After years of effort on the part of advocates and students alike, on February 19, Senate approved the creation of an Indigenous Studies minor, along with several new academic programs as part of the 453rd Report of the Academic Policy Committee (APC).
The meeting also saw direct action against the People, Processes & Partnerships (PPP) plan to reorganize the Leacock building. Just before the meeting started, demonstrators from Support Our Staff-McGill (SOS) handed out letters addressed to Principal Suzanne Fortier.
Gretchen King, a fourth-year doctoral student in Communication Studies, told The Daily that SOS-McGill wanted to address Fortier directly, because they felt that their concerns about the PPP plan have not been heard by Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi.
“We wanted to be sure that the principal knew that there were anti-democratic things happening within the Faculty of Arts, and decision-making that’s not transparent. And we think that kind of goes against an ethos [Fortier] has tried to establish,” King explained.
While the letter SOS-McGill distributed was not brought up during Senate discussions, Fortier later said in an email to The Daily that the Faculty of Arts, under the leadership of Manfredi, was well in place to manage its resources regarding the PPP.
Indigenous Studies program
Though it was not discussed extensively at the meeting, the APC report sought the approval of some new Masters and Bachelors programs, including the new minor concentration in Indigenous Studies.
The Indigenous Studies minor will be officially introduced in the 2014-15 academic year. The approval also opens the path for the creation of two new courses on Indigenous Studies.
“This is really the last stage of what has been an immensely long project, starting from the early 2000s and beating so many obstacles along the way [such as] lack of institutional support [and] lack of faculty support. It was really a big student push that catalyzed this,” said Arts Senator Claire Stewart-Kanigan in an interview with The Daily.
University Student Assessment Policy
Senate discussed the University Student Assessment Policy, which guarantees in section 6.1.3 that the maximum weight of a final examination in a regularly scheduled course shall be no more than 75 per cent of the course grade, with certain exceptions.
A motion passed at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) General Assembly on February mandated SSMU to support the inclusion of an abbreviated outline of student academic rights, with an emphasis on the aforementioned section on course outlines.
With this in mind, student senators inquired about the steps the University is taking to promote awareness of and compliance to this policy, and how the University is ensuring that the said policy is being respected and followed.
In his official answer to the question, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Ollivier Dyens stated, “Normally, there ‘should’ be more than one evaluation for a course. However, as long as the evaluation is fair and reasonable, one single evaluation for a course is permitted.”
Speaking at Senate, SSMU VP University Affairs Joey Shea asked Dyens to point out the specific parts of the policy where these exceptions were explained.
“I can’t respond to that at the moment,” Dyens replied.
In an interview with The Daily, Stewart-Kanigan stated that she and the other senators were not satisfied with the answer given by Dyens.
“Other than Law and Medicine, there are no other exceptions included in the policy, and the language is [that] the assessment shall not be over 75 per cent. Whereas in Dyens’ response to our question [...] he said that the language of the policy actually should not. That’s a misquoting of the policy,” Stewart-Kanigan explained.
“The effect of his answer was saying that the policy was more of a suggested guideline for professors,” she continued.
Dyens told Senate that he would report findings and recommendations back to Senate through the APC.