct no research. Someone suggested that on-campus employment could count as being sufficiently akin to co-op to count in the province’s eyes, but I have my doubts. The president kept pushing mini co-op programs, but I am not sure what those are – they remind me of other dubiously successful enterprises, such as light beer. Finally, I asked how much extra money could Carleton possibly receive if we have lots of students in paid experiential learning. Were we trying to spend millions of dollars on experiential learning in order to receive an additional $1,000 of revenue from the province or was it more like $100,000,000 per year? The president and vice-president said that they had absolutely no idea how much additional revenue the province was dangling, which was a shocking revelation.

I was surprised that Carleton’s upper administration did not mention whether the province was incentivizing Indigenization. Maybe the province is leaving Indigenization to the federal government or maybe Carleton simply is not ready to participate in Indigenization and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) calls to action regarding education. Provincially, this is a touchy subject given the status of two of the three northern universities in Ontario. Lakehead is probably doing okay, but Laurentian is closing satellite campuses in the far north (Attawapiskat, Fort Albany, Kashechewan, Moose Factory) due to financial exigencies and Nippising has had huge financial struggles. Regardless, it was curious that Carleton does not believe making an investment in Indigenization is worthwhile vis-à-vis our upcoming strategic mandate agreement (SMA) or that Carleton will not be financially rewarded by the provincial government for such Indigenization efforts.

Gender bias in faculty hires

The provost kindly presented data on sex/gender bias in faculty hires, broken down by subject areas and by faculty rank. Because his presentation was in open session, I am re-posting his slides here. Overall, Carleton is doing worse with sex/gender equity than other provincial universities, although seemingly not drastically worse. On a percentage basis, Carleton hires fewer tenure-track female faculty than there are earned PhDs by female candidates. The provost stated that our goal was to get closer to those two averages, of about 39% female tenure-track faculty. However, a senator suggested that our goal should be to lead in this regard and not simply aim for mediocrity in achieving the average of only 39% female faculty. The one place where Carleton does better than the 39% average is in hiring female contract instructors. In general, female faculty should not be that precarious. Our provost blamed some of the gender equity problems on idiosyncrasies in our programs. For example, he stated that Carleton would almost certainly have more female engineering faculty members if we had a chemical engineering program. This may be true, but then why aren’t we asking to start a chemical engineering program in our past or upcoming strategic mandate agreement, especially given that four of Carleton’s past five vice-presidents of research have been engineers?

I asked about Carleton policies to increase numbers of female tenure-track faculty members. The provost provided a few possibilities. First, he stated that all search committees must have at least one female and one male member, even if this means having the search committee contain individuals from outside of the hiring unit. It is interesting that we can legally impose a sex/gender quota on hiring committees, but supposedly cannot impose a sex/gender quota on actual hiring. The provost mentioned that there have been a few salary compensation cases raised each year, most of which were claiming sex/gender bias in salaries, but sample sizes are small. The provost also suggested breaking down silos in hiring by having searches be interdisciplinary and across units. I am not sure how that will increase number of female faculty, but it would take local control over hiring decisions away from departments. The provost suggested that policies for improving sex/gender equity could be included in the soon-to-be-rewritten strategic integrated plan. That is a great idea, but the devil is in the details.

Overall, this discussion at senate was a good and important consciousness-raising (CR) exercise, almost making us collectively look like second-wave feminists. But there is still much work to be done. One suggestion was to report back with more data on what percentage of expenditures for each faculty rank go to each sex/gender. For instance, of the total of full professor salaries, what percentage is earned by female faculty?

Finally, I want to add three caveats. First, this entire conversation assumed a sex/gender binary, which is unrealistic. Second, this conversation did not discuss any other aspects of diversity or lack thereof, such as race, disability, intersectionality, etc. Third, thanks to the provost (and president) for compiling and presenting Carleton’s sex/gender hiring data, and thanks to faculty colleagues on senate for asking great questions.

Proxy voting

The clerk of senate announced a new system with “red cards” – akin to being at a soccer match – for ex officio senators who are standing-in for someone else, such as an associate dean voting on behalf of an absent dean at senate. The logic given was that deans and vice-presidents represent offices, so always need a vote at senate. A faculty senator asked why cannot all senators have someone sit-in for them and vote with proxy red cards. Faculty senators represent their faculties, which will be absent a vote if a senator cannot attend on a given day. The clerk of senate said that the senate academic governance committee would be considering this policy change at an upcoming meeting. That seems fair, although I am not holding my breath that such a change will occur.

Senate Financial Review Committee

For several years, there has been a refusal by those in power to allow senate’s Financial Review Committee to do its work. This became even more poignant after the vice-president finance announced at the 23 March 2017 open session of the Board of Governors that Carleton is running a large surplus, then asking the board chair what should be done with the surplus. This is a refreshing change from the previous vice-president finance who insisted on always running a balanced budget, which meant squirreling away surpluses into unrestricted reserve funds. The clerk of senate announced that the terms of reference for the financial review committee will be addressed at the 28 April 2017 open session of senate. I hope that this committee’s responsibilities are enhanced, not eviscerated.

Closing Remarks

As always, this blog posting reflects my opinions and reporting of events at the open session of senate. This posting is not meant as a proxy for the official minutes of the meeting. I welcome your feedback.

Strategic Mandate Agreement

Strategic Mandate Agreements are memoranda between the province and universities that basically tell each university their enrollment targets. If these agreements do not mention new programs or growth of existing programs, then those programs cannot be created nor grow until a new agreement is reached, which would be at least three years.

