The UBC Vancouver Senate student caucus recently released their Senate 2020 document, which outlines a large list of goals that they hope to make progress on in the next few years. Some major objectives include improving academic concessions, increasing diversity and adjusting schedules in ways that could open up free days for a fall reading break.
According to student senator Kevin Doering, the document was created with three goals in mind — informing students about what Senate wants to achieve, providing a guideline for future student senators and communicating to the rest of Senate what their interests are.
“My hope is that students will take the time to read the goals that we’ve laid out if they’re interested,” he said, “and then hopefully students will have thoughts, feedback — perhaps they’ll have criticisms or perhaps they’ll have new ideas for things we haven’t included that they’d like to see included.”
The most notable goals in the document for are arguably the suggestions around changing the scheduling of classes and exams in order to open up days for a fall reading break. In changing exam scheduling, the document suggests allowing exams on Sundays, shortening exam periods and placing a time limit of two hours and thirty minutes on exams as possible options.
Since classes held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays receive significantly fewer teaching minutes than classes held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, another suggested measure is examining the scheduling of courses. For example, the document points out that “[r]escheduling M/W/F classes into time slots that reduce lost teaching time would allow for an additional 3 days of vacation time.”
The document also suggests improving exam concessions for students who have to postpone their exams due to unforeseen circumstances. Currently, if a student applies for a concession and is uncertain whether or not it will be granted in time, the student must choose between either writing the exam or missing the exam and hoping the concession went through.
If they write the exam, they won’t be able to get a concession.
“A small, reasonable change would begin by allowing students to seek concessions after an examination if they provided notice in advance that they were seeking a concession,” reads the document.
Likewise, concerns are raised about the placement of the exam re-write period — it takes place in July and August, even for classes that ended in December.
In focusing on how Senate can change student learning, the document requests limiting the use of purchasable online access codes in classes; changing how group work is evaluated so that one’s individual contributions are assessed more correctly; and creating a policy that prohibits the scheduling of assessments over the winter break.
Although the senators acknowledge that that progress has already been made on this goal, it also promotes the development of a mandatory syllabi policy that requires professors to include information about academic integrity, mental health resources and policies on sexual violence.
In lieu of the recent creation of the ad hoc committee on equity and inclusion, the document calls for significant student representation in the consultation processes for both the creation of new policies and the revision of old policies that address diversity and inclusion.
Doering said the reception to the document from the rest of Senate was very positive.
“They were pleased with how comprehensive it was, how thoughtful it was, and that we offered concrete solutions towards achieving the goals that we laid out,” he said.
Although he couldn’t commit to what future senators will be able to achieve, he expressed optimism in Senate’s ability to carry out these goals.
“I think that everything we’ve put in the goals document is certainly reasonable or realistic, and i think it can certainly be accomplished,” he said.