Provost’s report to the 696th meeting of Senate

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 – January 19, 2022


Dear colleagues,

Welcome to 2022! I hope you all had the opportunity to rest over the holidays and that you return to Brock refreshed and rejuvenated. While January 1 technically marks the beginning of a new calendar year, it continues to feel much like the previous two, with COVID a primary concern.

Shortly after our last Senate meeting on December 15, Brock announced that instruction for the Fall term would begin online until January 31. While announcements varied slightly across the university sector, with institutions announcing a return to campus anywhere from mid-January to late February, I believe our timeline allows for an appropriate amount of time both to assess the impact of the omicron variant and to provide members of the community with more ample opportunity to get their vaccine booster shots. The campus will remain open during the period of online instruction, as will Brock’s residences and other student support facilities. Most kinds of research activities will also continue.

We continue to plan for a return to campus on January 31 to whatever extent is permitted both by public health guidelines and government regulations. If our ability to return to campus is limited, priority will be given as in the past to those courses whose learning outcomes are best achieved on campus, including labs and other courses with on-campus experiential components. For the moment, however, the provincial government has not made any changes to the legislation that governed our return to campus in September, indicating that the same conditions could apply.


Revised travel guidance

Given the rise in COVID-19 cases related to the omicron variant both in Canada and abroad, the Government of Canada is now advising against all non-essential travel. Some provinces have also imposed additional restrictions or requirements that limit or complicate inter-provincial travel, while insurers are putting in place provisions that limit existing coverage for incidents related to COVID.

Members of the Brock community are encouraged to abide by all travel restrictions and to limit their international travel to essential activities only. Those who choose to travel outside Canada should check current travel restrictions and entry/exit requirements for both Canada and the country they are visiting. Restrictions are changing quickly and may be imposed by countries with little warning. Please consult the Government of Canada’s travel advisories website for details.

Brock will not be supporting travel expenses from its operating budget, PER, or (internal/external) research funds unless travel is approved as essential by the appropriate SAC member. The Faculty of Graduate Studies also will not be supporting graduate student travel unless prior authorization has been granted by the Vice-Provost, Graduate Studies and the relevant Faculty Dean. Written authorization for international travel should be included with expense claims submitted through Workday.


GO-VAXX bus visits campus

In order to help members of the Brock community who are looking to get their booster shots, the province’s GO-VAXX bus visited campus for the second and third time of the pandemic on January 7 and January 10. The date of the bus’ visit was first released to the community before the holidays, with a reminder published in the Brock News shortly after the holiday break.

The bus offered first, second and third doses of Pfizer vaccine by appointment to any member of the community who wanted to attend. The bus has the capacity to offer several hundred doses of vaccine per day.


Update on senior academic searches

With a number of terms coming to an end later this year, several searches are underway for key senior administrative roles. Shortly before the holidays, the composition of the advisory committees for the Vice-President, Research and the Dean, Faculty of Math & Science appointments were announced, while the committee for the Vice-Provost, Indigenous Engagement was announced in early January. Once the advisory committee for the Dean, Faculty of Education is filled in the coming weeks, all committees will have been constituted and we will be able to move forward with the searches.

I want to thank Senators, and especially members of the Governance Committee, for their cooperation and support during this period of unprecedented search activity at the senior level.


Academic grading under disruption

MOVED (Wells/           )

THAT Senate extend the enactment of the academic grade alternatives for students during disruptions outlined in FHB III.C.6.9 for the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 terms, and that these alternatives apply to all undergraduate students at Brock.

I would like to propose today that we extend measures for academic grading under disruption for undergraduate students through the 2021-22 academic year to include the Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 terms.

FHB III.C.6.9 stipulates that, during disruptions of academic activities lasting more than five working days, in addition to making modifications to the teaching term and/or academic schedule, the Provost and Vice-President, Academic may recommend to Senate the enactment of academic grade alternatives, where students will be permitted to request, within three weeks of the posting of final grades, adjustment of grades by one of the following three options:

  1. Maintain the grade assigned for the course (the default option);
  2. Replace the numeric grade with a designation of Credit/No Credit Grades During Disruption. In this case, the final mark will not be included on the transcript and the designation will have no impact on the student’s academic average; or
  3. Replace the numeric grade with a special Withdrawal During Disruption (WDD) code without academic penalty and which will have no impact on the student’s academic average.

A request to introduce this motion was presented by undergraduate student senators at the last Senate meeting. At the time, I did not consider it wise to implement these measures. However, since that time, the rise in COVID-19 cases related to the omicron variant has forced us to begin the Winter 2022 term online, clearly ‘disrupting’ the term using the definitions that we have previously applied throughout the pandemic.

With the Winter 2022 term disrupted, there is no clear value to me in maintaining traditional grading for the Fall 2021 term, framing it as a single ‘undisrupted’ term among almost three years of disruption. Thus, I propose including the Fall 2021 term as well.

The more important conversation which I think we should begin to look towards is about whether some form of alternative grading might become a permanent fixture of our academic environment at Brock. I note that several Canadian universities, for example, allow undergraduate students to take a set number of courses outside their specialist area with ‘pass/fail’ grading. This conversation fits appropriately within the context of another discussion we are currently having with Senate committees about how Brock might develop a more flexible and compassionate policy around medical notes.

Finally, in considering this motion I remind Senators that safeguards have already been put in place limiting the number of credits a student can take pass/fail to maintain the integrity of our undergraduate degrees. The safeguards would continue to apply if this motion is passed today.



Lynn Wells

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor
Provost and Vice-President, Academic

Categories: January 2022