Carleton’s senate is supposed to be the ultimate decision-making body on academic programs and policies. But, during the previous round of negotiations on Strategic Mandate Agreements, the administration completely foreclosed senate from any role in the process. In order to preclude senate from again being cut out of what should be their most important role in the university for another round of negotiations on Strategic Mandate Agreements, I asked the following question:

What specific roles, including oversight roles, will senate have in drafting the upcoming Strategic Mandate Agreement (1) before a draft is forwarded to the province and (2) while negotiations on this document are ongoing with the province?

The university president did not answer my question, but at least provided some tangentially related information. She said that Carleton has not yet received instructions from the province how these negotiations will proceed. However, she said that earlier today the province sent Carleton an “initial financial package” with unspecified “financial parameters” with instructions on enrollment corridors. She also mentioned that the instructions looked vague, such as not specifying when the 5-year windows for average enrollments will start and stop. The president did not mention the rumoured “maintenance corridors” and “growth corridors” in the Strategic Mandate Agreement. The administration did not and has not shared this provincial financial package document with senate. The president stated that as soon as Carleton receives full instructions from the province on completing Strategic Mandate Agreements that she will let senate know. I hope this means forwarding all relevant provincial documents to all senators, possibly as closed/confidential documents, and immediately convening a long discussion with all senators and possibly members of faculty boards over what should be submitted to the province in these draft Strategic Mandate Agreements.

Neuroscience Eviction

The provost reported on the eviction of the department of neuroscience from its existing building, which will be refurbished and given to engineering as the rechristened ARSE [Advanced Research in Smart Environments] building. The provost clearly seemed to be under orders to refer to this eviction as an “evacuation”. This is classic public relations re-branding, in an attempt to make senators think of evacuation as a humanitarian effort by the administration to assist helpless neuroscientist that have been devastated by natural disaster or civil strife. The use of the terms “evacuation” and “evacuate” deflects blame from those who caused the relocation in the first place. Syrian refugees are being evacuated; Carleton neuroscientists are being evicted by their own upper administration.

The provost extolled the “cooperative and collaborative discussions between neuroscience and the dean and provost”. The provost mentioned the four project managers assisting with the temporary relocation of neuroscience to University of Ottawa. But he then said that these were the same four project managers that had already been hired to facilitate movement of the neuroscience department to the new health building. So, it looks like the administration did not spend a penny extra on project managers to orchestrate the intermediate move to University of Ottawa.

The provost mentioned that all negotiations for temporary space have been completed for the neuroscience intermediate move, both with University of Ottawa and with other departments at Carleton. These negotiations were for lab space, office space, animal care facilities, and equipment space, e.g. numerous sub-zero freezers.

The provost claimed that arrangements have been made so that all students in neuroscience will finish their degrees on time. Someone asked whether the university will provide monies for an extra semester of tuition if the relocations require students to take an extra semester to complete their degrees. The provost said no, this would not be necessary in any circumstances. I leave it for others to authenticate the provost’s claims.

Cyber-attack and Ransom-ware (November 2016)

The university’s chief information officer gave a presentation on the computer hack that disrupted much of the university’s IT operations for several days in late November. He claimed that about one-quarter of the universities hundred servers were hacked and that 1,700 computer workstations across campus were hacked. He claimed that the cyber attack had virtually no effect on teaching. After computers/servers were restored, Carleton hired IBM to provide forensic analysis of the hacked computers.

Apparently the hackers initially acquired account privileges on low-level computers. The hackers then jumped around computers, gradually gaining greater account privileges until they obtained root and above-root privileges. In response to this, Carleton has reduced by one-half the number of accounts with the highest-level privileges and finally started requiring two-factor authentication for those accounts.

In response to a question, the chief information officer said that we could try breaking into our own accounts (“white hat”). His response, unbelievably, implies that we are not yet doing this.

The chief information officer stated that university computers are at particular risk of hacking because universities are very supportive of academic freedom. This point was also on his slides. I am not impressed with scapegoating of academic freedom, especially coming from the person(s) who shut down my teaching and research website hosted by Carleton in order to punish me for blogging about university governance on a website that was not hosted by Carleton.

A few senators expressed concerns that the repeated password changes and weird rules for passwords were overly onerous. The vice-president finance then explicitly stated that Carleton could be held legally responsible for not using best practices with respect to passwords. I am not a computer security expert, but from what little I understand, we are definitely not using best practices, especially with the numerous required password changes and byzantine rules for allowable passwords. My understanding is that various password generators or natural language passwords that allow for spaces and punctuation (e.g. your favourite couplet from Charles Bukowski) are far better password practices than what we have instituted. Our IT department might want to consult with our computer science faculty regarding best practices with passwords. And maybe hire a lawyer to defend whoever made the decision regarding our existing and seemingly weak password protocol.


There were insufficient number of chairs for all senators and other visitors, which also meant that senate was well attended. There were a few vacant chairs in the front row, where many do not deign to sit. But there were even more senators standing at the back of the room than there were vacant chairs. The university president kindly relinquished her chair, but the same could not be said for several non-senators, such as the associate university registrar. But, to me, the real answer is to get more chairs. This has been a problem with my teaching as well. In one classroom last term, during one-third of the days, I had to go around the building to find more tables and chairs for my students, and this problem remained even after I complained to the provost. (I hope this did not contravene someone’s collective agreement for me to be a mover of furniture).

