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.