Senate approves fall reading week, reviews enrolment and online teaching evaluations

The most recent senate meeting was held on Oct. 10. The meeting focused most heavily on attracting incoming students, the year of Indigenous Action, fall convocation, the fall reading week and the new teacher evaluation forms.

In terms of student numbers, Kim Meade said that this year only 604 students started at Mt. A, as opposed to the previous year’s 641. This year there was however a 9 per cent increase in applications and a 11 per cent increase in offers from last year. “We had projected an uptake of 700 [students, and] we certainly fell short of what we expected in the projection based upon those applications and offers,”  said Meade.

Surveys were put out to students who had accepted and later declined their offers to Mt. A. The university will be analyzing the data to better understand what influenced students to go elsewhere.

Meade also underlined the importance of the open house, saying, “From survey results I’ve seen so far it is probably the most influential factor in determining a student’s choice to attend Mt. A.”

Robert Campbell acknowledged the speakers, visitors and presenters for the Year of Indigenous Action so far. “The Mansbridge summit was fantastic, it was on the Indigenous theme and there was a great flag raising ceremony . . . we’re off to a bang!” There will be two more instalments of the President’s Speaker Series the week of Nov. 20.

Campbell then brought up the newly established James Rogers Student-Athlete Awards: “There was an announcement of $1 million endowed for our student athletes and their development.” These awards will be available in the 2018-19 school year.

Campbell referenced further governmental work of raising tuition, saying that there will tentatively be a province-wide 2 per cent increase cap on tuition over the next four years.

Adam Christie spoke on the future implementation of the University’s first Latin American exchange program in Chile, emphasising that “last year this was a priority for us [as a University].”

On behalf of the ad hoc committee, Kiera Stel motioned that senate continue the week long fall break attached to Remembrance Day as it has “a positive impact on mental health and academic performance,” according to both students and staff. Despite Campbell opening this topic to the floor by saying, “This caused a certain amount of debate and disruption back in the day,” the motion was approved without discussion.

Finally, talk turned to the contentious new forum for teacher evaluation forms. Jeff Ollerhead said that, “[The] old system will not be used regardless of what we do.” According to Ollerhead the changes were necessary due to developments in the University’s collective agreement. “With eXplorence Blue we’re licencing what we were supposed to do,” said Ollerhead. This assertion was met with much frustration. Owen Griffiths said, “I think what you’ve done, quite frankly, has created a problem where none exists.” Librarian Laura Snyder expressed concern as to dropping student participation with the new online model.

However, not all senate members felt this way. Stel said that as a student she appreciated the online forum and that a pilot project of an online forum last year had been more convenient for her.

Rachel Howlett, vice-president academic affairs, added that MASU had been consulted about the change over the summer and that they also supported the online forum. “Students are nervous about handwriting on forms, so [being] online gives [them] the benefit of [being] anonymous,” said Howlett.  

Dean of sciences Amanda Cockshutt also provided a positive response, saying that she had taken part in an online evaluation pilot project for years and had received responses in the 86 per cent range: “that average is higher than when I did them on paper years ago.”  

Feelings about the new forms remained mixed upon adjournment of the meeting.  

Emma Bush