Board of Governors

This was the first meeting of senate since the board of governors seemed to break lots of rules in passing a sexual violence policy. For instance, the board did not consult with stakeholders, did not allow any stakeholders to present concerns to the board, and had the director of university safety grab and shove students in a supposedly open and common area one floor below the boardroom. So, it is no wonder that the chair of the board declined to provide a verbal report to senate, despite being there for the entire meeting of both the board and senate.

Closing Remarks

As always, this blog posting reflects my opinions and reporting of events at the open session of senate. This posting is not meant as a proxy for the official minutes of the meeting. I welcome your feedback.

Sexual Violence Policy

A senator asked whether the new sexual violence policy will cover all sexual activity on and off campus of all members of the Carleton community. The current wording of the policy is very open ended and seemingly universal, with the only reassurance being that the current administration might be LGBTQ2+ friendly and maybe somewhat sex positive, which won’t always be the case. The vice-president for students and enrollment said that the policy needed to cover off-campus activity because otherwise Carleton could not deal with cease-and-desist orders (protective orders) that had been issued by courts before the parties were members of the university community. That seemed entirely disingenuous. Of course Carleton can and will honour court orders even if such matters are not explicitly in our sexual violence policy. From a pure academic perspective, with the new sexual violence policy, students will be able to file complaints against faculty for content of a sexual nature that is taught in classes, such as classroom discussions of sexual assault or BDSM. I teach a course in evolution of sex with substantial content on self-sex, which could easily be open to complaint under the new policy. Sure such complaints will eventually all be dismissed, but only after faculty members are put through years of grief in grievance processes. Regarding off-campus activities, one of the most poignant hypothetical examples someone mentioned (but not at senate) was if a member of the Carleton community was discreetly skinny-dipping off-campus, but somehow was seen by another member of the Carleton community. Under our new sexual violence policy, the second person could file an actionable complaint against the first person, with the only thing impeding such a complaint being the moral judgments of the investigator and Carleton administration. The administration seems to have grossly over-extended themselves in writing the sexual violence policy, which is a problem when you don’t allow meaningful consultation, such as not allowing stakeholders to present their concerns to the board of governors.

Sudden evictions from research space: Neuroscience

Very recently, the department of neuroscience was told that they would have to leave their existing building because the university was demolishing the Life Sciences Building, which is to be rebuilt for the faculty of engineering. Half of the $26 million dollars for this re-build are coming from the government and half from our own reserve funds (given that Carleton is also self-funding a new health building and a new business building, you wonder how much money the upper administration has in discretionary funds). The problem is that this construction on the old Life Sciences Building is slated to start on 1 March 2017 and the new health building that the neuroscience department is supposed to move into will not be completed until at least September 2017 and probably not until March 2018. Neuroscience is a department with 500 undergraduates, 50 graduate students, a dozen research-active faculty members, hundreds of mice , and millions of dollars worth of high-tech equipment that will have to be relocated twice in a year, all on exceedingly short notice.

A graduate student member of senate introduced a motion to delay the eviction or at least meaningfully consult on moving plans. Senate has a ten-day notice-of-motion rule, hence senate first voted on whether to even allow the motion to proceed. This was defeated with 26 in favour of considering the substantive motion and 21 opposed. Such procedural motions require a super-majority hence the defeat. I was appalled that this procedural motion was defeated because senate spends (wastes?) lots of time on trivial quality assurance matters, sometimes waiving the 10-day notice-of-motion requirement, but would not grant such a waiver for a substantive quality assurance matter of a long-term departmental eviction. This defeat on a procedural motion was particularly noteworthy because the university president attempted to bully the person making the motion by compelling him to read a university public relations press release to the entire senate. Quashing free speech is bad enough; compelling speech is even worse.

However, at the end of senate, the chair of senate, i.e. the university president, allowed for discussion of the matter, even though there would be no vote. The university president said that the province will not allow delay of the so-called ARISE (Advanced Research and Innovation in Smart Environments) construction of the old Life Sciences Building (but let’s omit the middle letter of that acronym because ‘research’ and ‘innovation’ are synonymous). Other than specifying no delays will be allowed, the president said she will not reveal any information about neuroscience eviction and relocation plans. The graduate students then moved that senate go to closed session to hear the university’s secret plans, and a majority of senate agreed to this. But the president then said that she would not reveal anything, even in closed session. So it seems that senate remained in open session, although any parliamentarian should have been howling over such authoritarianism by the presiding officer.

The dean of science then mentioned that he had been talking with department chairs about the neuroscience eviction and relocation since summer 2016, but that off-campus parties across the Ottawa area could not provide adequate space. The dean then effectively said that Carleton is working on an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with someone in the Ottawa area to possibly provide space, but that won’t be fully negotiated for at least a few more days. He said that the associate vice-president for research planning was involved in these negotiations. It was a breath of fresh air to have someone in the administration say something, rather than just stonewalling.

Immediately after senate met, I stumbled upon an emergency meeting of the Board of Governors building committee (not that I could get in because a special constable guarded the door). The board’s building committee previously met on 9 November 2016, but the official BoG schedule did not list a meeting for today. Therefore I hope that they were deciding on how to deal with the neuroscience eviction, and not simply discussing more mundane matters.

Today at senate, the issue of space and forced relocations of departments was restricted to the impending neuroscience eviction, but the problem is much broader than this. The upper administration seems to show willful disregard for research and its disruption in the guise of improving facilities overall. University construction largely forced my biology students and me from our office and lab for five months during 2016, something that also affected a dozen of my faculty colleagues in biology. Our physical space was relocated twice, taking long times to fully transition between locales. We were not informed of the original eviction until two week before movers showed up. Even when we had physical lab and office space, it was often in an active and very noisy construction zone, without cooling and ventilation during summer, without internet and phones, without washrooms, and without elevator access. I told my students to spend those five months at home writing and thinking because of the dreadful space. I should, however, note that the movers were great and the primary point of contact in the university’s facilities management planning staff was also great. But the administration did not seem to care how disruptive this was to active research.

