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 – November 17, 2021
As we look towards the end of the Fall term, Brock announced in late October the extension of its COVID-19 vaccine requirement into the Winter term. As the requirement has now been in place since September, allowing all members of the community ample notice about the expectations under the policy, proof of full vaccination must be shown by early December in order to participate in on-campus activities in the Winter. With the number of partially vaccinated individuals quickly declining as the Fall term progresses and as individuals become eligible for their second doses, the early December deadline for full vaccination will ensure that Brock does not experience a resurgence in partially vaccinated individuals on campus, which will reduce demands on our rapid antigen screening program. A reduction in these values will also be facilitated by the fact that the number of students starting their studies in the Winter term tends to be few.
Some flexibility with respect to this deadline will be shown for international students who are arriving in Canada for the Winter term and who may not have had previous access to Health Canada-approved vaccines. In many cases, these students have already received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the World Health Organization and available elsewhere in the world, especially in China, and will only require a booster shot of Pfizer or Moderna to be considered fully vaccinated under Ontario’s regulations. The University will work with these students and support them in getting fully vaccinated as soon as is feasible following their arrival in the country.
Students who are not fully vaccinated and cannot access campus will still be able to take Brock courses online in the Winter term. However, I note that 80% of Winter term courses are scheduled for on-campus delivery, up from 60% in the Fall term.
Since the vaccine requirement took effect in early September, Brock has experienced only a very small number of isolated COVID-19 cases on campus, providing further proof that vaccines truly are the best way to ensure the health and safety of the University community moving forward. I want to thank all students, staff, faculty members and librarians for their cooperation in keeping our campus safe.
Updated policy work on medical notes
Professor Anna Lathrop and I have completed a round of consultation with relevant Senate committees, including T&LPC, USAC and SGSC, on proposed changes to the University’s medical notes policy. The revisions would replace current requirements with a two-tiered system under which an absence of three days or less could be excused using a self-attestation form rather than a document signed by a physician. Medical notes would still be required for absences of more than three days.
We heard general support for the proposal, combined with some anxiety around how students might abuse the system. As I emphasized at these committees, the current system is already easy to exploit, and those who wish to circumvent the rules have always found ways to do so. To allay these concerns, the revised document which we will bring forth for approval will include edits to limit the number of times the self-attestation can be used by each student.
I look forward to further discussion on this item once it is brought forward through the relevant committees.
Senior academic administrator searches
We are entering a period of unprecedented activity with respect to senior academic administrator searches, with the following processes underway or soon to be launched:
- The advisory committee for the new role of Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning, has met twice. This role will replace that of Assistant Vice-Provost, Teaching & Learning, currently help by Professor Madelyn Law. Her term ends in July.
- A process has been launched to search for a Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement, as Professor Robyn Bourgeois’s term ends next October.
- The search has also begun for a new Dean of the Faculty of Math & Science, with Professor Ahmed having served two full terms in the role.
- The review process for Professor Tim Kenyon, Vice-President, Research, has also begun, while that of Dean Gaudes of the Goodman School of Business continues.
With so many searches underway, there is significant demand for faculty colleagues to serve on advisory committees. I would ask everyone to consider participating in this way and contributing to this important process.
Finalization of the Policy and Procedures on the Appointment of Academic Administrators (PAAA)
In mid-October, the open consultation period closed on the draft Policy and Procedures on the Appointment of Academic Administrators. Almost 25 comments were received through the consultation website, these in addition to comments shared in other fora such as in consultation meetings or by email. I thank everyone for their engagement with the process.
Almost all of the comments through the online portal were submitted by faculty members. These comments clustered around four main areas:
- Consultation with Senate on interim appointments;
- The role of Governance Committee in appointing staff representatives to advisory committees;
- Terms length and limits for the University Librarian and Associate University Librarians; and
- The appointment process for the Associate Vice-President, Research role.
In most cases, revisions or clarifications have been made to the final document to address the concerns raised. The final version of the Policy will go forward for approval and should be in effect by the beginning of 2022. Any academic administrator searches launched after that point would thus operate under the PAAA, while searches launched before then would continue under FHB 4.
Revisions to the program viability review process (FHB 3.C.15) (see appendix)
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 A to this document.
Senators will recall that this item was discussed at the last Senate meeting and referred back to SGSC for further conversation. Further changes have been made as a result of this consultation, notably to clarify that programs shall not undergo review more than once every three years. I understand that the conversation with SGSC may continue in the coming months to refine the policy further for next year in order to better reflect some of the unique considerations for graduate programs.
Noting previous discussions on this item, I remind Senators of the following:
- First, the appended document does not create a new process. Provisions for program viability have existed in the Faculty Handbook for several years now. They pre-date my tenure at Brock. The purpose of these amendments is to shift the process from being a purely administrative one to one that is properly within the purview of Senate and its committees.
- Second, program viability is a complicated construct. A number of variables will feed into considerations of whether a program is ultimately viable. The document outlines some of them, but there are others, including program duration, historical enrolment trends, enrolment numbers at comparable program in other institutions, etc. The current draft allows appropriate leeway for these variables to be defined and considered as the committees managing the process find appropriate.
- Third, program viability is defined as an annual process in the Faculty Handbook. It begins in November, with the official enrolment count for the Fall term. As a result, the annual process will have to begin by the end of the month with whatever language is in place at that time.
Professor Lynn Wells
Provost & Vice-President, Academic
Interim President & Vice-Chancellor