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 – October 27, 2021
I want to thank you all for your hard work so far this term. It is satisfying to see our campus slowly returning to life, with faculty members, students and staff alike walking our halls once again. We hit an important milestone a few weeks ago, reaching the Thanksgiving holiday and Fall break without any significant disruption to our operations.
Thus far, Brock’s vaccine mandate is doing what it was intended to do. While we have managed a small number of isolated cases on campus, spread has been very limited. We expect the situation to improve further as those who are partially vaccinated become fully vaccinated, especially as the fourth wave of infections shows early signs of receding in Ontario.
We now have a good understanding of Niagara Region Public Health’s expectations with respect to self-isolation, and these were communicated broadly to the University community via the Provost’s Office website in early September as soon as we learned of them. Generally, those who are fully vaccinated and show no symptoms after exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case can continue to attend campus and go about their business normally, while those who are partially vaccinated would be asked to self-isolate. This seems to rule out in many cases the need for whole classes or even large numbers of students within classes to self-isolate, allowing on-campus instruction to continue as planned.
The focus of our activities with respect to the vaccine requirement thus shifts in the coming weeks to ensuring that those who are partially vaccinated become fully vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, and to preparing for the Winter term and ensuring that any new students on campus are compliant with the policy. For the moment, it remains unknown how long the vaccine requirement will remain place. We see no signs from government that they would lift the requirement for the Winter term.
Academic plan (see Appendices A and B)
Discussions have begun with PPBAC to inform 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. I attach for Senators’ benefit the documents submitted to the October PPBAC meeting, including the project overview (Appendix A) and the initial engagement plan (Appendix B).
Consistent with the latter, I am preparing a short survey that will be brought to the next PPBAC meeting and released shortly thereafter to understand some of the community’s priorities to inform the plan. Drafts of the academic plan would then be iterated in the Winter term, with a document coming to Senate for discussion in May.
On October 6, Brock announced that it would be rescheduling the relocation of its Hamilton campus to Burlington for September 2023. This change in plans is not a reflection of the commitment to the project on the part of either the University or the City of Burlington, but rather became necessary given the protracted nature of the public procurement process in which the City is engaged as it seeks to buy Robert Bateman High School from the Halton District School Board. While the first phase of the procurement process closed in late September, a number of other steps must be completed before the City can officially take possession of the building and begin renovations.
Brock has reached an agreement with the new owner of its Hamilton site to continue activities there as needed up to September 2023.
Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion (see Appendix C)
Brock has been invited by colleague institutions to sign onto the Scarborough National Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion, which I include for Senators’ benefit in Appendix C to this report.
The Charter represents a collaborative effort on a national scale, with input provided by various members of the post-secondary sector and other partners. It signals signatories’ commitment to take concrete steps to eliminate anti-Black racism at their institutions. The efforts were led by Professor Wisdom Tettey, Principal of the University of Toronto Scarborough, and included leaders from across the Canadian post-secondary sector, including McGill, UBC, the University of Montreal, and others. Former Brock President Fearon also participated in the drafting of the document.
I participated in a discussion of the document through the Council of Ontario Universities, where feedback was generally positive. Many of our colleague institutions have signed onto the document or have indicated their intention to do so shortly. Following the process adopted by others, I thought it was important to discuss the document at Senate and have this body’s support before moving forward with signature and implementation. I would note that broad consultation on the document also occurred last Spring through the Human Rights & Equity Office, and that this feedback was provided to the document’s steering committee as they made revisions towards this final version.
Removal of FHB 4.2.2
Section 4.2.2 of the Faculty Handbook provides for an external review of the academic and administrative functions of a Faculty in the fifth year of a Dean’s term. I understand that this passage dates back to 2015 and is within the purview of the President. I also understand that this type of review has never taken place despite the language in the Handbook.
I have reviewed minutes from the Governance Committee meetings in August and October 2015, in which a number of concerns were raised about the proposed wording. Given these, as well as current practice, I am requesting that the Secretariat remove section 4.2.2 of the FHB. I wanted to ensure that Senate was aware of this change.
Revisions to the program viability review process (FHB 3.C.15) (see Appendix D)
MOTION (Wells/ )
THAT the proposed revisions to the program viability review process as outlined in FHB 3.C.15 be approved as described in Appendix D to this document.
As Senators will recall, last Winter term brought us our first experience with the program viability review process as outlined in FHB 3.C.15. While the goal of the process itself is an important one, our first deployment of the process highlighted a number of areas for improvement. Based on these experiences, I bring to the group today proposed revisions. I have discussed the proposed changes extensively with UPC and SGSC, both of which would have significant roles to play in the process.
The proposed changes achieve three important objectives. First, they increase the transparency of the process by clarifying some of the metrics used to identify programs for review, for example by translating FTE enrolment counts in the original version into headcount enrolments, which are more easily understood. The threshold enrolment values for review are then adjusted accordingly. Second, the changes transition the program viability review from being an administrative process to one than is led by two Senate committees, UPC for undergraduate programs and SGSC for graduate programs. Finally, the revised process now includes a ‘probationary period’, during which programs that have been identified for review can make adjustments to increase their enrolment.
I believe that these revisions represent an important step forward and I look to Senators for their support so that we might implement the revised procedures for this year’s viability review.
Consultation on the proposed Policy and Procedures on the Appointment of Academic Administrators
On September 8, I announced a community-wide consultation on section 4 of the Faculty Handbook, which is within the purview of the President and outlines the process for appointing senior academic administrators such as Deans and Vice-Provosts. The revisions would see this section removed from the FHB and transitioned to a stand-alone Policy and Procedures on the Appointment of Academic Administrators.
The consultation was hosted using the new consultation tool on the Provost’s Office website and sought to collect further feedback from Brock students, staff and faculty on the proposed document. The consultation closed on October 15, with a reminder about the process sent to the University community prior to closing on October 3. A number of community members were approached directly about contributing to the consultation, including Senators and our student associations. This consultation is the latest step in a project that has been ongoing since last Winter and that has engaged many part of the University community in conversation.
I will now be working with my team to consider the comments received and make revisions as appropriate, before finalizing the document.
Professor Lynn Wells
Provost & Vice-President, Academic
Interim President & Vice-Chancellor