Global Academy

The provost presented on the so-called Global Academy, which consists of a loose assortment of professional development courses, which are not academic and are not necessarily hiring unionized employees.

Carleton now hosts a pair of “English as a Second Language” (ESL) programs. One of these has been fully contracted out to a private company, CultureWorks. The other program is run in conjunction with our School of Linguistics and Language Studies (SLaLS) via the “English Language Learning and Teaching Initiative” (ELLTI) program, which is part of Global Academy. Curiously, only the contracted out ESL program offered by CultureWorks guarantees students admission to our undergraduate programs, while the internally run ELLTI program seems to only run short-term intensive courses on a for-profit basis without any intent to stream students into our regular programs. This seems entirely backwards for a not-for-profit public university like Carleton, whose role should be the creation and conveyance of new knowledge.

The provost explicitly stated that, “Global Academy does not do any research activities nor manage any research activities at all.” Again this is backwards for a research university. Carleton’s administration seems to be turning us into a for-profit teaching-only community college. It is as though Carleton’s new business model, especially Global Academy, is based on Laureate International Universities. Maybe we should ask Bill Clinton to become Chancellor.

The provost stated that Carleton is a model for how to properly run a Confucius Institute because we apparently decide ourselves on who to hire. But then the provost said that all the hires come directly from Hunan Normal University in China, which seems to contradict his previous assertion. From everything I understand, if you care at all about academic freedom, the model for how to best run a Confucius Institute is, in the words of Nancy Reagan, to just say no.

Health Science

Senate approved MSc and PhD programs in Health Science, starting in fall 2017. This surprised me because the health science website shows that this is a program with only five full-time faculty members, four of whom do not yet have tenure and one of whom is an instructor and so cannot supervise graduate students. The Ontario Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) should laugh at our request to start a PhD program with so little faculty support, but then so should have senate. While I seem to be bad at reading the proverbial tea leaves, I wonder when our interesting but troubled health science program will simply be amalgamated by fiat into some other existing unit, such as neuroscience or biochemistry.

It seems that the university upper administration erred in creation of the health science department. Usually new departments are hived off of existing departments. This provides the new department with a huge amount of expertise and senior faculty members. I could easily see this being done in, say, bifurcating statistics from mathematics or bifurcating medical physics from other physics. Unfortunately, Carleton tried to grow the health science program de novo, adding one or two new faculty members per year, starting with a director who had no expertise in health science. In order for the current four tenure-track research-active health science faculty members to succeed and thrive, they will need to have graduate students. Without graduate students, these four faculty members are far less likely to secure funding from NSERC and CIHR. Therefore, adding an MSc and PhD program in health science will greatly benefit these four individuals. The problem, though, is that admitting graduate students into such a tiny department does a grave disservice to the graduate students. Course offerings will be limited. Opportunities to switch supervisors and cross-train in other labs will be limited. It will even be difficult for graduate students to have any real choice on who to select for their graduate committees. And this really matters in a department that has a reputation, which may or not be founded, for faculty members bullying others. The decision of whether to offer graduate programs in health science, therefore, largely comes down to who we think is most important: the faculty or the graduate students. I would say the students, but senate contains an overwhelming majority of faculty members and only a small minority of graduate students, so the vote to approve the new graduate program in health science seemed at best self-serving.

Canadian Studies

Senate received and approved the assessment report on the joint PhD program with Trent University in Canadian Studies. There is talk about re-naming this to the joint PhD program in Indigenous and Canadian Studies, but the provost said that Trent University balks because they already have a stand-alone graduate program in Indigenous Studies. So, for now, we are stuck with a PhD in Canadian Studies that contains a ‘field’ in Indigenous Studies (my apologies to the remarkable Rodney Nelson). But Carleton will supposedly keep pushing for this name change. However I am not sure why we don’t simply go for a stand-alone PhD program, without Trent, in Indigenous and Canadian Studies. Our department of Indigenous and Canadian Studies has a dozen research-active faculty members, four of whom work in Indigenous Studies, the same number of research-active faculty (4) as in our vaunted Heath Science department!

Senate Financial Review Committee

A few years ago, the senate financial review committee was resuscitated. It had been on the books, but had not met for years. The resuscitated committee was fully populated, but its chair refused to convene any meetings. A question was raised today about why the committee had not met and what could be done about that. The clerk of senate stated that there is no way for senate as a whole to compel its committees to meet or to compel them to take any other actions. As an academic freedom matter, I am okay with that assertion by the clerk. I then asked whether senate could instead completely repopulate any such committee or a subset of its members in order to get it to act. The clerk stated that he had not considered this, but it seemed like a viable solution.

Senate’s academic governance committee is currently reviewing terms of reference for all committees, including the financial review committee.


The vice-president for students and enrolment stated that Carleton’s two-year retention rate remains constant. For the decade that I have been at Carleton, this retention rate has been a huge concern to the administration, with lots of talk and money to solve the problem, but the overall retention rates do not seem to change. I am not an aficionado of such matters, but it seems that maybe the university needs to try a different tack.

The dean of graduate studies showed large and steady overall growth in our numbers of master and doctoral students. However, it is not obvious how much of this growth is due to simply having more faculty members. The dean promised to report back on this at the next meeting of senate.

