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Senate Notes

A regular meeting of the Concordia University Senate, held on September 17, 1999.

Rector's remarks: Rector Frederick Lowy introduced Advancement Director Tamás Zsolnay, and mentioned the recent turnover ceremony of Samuel Bronfman House (See story, this page). He encouraged members to support the Shuffle fundraising walk and launch of the 25th anniversary year on September 24, and reminded senators that support staff usually greatly outnumber faculty and students at the event. He said that Concordia will participate in the Maclean's magazine ratings, though they are structured to our disadvantage. The University's finances are in good shape, the space plan is well in hand, and changes in the administration have "on the whole been positive, though they have put some pressures on staff." On the negative side, many faculty have been "seduced away" by higher salaries, and while Ontario is spending more on its university students, Quebec is spending less.

Y2K: John Woodrow, Director of IITS, reported to Senate that a task force created in spring 1998 is satisfied that all of the University's systems will meet the millennium without problems.

Enrolment: Registrar Lynne Prendergast reported that enrolment is up by about 2.8 per cent (590 more students than last year) as of September 13. That is an overall head count. If one counts only the figures for full-time students, enrolment is up by 4.9 per cent. Fine Arts and Arts and Science show negligible increases, while Commerce and Administration is up by 4.3 per cent and Engineering and Computer Science by 12.1 per cent. Figures for graduate students take longer to come in, but they appear to be up as well.

Construction and maintenance: Vice-Rector Services Charles Emond reported that about $5 million of work was done over the summer, and some projects continue.

Engineering: Dean Nabil Esmail announced that a federal CFI grant and matching Quebec government grant were made to Engineering and Fine Arts for a new facility (reported in CTR, September 9). He added that enrolment in information technology programs has increased by 40 per cent and is expected to double by 2002.

Arts and Science: Dean Martin Singer said he had just come from a luncheon for new faculty. Fifty have been hired, and another 50 are being sought. Three years from now, fully one-third will be new hires.

SCAPP/APC: Provost Jack Lightstone, who is Chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Planning and Priorities (SCAPP), said that he will also chair the Academic Planning Committee (APC) this year. It is time to rethink the role of the APC, he said, and to streamline the lengthy process required to approve, change or eliminate programs, especially in light of the short-term need for some courses. He also gave an overview of a comprehensive assessment of Concordia's needs recently sent to the Education minister.

Question period: Concordia Student Union (CSU) president Rob Green said that the University is downloading its costs to students through increased administrative fees, and is turning over aspects of the University to commercial and corporate interests. Dr. Lowy agreed with him that Quebec should restore funding, and described the universities' efforts to persuade the government of their needs. Another student, Aliya Haer, said that members of an external advisory board represent companies that have sold arms to Indonesia, which have been used against East Timor; Dean Nabil Esmail said that these companies create thousands of jobs in Montreal and have contributed much to the university, and in any case, the charge was unsubstantiated. Student Philip Ilijevski said that efforts by the CSU to raise student awareness have met with a "wall of resistance" by the administration; Emond replied that Services staff had tried to accommodate wall posters, broadcast messages, etc., but a balance had to be found with the rights of other students to a clean and orderly environment.

Research policy: Professor Fred Bird, who was asked by Jack Lightstone to draft guidelines for the implementation of the Tri-Council Policy on Research Involving Humans, explained that it sets higher and broader standards. It requires universities to review all their research, and be more attentive and expeditious in applying ethical standards. As a result, Concordia has created departmental as well as Faculty committees, and expects to review as many as 300 research projects.

Academic planning: This was another in a series of wide-ranging discussions begun last term. Charles Giguère (Engineering and Computer Science) proposed a set of objectives and characteristics of professional development programs, research-oriented graduate programs, and research areas to open the discussion. Claire Cupples (Arts and Science) wondered who would teach the professional development courses -- presumably, specialists from outside the University. Lynne Prendergast, responding to the suggestion that in some cases, these students and others shouldn't be taught together, asked where the additional classroom space would come from; also, the portability of credits needs to be considered, as these students may want to pursue a degree. Student senators strongly objected to encouraging corporate involvement in professional development programs. Rob Green said these will cost students more, further reduce their access to education, and simply "pad the coffers of private industry" who "pay only 3 to 4 per cent of Canada's taxes." Clarence Bayne (Commerce and Administration) protested that education and the private sector are interdependent. Lightstone tried to steer discussion away from "ideology." He said that he feels that "we are on the verge of a new era in the role of the university." He added that rather than isolate ourselves, we must become active participants in society, or we risk losing our appeal to potential students, the confidence of the public, and our edge in research. Green dismissed this as "neo-liberalism, the cult of impotence." As discussion wound up, Dr. Lowy called it "an exciting discussion," and several senators said the debate took them back to their own student days.

Copyright 1999 Concordia's Thursday Report.