It is customary for the the Provost & Vice-President, Academic to provide a report to each meeting of Senate outlining plans, priorities, issues and other news. As these reports are already public through the University Secretariat Office, they will also be shared regularly through this memorandum page.
Note that appendices to the report can be found on the University Secretariat Office website.
Report to Senate of the Provost & Interim President – September 15, 2021
Welcome to the 2021-22 academic year! It promises to be another eventful one, but I have confidence in Brock students, staff, faculty, and librarians and in our collective ability to confront any challenge. On this note, I would like to welcome Ken Chan, Brock’s new Vice-President, Administration, and April-Dawn Blackwell, our new Associate Vice-President, Professional and Continuing Studies, who joined the Brock community over the summer.
The main focus of our activities over the summer has involved preparations for the Fall term. On July 16, all colleges and universities in Ontario received guidance from the province with respect to the Fall term. Specifically, we were told to be prepared to resume on-campus instruction and other activities with the expectation that no capacity limits would apply and that physical distancing requirements would be lifted.
By August 12, Brock and many other universities in the province announced that proof of vaccination would be required to access campus in the Fall term. The details of these vaccine requirements were adjusted on August 24 in light of new binding guidance from the Council of Ontario Medical Officers Health. Brock staff worked feverishly for the next two weeks to operationalize the process, building it up from nothing. Workflows were developed, an online portal was created, standards were established, and an antigen screening program was set up. This was a true ‘all hands on deck’ effort, with staff from across the University working together. I am beyond impressed with the dedication of all those who worked to bring this project to life in such a short time and I want to thank everyone who had a role to play in operationalizing the vaccine requirement for their commitment to this important undertaking as we work to ensure a safe return to campus.
The province’s announcement on August 17 that it was delaying the exit from step 3 of the re-opening framework indefinitely cast doubt on Fall plans for all Ontario post-secondary institutions, as step 3 – contrary to the guidance we received in mid-July – continues to require two metres of physical distancing in college and university instructional spaces. Clarification on this point was requested from government through the Council of Ontario Universities. At the special Senate meeting on August 25, we heard clearly the frustration of many faculty members concerning the uncertainty surrounding the Fall term and the lateness of further government direction. As a result, on August 27 we announced that classes scheduled for on-campus delivery between September 7-10 would take place online, to allow for more time to adjust to the expected government announcement if required.
Final guidance from the Ministry was eventually provided on August 30 and was roughly in line with the direction offered in mid-July, allowing Brock’s Fall term plans to proceed as scheduled.
As the Fall term begins, I have confidence in the measures in place and in the fact that we have done everything we can to help ensure that the return to campus will proceed as safely as possible.
One of my main projects for this year will involve the development of an Academic Plan, which will supplement the current Institutional Strategic Plan, which runs until 2025, by defining Brock’s academic priorities in areas such as program development, international, graduate studies, and strategic enrolment management. The plan will be developed by various sub-groups, each focused on different parts of the plan, with the expectation that each sub-group will proceed in a manner that is collaborative and consultative with the community.
In this vein, I have had discussions with the Chair and Vice-Chair of Senate, as well as with the Chair of PPBAC, about the latter’s functioning as a steering committee for this project, overseeing the work of the various sub-groups.
Related to the Academic Plan is the requirement to develop a mid-term report on the Institutional Strategic Plan, to be presented in September 2022. This was a commitment made at the outset of the strategic plan, one which I believe provides us with an important opportunity not only to measure the progress we have made but also to reflect on how COVID may have affected our plans.
Work continues with the City of Burlington to identify potential sites for the relocation of Brock’s current Hamilton campus. On June 23, 2021, the Halton District School Board announced that it was declaring surplus Robert Bateman High School in Burlington. The next day, the City of Burlington submitted an expression of interest to purchase the school as part of its broader agreement to help Brock secure a new site. The public procurement process runs until mid-September, at which point the HDSB will select a purchaser. The City is believed to be the only party interested in buying the property so far. Should the City succeed in purchasing the building, Brock would begin discussions about the terms of a potential lease.
Following a presentation to IT&I last year about Brock’s priorities and ‘wish list’ for a new site, further engagement will occur once a site has been secured and renovations to academic spaces are being discussed.
Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning
A process will soon be launched to fill the new role of Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning. This role would replace the Associate Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning position currently held by Professor Madelyn Law. The scope of the role will be expanded to include:
- pedagogical innovations and best practices, including academic leadership professional development in the area;
- academic technologies, including e-learning infrastructure;
- academic advising; and
- academic integrity.
The creation of this role is part of a broader restructuring of the senior academic team which I presented and discussed with Senate at length last year. This process would also see the roles of Vice-Provost, Students and Vice-Provost, Strategic Partnerships & International transition into Associate Vice-President roles held by ongoing staff incumbents.
A call for advisory committee members for the VP T&L role was launched over the summer. The committee will be convened as soon as the full slate of faculty representatives is identified.
Significant progress was made on a number of policy projects, which will be discussed at the committee level and at Senate this year. For example, changes are being proposed to the program viability review process that incorporate lessons learned from the first iteration last year. These will be discussed at UPC and SGSC in September.
Work also continues to transition section 4 of the Faculty Handbook, which is within the purview of the President and outlines the process for appointing senior academic administrator appointments such as Deans and Vice-Provosts, into a stand-alone Policy on the Appointment of Academic Administrators. A community-wide consultation process was launched early in September using the new consultation tool on the Provost’s Office website to collect further feedback from Brock students, staff and faculty.
Professor Lynn Wells
Provost & Vice-President, Academic
Interim President & Vice-Chancellor