Strategic Mandate Agreement

The clerk of senate announced that the 16 December 2016 meeting of senate would be cancelled for lack of urgent business and because it is difficult getting quorum at that time of year. I then asked whether the university has received any requests from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) about Strategic Mandate Agreements, wanting to make sure that senate is kept in the loop on this quintessential academic matter, i.e. that senate has a large role in deciding what new academic programs to cultivate over the next several years. The university president stated that the latest word is that the Ministry may put out a directive right as they close up shop for the christmas holiday.

Closing remarks

As always, this blog posting reflects my opinions and reporting of events at the open session of senate. This posting is not meant as a proxy for the official minutes of the meeting. I welcome your feedback.

Cyclic Review

The highlight of the 10 September 2014 senate meeting arose from a cyclic review. When the province downloaded evaluation of undergraduate programs on universities, Carleton created an office of quality assurance, which then created a byzantine and onerous set of procedures for programs to follow every several years in order to guarantee excellent program quality. The final reports on cyclic review go from the office of quality assurance to the senate academic program committee, and then to the full senate for approval of the report. This is usually pro forma because almost all programs are rated as being of ‘good quality’. Recommendations that programs were approved then get forwarded to the board of governors and finally the provincial government. But today one of the cyclic reviews today was not a ‘good’ rating, but one of conditional approval of a program, hence will not be forwarded the board and province. The recommendation from the office of quality assurance and the provost was to give the program twelve months to remedy deficiencies and then re-do the review process before telling the board and the province anything.

[I am intentionally withholding the name of the program with ‘conditional approval’, even though it will soon be known via senate open session minutes. I do not want there to be a stigma associated with this program. Instead, this is a problem that could easily arise with any program on campus. This blog post is therefore meant as a warning to other units on campus, who could easily find themselves in a similar quandary.]

The conditionally approved program supposedly had several related problems, such as too many courses on the books that are seldom offered and too many contract instructors. The obvious way to remedy this deficiency is to hire more tenure-track faculty, possibly including confirmation-track teaching faculty, to teach these courses. But, when the administration was asked at senate if any additional resources would be given to this program, the answer was either no or silence from the provost, vice president finance, and dean of the relevant faculty. Therefore a reprieve of twelve months seems like no reprieve at all, but simply punishment. Faculty members in that program are going to have to waste their time once again participating in another time-consuming cyclic review, rather than teaching and conducting valuable research. Given that this is a small and not very expensive program, I do not understand this reluctance by the upper administration to provide financial resources. Remember, this is an upper administration that was willing to spend roughly $50 million from reserve and surplus funds on a brand new health program, $33 million on an unneeded parking garage, and now at least a half-million dollars of university monies per year on a men’s-only football team. But somehow we cannot find the monies for one or two new tenure-track positions in an interesting old program that supposedly had some problems with cyclic review? This makes me wonder whether the quality assurance program is really doing what it was designed for versus a way for the upper administration to scapegoat the closing or merging of programs that they no longer want.

The other problem with senate voting on cyclic review for this program with a conditional recommendation is that it was not obvious what a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote actually meant. The university president, provost, and head of quality assurance gave contradictory answers to what a ‘no’ vote meant. For example, the head of quality said that a ‘no’ vote meant that his office would have to eventually re-write the recommendation regarding that program. Could this be in twelve months? By contrast, the provost said that a ‘no’ vote meant that such a new recommendation would have to be promulgated immediately. The provost then threatened that a ‘no’ vote by senate would require that senators provide explicit changes to the cyclic review recommendation, even though the motion on the floor never stipulated that. I personally did not like that the provost threatened senate, but his tack worked. The question was called immediately thereafter and the motion passed for senate to approve the conditional approval arising from that cyclic review.

Board of Governors report

Last year, several senators were adamant that reports from the Board of Governors needed to be put back on senate’s agenda. The fruits of their labours paid off at senate today when rank-and-file senators asked about minutes from previous board meetings. Someone asked whether the university community could be more involved in searches for new presidents, vice presidents, and deans, including listening to candidates for those positions present their vision to the university (not necessarily to the public). The new board chair effectively answered ‘maybe’. He said this was a good idea, but that sometimes candidates for such positions wanted to keep their identities confidential. My opinion is that if a candidate for such an important job at Carleton cares so much about secrecy, then what chance do we have for them being open and transparent once we hire them? Someone asked about how much of our extra money has Carleton committed to a new business school building, with the answer being $2.2 million, thus far. Finally someone asked about the following quote from the board’s minutes, “A question was raised regarding the outstanding debt in this budget and it was noted that this is linked to maintenance for the new parking structure, which is expensive to maintain.” Oddly, even though this quoted sentence was asked of the board on 21 March 2016, none of the five current board members who were at today’s senate meeting could answer why a brand new parking garage requires extensive maintenance. This is particularly poignant given that the head of Carleton’s department of Facilities Management and Planning keeps talking about doubling the height and capacity of that parking garage. Kudos to those senators who insisted that a board of governors report be part of senates agenda and to those senators who then used that hard-earned opportunity.


Senate approved a motion to change the convocation dates for June 2017, pushing them back by one week so that the registrar’s office could verify who was and was not eligible to graduate. I admire the people who take the time to schedule university events. That is a mind-numbing task that is probably only partially helped by modern software. But it seems odd that this schedule was changed so close to the convocation date. Usually such changes get made a few academic years in advance.

