Personally, from days of yore, I miss the president’s report at the start of senate. Our president is sufficiently insightful to make this rewarding. Maybe our president is a dreadful cheerleader, but that is not what we pay a president to do. What we need is information, especially because information almost never trickles down from the president’s office, to deans, to unit heads, to ordinary faculty members. A luddite like me has even taken up blogging because of this lack of communication flow through, where I am hoping to circumvent the militaristic chain-of-command on information dissemination at Carleton. But alas, instead of an old-fashioned report from the president, today we had two presentations: one on Ojigkwanong, Carleton’s new Aboriginal Student Centre, and the other on Carleton’s new Discovery Centre.
Senators asked how many Indigenous students and faculty members Carleton had. I seem to have heard that we have 500-700 Indigenous undergraduate student applications for admission to Carleton each year. I definitely heard that we only have 2-3 full-time Indigenous faculty members, plus a few Indigenous contract instructors. Of course, not everybody self-identifies. The provost said that he hopes to double the number full-time Indigenous faculty members via hires for the new graduate certificate program in Indigenous public affairs. This signals that FPA hopes to grow that new graduate certificate program into a full-fledged masters or doctorate program. When will senate hear about that?
The director of Carleton’s new ‘Discovery Centre’ gave a 22-minute long monologue on his new furniture. Two-thirds of that time (15 minutes) was spent talking about his new chairs, sofas, etc. The other one-third (7 minutes) was spent talking about his new electronic equipment, mostly XBOX and PlayStation gaming systems, with a little bit of time on his new surround sound stereo system with sub-woofer and 3-D printer. I am not sure that a roomful of between 50 and 75 highly paid people needed to spend 22-minutes discovering about their colleague’s new furniture. At least he fielded a few questions after the furniture monologue.
Carleton’s ‘Academic Colleague’ told us lots about the province’s differentiation exercise, including reminding us that all universities will have to re-write mandate agreements, justifying what we write. The justification part sounds reasonable insofar as I always have to include a budget justification in my grant proposals. The troubling part is the metrics used for differentiation. We heard that over 180 metrics were proposed and none decided upon. What irks me is that this is a normative exercise. The province should first decide what the objectives of metrics and differentiation are and only then create metrics. This is the way science is done: you first decide on what question you want to ask and only after that do you decide what statistics are useful.
On back-to-back days I attended Carleton board of governors and senate meetings, providing two interesting contrasts. First, at senate, when the chair of the board was asked whether anything interesting happened at the previous day’s board meeting, he had nothing to say. Yet, to my eyes, there were a huge number of relevant items covered during the board’s two-hour open session. Click here for my summary of what transpired at the board meeting. Second, quite ironically, the board of governors acts like a traditional senate, whereas Carleton’s senate instead acts like the house, as in Canada’s House of Parliament or the U.S. House of Representatives. Senates are usually deliberative bodies in which all senators are roughly equal. Houses in government are usually deliberative bodies in which the prime minister or speaker holds almost all the power, a few underlings have some power, and backbenchers are basically powerless pawns that rubber stamp what the majority feeds them for approval. Carleton’s senate needs to be more activist. Question period needs to be utilized. Motions need to come from the rank-and-file. Motions from the president’s office should occasionally be rejected, albeit for cause.