28 November 2014

Senate attendance must have been better than usual on 28 November 2014 because there was inadequate space for everyone in the traditional sixth floor senate room. Both rear doors were so clogged with people that it was impossible to exit or enter. The fire marshal could have shut the meeting down, something of an anti-quorum. Overall, that is a good sign. But Senate could use a new physical space. And this will soon become even more urgent when later this week the Board of Governors approves the addition of two new members of Senate from the ranks of our contract instructors. And frankly, the current Senate space has dreadful lighting and acoustics.

Suzanne Blanchard and Matthias Neufang gave a long presentation on enrolment, which is sensible timing given that provincial funding is based on enrolment numbers as of 1 November each year. The details were nicely presented and hopefully their slides will be made publicly available. The broad picture, though, was scary. We are now largely betting our future on international students and boutique programs. This is not sustainable because countries like China and India are creating their own universities and what is a fad today will soon be destined for the rubbish heap. Thus, in an era with grim demographics (our enrolments are forecasted to bottom out in 2019 at 4% below current levels), we are wagering on international recruiting and weak boutique programs, doing so without adequate consultation or planning. Not sure what happened to growing strengths, something we clearly are eschewing, and instead growing weak boutique programs as intentionally memorialized in our strategic mandate agreement, contrary to provincial instructions. While my colleagues have long spoken of Carleton’s financial position as being conservative, reliance on international recruiting and incipient boutique programs seems just the opposite to me.

One thing we could do to improve recruitment is not have campus tours start at Robertson Hall, which looks like a minimum security prison, especially with the special constables behind bullet-proof glass at the front entrance. If we are going to keep investing in fancy new buildings, maybe they could include a less gulag-esque visitor center.

John Shepherd and Jerry Tomberlin brought forward an emergency motion asking for Senate to delegate authority to Senate Executive to approve a new masters of accounting program. The motion was approved. This motion was driven by expedited provincial/external reviews, which in turn were driven by consolidation of the three professional accounting certification societies in Canada into one new society. I think the Senate vote was justified, although I have no idea why the alternative was not suggested of convening Senate in December or early January for an emergency session once the new masters in accounting program was drafted. It is also a bit embarrassing that Carleton was caught by surprise that something in our strategic mandate agreement was approved.

There was long discussion about fall break, with a few things I had never heard before. University of Ottawa has long ago scheduled their fall breaks for the next four years, and apparently we will be synchronized with them, at least if they don’t change their dates. Apparently our fall break is not scheduled for the week of thanksgiving because Carleton offers many quarter-credit (i.e. six week) courses, which we prefer to not have split up by the break. What went unsaid was that this must mean that these six-week courses are only offered during the first half of fall term. For instance, this year there were seven weeks prior to fall break and five weeks after fall break. I am not sure why we could not schedule fall break (and winter break) for the exact middle of term and thereby offer a pair of six-week sessions each term. I am also wondering whether faculty members can request that their normal half-credit (i.e. twelve week) courses be offered as intensive six-week courses. That is, could we request that our courses meet twice as often as usual each week, but for half the number of weeks?

Finally, so as not to be redundant, please see my Board of Governors blog posting for 29 November 2014 for discussion of Carleton’s disgraceful and at best quarter-hearted acknowledgment of being on Algonquin lands.

This blog reflects my personal opinions of what transpired at the open session of Senate. This is not meant to replace the official minutes, which are remarkably well done in Senate.

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