Senate Meeting, Senate Policy: Questions for discussion
The agenda distributed in advance of Monday’s Senate meeting (16 March 2015) frames the meeting explicitly as an information and discussion session, where already made and finalized decisions by Senate Executive will be presented and discussed. The Senate Executive rationale for this meeting states, “members of the Committee felt it was important to meet…to inform senators of the actions it has taken and to facilitate discussion of the academic implications of the current disruption.” There will be no votes or motions.
This is an obfuscation of democratic principles and may be a usurpation of power by the administration. Senate policy requires calling a meeting of Senate after 14 days of a labour disruption for a reason, and that reason is not to serve as an information platform and rubber-stamping of decisions made by administration.
While the Senate Executive rationale speaks of “core principles” with respect to the Senate Policy on Disruptions (see attached below), one of which is “Timely Information,” it is not clear that the Senate Executive has in fact observed this mandate in its entirety. This policy on disruption does not give the Senate Executive the decision-making power to re-start classes as such. This policy describes a process of dealing with ‘disruption’ in the university. It contemplates short, medium-length and long disruptions and correlates specific actions to these ‘stages’.
Under the section on “Timely Information” (18.104.22.168), the policy states, “A notice shall be posted by the Senate Executive Committee regarding the possibility of rescheduling following a Disruption and of term extension following the conclusion of a Disruption.” This language clearly envisions rescheduling of classes only “following” or at “the conclusion of a disruption.” There is no language in this Senate policy that envisions restarting classes during a disruption.
The language that follows in the policy articulates the various steps or stages through which the Senate Executive will deliberate such possible actions.
In the first stage, remediation is determined entirely by the professoriate. In the second stage, Senate Executive “shall announce that all quarter and half courses will require substantial remedial action.” We are at this stage now. This language provides for is an announcement of a future need.
For the third stage, article 22.214.171.124 indicates that the Senate Executive has the “authority to extend a term and to authorize the rescheduling of examinations which have been disrupted, in order to preserve academic integrity.” This is power to determine a temporal period in which disrupted work can be made up.
In the last stage, under 126.96.36.199 where a disruption is too long to provide for remediation, the Senate Executive has the authority to recommend to Senate that “credit not be given.”
Overall, the Senate Executive Committee has the power to decide that remediation is necessary and to extend a term and reschedule exams if necessary. The context of these actions is article 188.8.131.52 cited above. The powers of Senate Executive are quite limited and the time frame in which these powers are in effect quite specific.
Arguably then, Senate Executive has not actually followed Senate policy with respect to this disruption. In this policy classes can resume and the term can be extended only “following the conclusion of a Disruption.”
In keeping with the provisions of this Senate policy, hundreds of faculty members argue that classes should begin only when the labour disruption has been concluded. A third of Senate members support this view. Since recent Senate “reforms,” however, Senate is less a collegial governance body than an extension of the administration. Many senators who might wish to contest the administration’s usurpation of Senate powers are in vulnerable positions as Chairs, Masters, GPDs, and so on, given the potential for reprisals against their programs.
Senate meetings are open to faculty, students and staff. It is an opportunity to express our concerns about university actions leading up to and during the CUPE strike and express our lack of confidence in the leadership of President Mamdouh Shoukri and Provost Rhonda Lenton. This heavy-handed managerialism is not the way to build the “York brand” — despite the millions spent on advertisement and public relations. The university must be made answerable to collegial bodies, public funds and public interest. Let’s assert the responsibility of faculty and unit councils for upholding the academic integrity of our programs, and the right of CUPE units still on strike to negotiate in a fair and reasonable process.
Postscript: “Mandate Creep”
On March 16 2015, Roxanne Mykitiuk, Chair of Senate, sent a message to the York Community indicating the following: Classes Resuming March 17 and 23 / 14th Day of the Disruption. The most significant word in this subject statement is the preposition “of”. In effect the Senate Executive has assumed the authority to resume classes during a disruption and not after a disruption. The rationale given in this message is the following:
Consistent with institutional guidelines and Faculty-specific remediation frameworks for the resumption of classes, and considering the need of some Faculties for additional time to prepare for resumption of classes, Senate Executive Committee has determined that classes in the following Faculties will resume on Tuesday, March 17:
If “institutional guidelines” refers to the Senate’s Policy on Disruption, there is no evidence that its Executive paid careful attention to it. Senate Executive has articulated the contents of this Policy in a very selective way without consideration of the overall protocol that the Policy sets out. Monday’s message from the Chair of Senate states, “A disruption of two full weeks means that adjustments to class schedules and normal academic regulations will be necessary.” This is a reference to Article 3.3.3 of the Policy: “If two or more weeks of instructional time are lost … the Senate Executive shall presume the need for a modification of the teaching term with any concomitant changes in examination scheduling.”
The “modification of the term” referenced in 3.3.3 of the Policy on Disruption is in turn specified in 184.108.40.206. as an “exten[sion] [of a] term.” What the Senate Policy on Disruption actually describes is not a resumption of classes while a disruption is ongoing, but rather an extension of a term after a disruption is at an end. The result of such selective attention to the Policy can only be disorder and chaos since no unified body of students, TAs and professors will be returning to their classes under this directive.
During Monday’’s Senate meeting, one Senator represented the Senate Executive’s actions as “mandate creep” to describe how the Senate Executive has exceeded its powers in this matter. The notion of “mandate creep” influenced the decision by 24 Senators to call for a special Senate meeting on Thursday (19 March) to vote on the schedule of class resumptions outlined by the Senate Executive.
Malcolm Blincow (retired)
Jennifer E. Dalton
Mary Catherine Davidson
Nancy Davis Halifax
Secil Erdogan Ertorer
Nick Lary (retired)
Louis Lefeber (retired)
Arun P. Mukherjee
- Anders Sandberg
John Saul (retired)
Jennifer A. Stephen