Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 29, No.5

November 4, 2004


Senate Notes

Change of name:
The Department of Design Art becomes the Department of Design and Computation Art. This reflects the role of the program formerly known as Digital Image and Sound in the Fine Arts.

Academic planning: Provost Martin Singer presented for information a document called “A University for the 21st Century.” It lays out eight challenges and strategies for meeting them.

The previous academic plan (1997) having been largely fulfilled through early retirements and massive hiring, Concordia seeks to become one of Canada’s leading universities.

More full-time professors must be hired. There are now about the same number as 10 years ago, but there are also more students, giving Concordia the worst professor-to-student ratio in Quebec. Singer said about 400 more are needed: 200 to get us where we want to be, and 200 to replace retirees.

David Vivian (Fine Arts) said he teaches part-time specifically because his research must be done in theatres, rather than at the university. Singer agreed that the profile of part-time faculty members varies widely among disciplines, and part-time faculty are particularly important in the arts and business.

Enrolment would be capped at 25,000 full-time enrolments (currently, there are 23,000 FTEs). However, Singer called for a balance between quality and accessibility. It was noted that fewer than half Concordia’s enrolment is via Quebec’s CEGEP system.

The document calls for improved teaching, programs, academic advising and support. Singer added improved library resources.

Active research and creative production continue to be essential for new professors. Singer said Board members expressed concern that Concordia might abandon its commitment to teaching as a result; student senators echoed concern. Singer, President Frederick Lowy, William Bukowski (Arts & Science) and Jerry Tomberlin (Dean, JMSB) said that on the contrary, the best teachers are almost invariably active researchers. Vice-Provost Research Truong Vo-Van added that research often results in teaching innovation.

Concordia’s international profile must be expanded, including “a dramatic increase” in students willing to attend universities in other countries. Bilateral agreements provide a model. As international students increase from 10 to 15 per cent, residence space will have to be acquired.

Singer said that when Concordia’s academic image is considered, the whole is less than the sum of its parts, i.e., the Concordia name is less valuable than the prestige of some of its programs would suggest.

The final challenge in the list was Concordia’s academic organization. The University of Toronto has 17 faculties, and McGill has 12. Concordia has only four, and one of them, Arts and Science, is huge. The Provost gave a number of examples of affinities among departments that might be addressed through a restructuring. “Seize the moment, or it will pass,” he said.

This document can be read in full at, item D25. In it, Singer said he wants discussion to result in a new academic plan by next spring.

Barak: Lowy addressed the controversy over the university’s refusal to allow Hillel to stage a speech at Concordia by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak.

The decision had been based on a recommendation by a risk assessment team, and the decision had been made by the President’s Cabinet in consultation with the Board as not being in Concordia’s interest. Organizers of Barak’s visit had been offered Place des Arts, where Concordia holds convocations, to no avail. Concordia had offered to share some of the cost.

Lowy said that the flurry of negative publicity had been unfair; that Premier Jean Charest had recently been prevented by demonstrating students from speaking at the Université de Montréal, and that a controversial Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner had spoken off campus under McGill’s sponsorship, but neither of these events received the same kind of public condemnation as Concordia. “We are being unfairly treated; we should not be pushed around.” He added that the decision has had “overwhelming support” by those at Concordia.

“The external criticism to which we are most vulnerable is to the academic community around the country,” Lowy said, but these critics lacked information when they charged Concordia with stifling free speech. “We do not censor political opinions; we have no opinion about Mr. Barak or Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu, who, incidentally, are at opposite ends of the Israeli political spectrum.”

Finally, Lowy said, Concordia’s facilities were not designed for large-scale demonstrations. Modifications will need to be made.

Student strike: CSU president Brent Farrington told Senate that Nov. 10 would be a “day of action” to protest cuts to financial aid and the possibility of tuition hikes. Professors will be asked to give amnesty to students who wish to attend.

Anti-cheating measures: Registrar Linda Healey reminded Senate of new policies to address cheating on exams (see CTR, Oct. 21). A student said she was concerned that assigned seats might be uncomfortable for some students; Healey said she would address this concern. Counsel Pierre Frégeau said the Code of Conduct (Academic) working group, which had just been struck, would address other issues concerning cheating.

Next meeting: Nov. 19, Room SP-265-9.