Senate Summed Up: Student caucus slams senator for saying ‘not to talk so much’ in triennial review discussion

Wednesday night’s Senate special meeting centred around the release of the triennial review report, among smaller discussions of a new School of Creative Writing and software-related course code changes.

Here’s what you need to know.

Triennial review turmoil

The bulk of discussion was on the triennial review report, which turned fiery as Senator Lawrence Burr called student senator comments during discussion an “abuse of Senate’s time.”

“I would like to appeal to the student caucus not to talk so much. You are coming on and filibustering and spending endless minutes repeating the same things,” said Burr.

“I appreciate that what you’re saying is very important. I think this deserves a huge amount of discussion. But to bring these topics in at the very end of the triennium when you could have brought the same topics in a year or two years ago, I think, is an abuse of Senate’s time.”

Student senators were swift to respond to Burr in the Zoom call and on Twitter.

“I cannot say how insulting, how unwelcoming it is to hear ‘Students are trying to delay this, students are speaking too much,’” said Student Senator Max Holmes in a speech with noticeable emotion. “Faculty have spoken on this motion just as much as we have.”

Holmes, who has been a senator for three years, said that student senators had raised the issue of training in the past but were told to wait for the triennial review.

Student Senator Julia Burnham demanded an apology online. “The student senators are senators with opinions that deserve to be heard just as much as the faculty and convocation (who have also spoken at length on this topic),” she tweeted.

The Ubyssey has reached out to Burr for comment.

The contested item was a recommendation that members of the Appeals of Academic Discipline, Appeals on Academic Standing, and Admissions Committees cannot hear an appeal “until they have attended any training program that may be required by the respective Committee from time to time.”

Senator Tariq Ahmed, chair of the Appeals of Academic Discipline Committee, said his committee wasn’t consulted on the matter, calling the recommendation a case of Senate “micromanaging” its committees.

“I think the nominating committee really has some soul searching to do if its approach is to recommend changes to the operations of committees without so much as seeking those committees' thoughts first,” said Ahmed.

Conversation included the inherent importance of training, but also how this recommendation could limit access to committees.

“I’m worried that precluding attendance at a hearing until mandated training occurs could have the effect of stifling full participation by new committee members, particularly students,” Ahmed said, adding that it could pose delays for appealing students who need a “timely decision.”

The student senate caucus was united on the issue, with many students saying the motion should be passed, despite what Senator Claudia Krebs called the “procedural red flags” from the lack of consultation.

“This is unanimously supported by the Student Senate caucus, as one of the things that we think would bring more fairness into this process,” Holmes said.

“To say that members should choose whether or not they should have trauma-informed training, or whether they should have anti-bias training ... I don't understand why we would want a system like that.”

Senate voted to send the recommendation back to committee, to return to Senate in the future.

Course code changes

Some UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver course codes overlap, which won’t be compatible with the university’s upgrade to Workday software, Curriculum Committee Chair Peter Marshall said.

Senators were concerned that changes would create confusion for those viewing official transcripts, but Director of Transformation, Student, Integrated Renewal Program Dr. Jenny Phelps said that she believes the new course codes would not show up on official transcripts. However, she could not provide absolute confirmation.

Even so, the motion was approved. Senate will pursue a system where course codes will be followed by an underscore and either a V or an O, depending on the campus offering the course.

New School of Creative Writing

Senate also approved the creation of the School of Creative Writing.

Alix Ohlin, chair of the creative writing program, presented the proposal for the new school alongside Academic Policy Committee Chair Paul Harrison.

Creative writing is well suited to progress from a program to a school, Ohlin said, with many of its students moving on to work in professional fields of writing. Other schools at UBC include the School of Journalism and School of Music.

Ohlin said the creative writing program has grown from small seminar classes to now holding large undergraduate lectures and hybrid courses.

“There is no other program in North America, I think, that brings together this wide-ranging constellation of genres,” said Ohlin.