Senate Summed Up: UBC Senate discusses cheating investigations, informatics minor and external review

The UBC Senate concluded the year with a final meeting over Zoom on December 16.

With discussions of academic misconduct, a new program and an external review, here’s what you need to know.

Two new cheating investigations following MATH 100-gate

Following the MATH 100 cheating scandal that made national headlines, UBC said its investigation continues.

Last month, an instructor accused over 100 students of using homework-sharing sites to cheat on a midterm.

Simon Bates, associate provost of teaching and learning, said that the MATH 100 investigation was underway at the Faculty of Science dean’s office.

Two UBCO chemistry profs have also claimed that students in CHEM 111 and 203 at the Okanagan campus used Chegg to cheat on their final exams.

Reviews of these incidents will involve meetings with individual students and obtaining documentation of third-party website use.

Bates added that UBC is communicating with Chegg for these investigations to have instructor material removed.

“It is important to say that although these are academic misconduct allegations, the approach that the university takes is really one of formative education, particularly with new students — helping them understand expectations around academic integrity and being part of a scholarly community,” he said.

Arts gets new minor program

Senate approved a host of new courses in the faculties of arts, commerce, pharmaceutical sciences and graduate studies. Among those changes was a minor of informatics program within the School of Information in arts.

The interdisciplinary program contains courses in geography, history, informatics and sociology.

Student Senator Max Holmes and Arts Dean Gage Averill expressed their support for the program.

“We worked very hard to create a very powerful minor for our students,” said Erik Kwakkel, director of the School of Information.

External review will need internal work, senators say

Nominating Committee chair Paul Harrison sought approval for the committee to direct an external review of the Senate — as recommended in this summer’s triennial review report — and for the creation of an ad hoc committee to review student appeals procedures. Both motions carried.

The external review is due back to Senate in December 2022, while the internal review of the appeals procedures should be discussed in May 2021.

During the triennial review discussion in July, senators hotly debated training procedures in three student appeals committees, likely spurring the internal review of appeals procedures.

Harrison acknowledged that this motion would be more work for the Senate office, an office that he said already has a heavy load.

“We are hoping that this proposal, if passed, will not create a huge undue burden on the Senate office, but it will be some work.”

The external review will evaluate the internal organization of the Senate, Senate membership, engagement of Senate affairs with stakeholders, Senate resourcing and staffing, the involvement of the Senate in strategic planning and the implementation of Senate decisions and their effectiveness in terms of the university’s strategic goals.

Holmes called it one of the “most important things” the Senate is passing this year.

“Part of the reason we want this review is a lot of the … issues about how senators are treated unequally, and often student senators have more mistreatment in this body than anybody else.”

He urged the Senate to not pause on making progress on triennial review recommendations and addressing other issues within the Senate just because an external review will be conducted.

“This external review is one part of the issues that we need to address to make this a better governance body; it’s not the only thing.”

The headline of this article has been changed to reflect that the Senate did not launch the cheating investigations, only discussed them.