Meeting materials for the 17 June 2016 meeting of senate were not distributed to members of senate until the day before, i.e. 16 June 2016. The clerk stated that meeting materials had been distributed to all senators the previous week, but – after subsequent investigation – only four of the 86 members of senate received these documents, one of those four recipients being the clerk himself. This is the second time in 2016 that senate documents have been lost in the electronic mail. The first time, blame was ascribed to some senators still being on the erstwhile in-house Carleton e-mail server, rather than the new microsoft 365 cloud server. This time, blame was ascribed to the new microsoft 365 cloud server. Even more insidious, complaints about non-delivery of senate documents went unheeded by the senate office. This was partly because the e-mail addresses (Senate@carleton.ca and SenateOffice@carleton.ca) listed on the senate website (http://carleton.ca/senate/ and http://carleton.ca/senate/contact/) apparently are not monitored nor read by senate staff. And, when senate staff did finally reply to queries, people were told that the senate agenda is a public document available on the website, which is a poor reply insofar as previous meeting minutes and documents for discussion at the upcoming meeting are not publicly available.

As a result of the delay in receiving senate documents, someone moved that senate delay approving minutes. This motion lost, with 9 in favour and 16 opposed. Thank goodness quorum is only 25% of members.

Immediately before the 27 May 2016 meeting of senate, the clerk of senate disqualified one of the three graduate students selected for a seat on senate. What precipitated this was that one of three graduate student candidates for senate apparently withdrew at the last moment. They were replaced by a candidate selected by the Graduate Student Association (GSA) council. The clerk of senate apparently investigated, finding that while senate rules and GSA rules were different, at least rules were followed. Furthermore, graduate student electronic elections are managed by Carleton IT (Carleton Computer Systems; CCS), adding trust and integrity to the process, at least if you are a member of the university’s administration. The good news is that this senate membership debacle was resolved amicably, with people adhering to due process. There is probably a valuable lesson here.

On all motions at the 17 June 2016 meeting of senate, the clerk voted. As a member of senate, this is allowed. But previous clerks have never voted, which honestly might be a good tradition.

Several days before 17 June 2016, Carleton held its spring convocation. Senate approves the awarding of all degrees, albeit in closed sessions. But once convocation occurs, names of degree recipients are public. So I can now report that senate approved the awarding of an honourary degree to our biggest male athletic supporter, John Ruddy, although I cannot say how thoroughly he was vetted by senate. Ruddy’s contributions to Carleton University have been exclusively focused on our men’s-only football team, to which he recently donated two-and-a-half million dollars (here). Football is a sexist and violent activity. The only women’s professional football teams have been in the misogynistic Lingerie Football League. Men’s-only football is sufficiently violent that approximately one-in-three National Football League players will eventually suffer from Alzheimer’s or moderate dementia (here, here, here). I previously wrote that, “Football is an officially sanctioned group of people physically assaulting one another. Tackling and blocking would be criminal offenses if you did that to someone on the street.” Unfortunately, football-associated violence does not just affect professional football and does not just affect players. See the huge sexual violence problems revolving around university football with Art Briles and Ken Starr at Baylor or Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno at Penn State, which were undoubtedly just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And this at a time when Carleton management is dragging its heals on implementing any sort of sexual violence policy, as was highlighted at the 18 March 2016 meeting of senate by an effective student protest (here). There is also the issue that football almost always loses vast sums of money for universities (here and here). Why is Carleton honouring and glorifying someone with an honourary degree who advocates for and donates to such a violent, sexist, and expensive activity as football?

Senate on 17 June 2016 started at 10 am and adjourned at 11 am. One hour is remarkably short for senate. Many of the people at senate wanted to attend staff appreciation day, which started at 11 am. One of the highlights at that event was the Carleton football cheerleaders. Carleton’s cheerleaders are mostly scantily-dressed half-naked women, plus a few fully-clothed men. Do we really need that sort of sexism and objectification of women? Human resources threatened my job for simply blogging (here), so imagine how they would react if I were to teach while wearing one of our female cheerleader outfits, with a bare mid-section and short shorts (image), not to mention a big red bow in my hair (image). Sorry to close out this senate blog with such a disturbing image, but at least the big red bow would probably fall off of my balding head.

This blog is simply my opinion of what transpired at the open session of senate and is not meant as a surrogate for the official minutes. I truly welcome your comments.


There was almost no business on the Senate agenda today, but it was a lively session with two substantive items regarding Strategic Mandate Agreements and Sexual Assault Policy.

Strategic Mandate Agreements

The university president reported that the provincial government has slowed down its implementation of a new university funding formula, with nothing to be reported by the province until at least June and probably nothing until fall 2016. That means the existing funding formula will be in place for the upcoming academic year, 2016/17, which is probably a good thing.

The university president, however, said that all Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMAs) would have to be renegotiated once the funding formula changes, but that this gives us plenty of time to prepare. I then asked what role Senate would play in these new Strategic Mandate Agreements. The university president answered that Senate would get to ratify the latest draft SMA before it is sent to the provincial government, as supposedly Senate did the last time around. There are two huge problems with her response.

First, while Senate is supposed to oversee all academic decisions at the university, mere ratification of a document does not constitute meaningful consultation. With so much time to prepare, I propose that Senate form an ad hoc committee to recommend which programs we would like to suggest be grown. Or better yet, have question period at the April and May 2016 open sessions of Senate be forums for deciding what should go in draft SMAs to the province.

