New interdisciplinary programs and exchanges proposed at Senate

On March 12, Senate met to discuss a number of topics, among them new material and visual culture programs and a potential future exchange to the University of the Bahamas.

The motion to create a material and visual culture program was brought forward by the University Planning Committee.

Provost Jeff Ollerhead provided some context for the motion: “We have a lot of expertise in this area: we have a lot of faculty who can contribute to this particular program, we have the Owens – that’s the jewel in our community. There’s a lot of reasons to do this.”

Dr. Owen Griffiths asked how the visual and material culture programs might or might not intersect with the currently proposed museum studies minor. “There’s a lot of interesting convergence and overlap between the museum studies minor and the proposal for the visual cultures. Would they be separate? Would they work together?”

“Visual culture includes images in a more democratic sense,” said Dr. Christina Ionescu, one of the program planners. “In a way it’s beyond fine arts. We have been communicating with fine arts as well, and there is some overlap, as there always is with visual culture, but we are going to be discussing ways of collaborating.”

“When we designed the programs we had the vision that the visual and material culture element could complement programming in fine arts, not replace it,” said Dr. Lauren Beck, another of the program’s planners.

Ionescu also noted that the visual culture program will be “less specialized” than the fine arts program, and will be open to students in all programs of study.

The motion passed.

The Academic Matters Committee presented its recommendations for changes to the academic calendar, which included the new visual and material culture courses.

Senator Alex Fancy asked where resources for the new courses would come from: “The courses which are proposed, the new courses, make me wonder whether there is a realignment of teaching resources, or new teaching resources?”

Ollerhead said that resources for the program would come from a variety of places, particularly the anthropology department as it is phased out. “Some of the teaching resources will come from reallocation of existing teaching – so that ties back to what will happen to anthropology content,” he said. “Some of the teaching resource may be allocated as a new resource, at least in the short term, and some of the teaching allocation may come from redistribution of duties within the arts and humanities.”

However the exact specifics of where resources would come from were not available because the collective agreement process has not yet been completed.

All proposed changes were approved.

Next, the International Programs Committee presented a proposed exchange program to the Bahamas and opened the topic up for discussion.

“Since I arrived in 2001, I’ve been repeatedly asking recruitment about why we don’t recruit in the Bahamas,” said Dr. Fiona Black. “The answer I was repeatedly given was that the standard of students coming from colleges in the Bahamas was not commensurable with the student population here. I know that times are changing in the recruiting world, but my knowledge of this institution would still lead me to a similar conclusion, which is that though it’s got some great new buildings.… The library facilities are quite scant, the digital infrastructure is poor. There are some issues I guess that would make me concerned about the quality of programming when we send our students there.”

Senator Kim Meade responded: “I think that the Bahamas is an excellent place for us to recruit students, whether it’s directly from the high schools in the Bahamas or whether it’s between the College of the Bahamas, which is now fully accredited as the University of the Bahamas.”

Meade said that Mt. A has been recruiting in the Bahamas for the past “four to five years now” and has received increasing numbers of applications from students from the Bahamas. Meade said that this exchange will present the University with an “excellent opportunity to have a very visible profile” in the region. Black expressed that she still had some concerns about student safety: “Where it’s great to get a handshake and a promise from a provost … it’s also great to have some kind of assurances.” Meade said that a site visit would be planned to examine the facilities, safety and resources of the University of the Bahamas, as with any university that Mt. A has an exchange with.

The motion passed with three abstentions.

The next Senate meeting is Thursday, April 2, 2019. Senate meetings are open to all university faculty, staff and students.

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