Second, and more insidious, the president lied in saying that Senate approved the draft SMA in March 2014. Instead, at the Senate meeting of 31 January 2014, the provost presented some rough ideas for the SMA (see his slides here). On 28 March 2014, the provost had an SMA update on the agenda. For what occurred next, please allow me to quote from my blog post of that meeting almost two years ago:

At the end of this strategic mandate ‘discussion’ at Senate on 28 March 2014, Carleton’s president surprised most members of Senate by springing a motion upon us asking for a vote to acknowledge receipt of the draft strategic mandate agreement. There was no need for such a motion. The president could simply have included this information in the minutes. The draft strategic mandate agreement was already memorialized in the “Senate Binder”. Plus, Senate only saw a non-final draft of the strategic mandate agreement. This motion, without adequate notice (Senate Rule of Order section 6 states, “The normal Notice of Motion period is ten days”), seemed like a devious ploy to show that Senate had been meaningfully consulted with regards to the strategic mandate agreement, which has clearly not been the case. Fortunately, Senators saw through this ridiculous smokescreen. While a majority of members of Senate voted to approve this motion acknowledging receipt, a large number of Senators dissented. The president’s subterfuge really fired up several rank-and-file members of Senate, which perversely was a great thing (please try this again).

It is time for Senate to stand up for itself and put an end to this nefarious subterfuge. Senate needs to take a meaningful role, especially when the president says we have time to deliberately devise a plan.

Sexual Assault Policy

Several people convened a silent protest at Senate, wearing shirts with slogans and holding up posters about Carleton having a rape culture. As best I could discern, the protest was meant to highlight the glacial pace at which Carleton is instituting a new sexual assault policy. After quietly protesting for about ten minutes, a Senator rose, saying that he was new and did not know proper Senate protocol, but thought it would be proper to recognize the protesters and here what they might have to say. Kudos to Sujit Sur and the protesters for taking such a brave and principled stand. The university president handled this nicely, apparently asking the protesters if they would be amenable to speaking in open session. Senate then voted that the protesters should be allowed to speak. The university president stated that our delays were due to awaiting legislation from the provincial government in implementing a universal sexual assault policy across all universities. The protesters replied that the provincial legislation would establish a floor, but that Carleton should proactively do more than meet such a minimum requirement. The protesters stated they wanted something to be done with sexual assault prevention, not just actions after sexual assault has occurred. They suggested mandatory consent training for everyone entering the university, which seems to me to be a good idea.

Any new sexual assault policy will have to be approved by Carleton’s Board of Governors. I hope such a matter gets vetted by a board committee that contains students and staff, not just at-large governors who will never be directly affected.

Honourary degree nominee

Open session at senate began with a long discussion of lack of debate about the honourary degree nominee. The chair of senate said that this matter would be discussed in open session because the honourary degree nominee had been publicly announced. I remained silent during the debate, having already weighed in with two long blog posts on this subject in the previous three days (here and here), wanting to give others the space to speak. Senate voted today on whether to endorse the electronic vote from earlier in the week, the electronic vote that was devoid of debate. All but three member of senate who voted today endorsed the original vote, hence the honourary degree was conferred. It was good that debate finally occurred.

But proper procedure was still not followed by the clerk and chair of senate. The proper course of action would have been to (1) hold a vote waiving the 10-day notice of motion requirement, (2) nullify the e-mail vote that occurred on 22-25 January, and then (3) vote de novo on the nominee. The clerk and chair never allowed a motion to waive the 10-day notice requirement and never nullified the original vote.

The chair of senate (aka university president) discussed how to hold future debates electronically by using social media. This is a shocking proposal given the Board of Governors’ antipathy to social media. I am also not sure how secure of a platform social media would provide, especially when discussing the politically sensitive issue of honourary degrees. Nonetheless, I am open to the use of social media for senate debate, even though ironically I do not use social media. The clerk of senate mentioned that the Senate Academic Governance Committee will be discussing the need for debate in senate motions and possibly how to implement that in-between in-person meetings of senate. The clerk also mentioned how Sturgis’s Rules of Order discusses the tradeoff between speed and adequate debate in electronic votes. I am glad that those discussions of the need for debate will occur, especially for electronic votes.

As an aside, I want to highlight how behind-the-times our governance gurus seem to be. The last time that the rules of order originally published by Alice Sturgis used her name in the title (“Sturgis Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure”) was almost three decades ago. Since the third edition was published in 1988, the code has been calledThe Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure” or the “American Institute of Parliamentarians Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure”. But I like honouring Alice Sturgis, so will gladly tolerate this anachronism.

As a more consequential aside, I wonder whether Carleton is starting to print honourary degrees like the Venezuelan central bank prints bolivars (see here). Eventually you print so many that the value of each honourary degree and your currency becomes almost worthless.

An hour into the session, senate took a presidentially-imposed half-hour hiatus for the conferral of the honourary degree. This started with a ten-minute costume change for the senate celebrities, while they were adorned with regalia. All this occurred while approximately 50 members of senate had to sit around and wait to resume their governance duties. That seems like a waste of time and an arrogant action by the administration. The honourary degree pomp took sufficiently long that it actually displaced items on the senate agenda. In particular, the report from the Board of Governors was displaced from the senate agenda by the honourary frivolities. Judging from the media (see for example here and here), there was a lot for senate to hear about the Board of Governors and maybe a good missed opportunity for senators to then ask questions. The only consolation is that the board has now sufficiently gagged its members that they are supposedly not allowed to report back to senate!

Second language requirement in journalism

There was extensive discussion of a motion to remove the second language requirement for bachelor of journalism students. In Canada, journalism seems to be one of a few fields where it would be extraordinarily valuable to speak both English and French. My recent board-related involvement with journalists showed how important this can be. My monolingual status made some interviews more cumbersome and made me not able to understand some of the stories written. However, at senate today, the provost justified this change by arguing that the second language requirement means that we attract fewer applicants to our flagship journalism program.

At first I thought this might be an economic argument because fewer applicants means lower enrolment. I therefore mistakenly thought that we could compensate for this diminution in journalism applicants by kicking out less than half of the students after the end of first year. Apparently, this would be hard to implement because Carleton’s upper administration, not the school of journalism, dictates this anachronistic approach of filtering out half the program’s students. In an age when we supposedly care about retention and our student’s mental health, why do we act like such Neanderthals? How much money are we losing by the forced removal of a hundred journalism undergraduates per annum after the first year? Are there gender, racial, or ethnic biases in this forced removal? If forced removal was the preferred course of action by the school of journalism, I would be more sympathetic because academic units should have academic freedom. But I have problems when the upper administration – who tells faculty members how much more money we would get by retaining even one more student per academic program – then turns around and mandates the removal of a hundred journalism students at the end of the first year.

The motion to remove the second language requirement from journalism passed, but 17 senators either voted in opposition or actively abstained, which is a lot.

Closing remarks

As always, this blog posting reflects my opinions and reporting of events at the open session of Senate. This posting is not meant as a proxy for the official minutes of the meeting. I welcome your feedback.


My previous Senate blog posting provided a due process critique of the administration of university senate. While the nominal topic was about awarding of honourary degrees, the leitmotif was that the chair and clerk of senate failed to follow rules of order in approving an honourary degree recipient. In particular, I had reported the chair and clerk did not allow for any debate of the motion and did not obtain a waiver of the 10-day notice requirement.

Let me start today by discussing substantive issues. First, my heartfelt thanks to the chair of senate who conceded that the opportunity for debate can occur before the nominee’s honourary degree is conferred. That is a truly gracious gesture on her part. Thank you. Second, to my naïve eyes, the nominee seems like a superb candidate for an honourary degree. Based on substance alone, I support their nomination. Therefore, in the short-term regarding this one honourary degree nominee, the chair of senate has done the right thing, which is truly impressive.

While substantive problems have now been remedied, unfortunately due process foibles have gotten worse since my previous posting two days ago, with at least three additional major due process gaffes.

The first new due process problem concerns appeals of rulings by the chair. Immediately after my previous blog posting, I formally appealed the ruling of the chair to senate:

I hereby appeal the ruling of the chair regarding debate on the nomination of an honourary degree recipient to the full Senate because (1) the Annex to Senate Rules of Order – Motions in Order at a Senate Meeting clearly implies that the opportunity to debate main motions is required and (2) Senate did not waive the ten-day notice of motion requirement per article 7 of the Senate Rules of Order.

Proper procedure is to refer an appeal of a procedural ruling by the chair to the full senate for an immediate vote without debate. The chair of senate, who is also the university president, did not do this, but instead sent a letter to all senators stating that debate will be allowed at the next in-person meeting of senate, a debate that would occur minutes before the honourary degree is conferred [her letter is not appended herein because it repeatedly identifies the nominee]. The chair should not have such prerogative. Appeal of a ruling by the chair needs to go to an immediate vote, which in this case should have been via e-mail.

The second problem is that the chair of senate still refuses to call a vote to waive the 10-day notice requirement for motions. Senate Rule of Order article 7 is quite specific that, “A Senator may place a motion before Senate without proper notice (see Rule 6) only if all of the following conditions are met…” There is only one exemption for this waiver, namely, “Procedural and courtesy motions do not require advance notice.” The motion to award a degree is neither a procedural nor courtesy matter. Why have rules if the chair of senate defies them, even when challenged?

The third problem is that the chair in her e-mail insinuates that the original motion to award an honourary degree was somehow not a “main motion”. Given that it was the only motion that she and the honourary degree committee proposed, how could it not be a main motion and therefore how could the chair have ever precluded debate on the motion?

The chair of senate attempted to justify not following the Senate Rules of Order by reporting 47 votes in favour and only one opposed to her original (main) motion. Unfortunately, this was a procedurally-flawed vote, lacking a waiver of the 10-day notice requirement in which several senators (including me) declined to vote because of the lack of debate. The purpose of rules of order is to provide minority rights, be it rights of the one dissenting senator or rights of the multiple senators who refused to vote because of the lack of debate and abrogation of due process.

While I cannot discuss closed sessions of senate, current and former senators should recall past debates about nominees for honourary degrees and ask whether such debates have ever mattered.

Having been critical of due process gaffes by the chair of senate, while being positive with regards to substance, I should further mitigate my criticisms by admitting that both the chair of senate and the clerk of senate have so many important tasks that due process is probably very low priority for them. Senate does not have legal counsel advising it and has no parliamentarian. One long-term solution for this would be for senate to appoint a parliamentarian from its ranks – not the chair, clerk, secretary, nor anyone from the administration, but a regularly elected member of senate or somebody from outside of senate and from outside of management. The parliamentarian would only provide advisory opinions, nothing binding on senate. Credibility of the parliamentarian would be earned over time based on the wisdom of their opinions. We should earn respect of our peers, not simply be appointed to privilege. Please let me know if any sitting senator would like to second such a motion for appointment of an advisory parliamentarian. And please join me in thanking the chair of senate for allowing the right to debate the current honourary degree nominee, even if it is a right that nobody ends up invoking.