The UBC Vancouver Senate met virtually for its November meeting last night.
Between academic concessions, graduation and enrolment updates, here’s what you need to know.
‘A last resort’
Senate followed the lead of Provost Andrew Szeri in rejecting a request from student Senator Max Holmes to consider a motion to extend withdrawal deadlines for winter term 2.
Holmes moved to add a motion to the agenda to extend the deadline for students to choose credit/D/fail grading by 10 weeks and the deadline to withdraw without W standing by 16 weeks.
The motion was defeated 42 to 24.
Holmes had raised a similar motion calling for compassionate concessions for students in May. He raised last night’s motion after what he said was sluggish progress from the Senate to enact deadline extensions.
“This was a last resort,” he said in an interview after the meeting. “I did not want to do it.”
Szeri led the dissent, saying that this motion had flouted the committee process and wouldn’t give enough time to consult faculties.
“I believe that consideration of these questions by the full Senate right now would be a blunt instrument, frankly, and we would do better to rely on our committee structure, which tends to focus expertise where it’s needed and allow for necessary input,” he said.
Holmes’s fellow student caucus members Chris Hakim and Cole Evans voiced support.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Well I think there’s other ways we can do it,’ but I will say that I think there’s value [in] if the Senate tonight is able to set a direction,” Hakim said. He added that Senate would be hard-pressed to implement accommodations by the upcoming exam season if it waits to consider the motion at the December meeting.
Several faculty members said they supported compassion for students but that the motion should go through committee first.
Szeri said the teaching & learning committee was already considering it following the May resolution. Joanne Fox, chair of the teaching & learning committee, said that the committee needed to gather more information about concessions across faculties before making any decisions.
Holmes said he received similar feedback at the two committee meetings since he joined it in September. But Holmes, who was re-elected for another term in the Senate at large in April, could not speak to why the committee appears not to have made progress between May and September.
Holmes gave notice that he would bring the same motion to the next Senate meeting on December 16. He said he would contact faculty senators ahead of the meeting to see what they would need to pass the motion.
“I’ve received multiple messages from people saying that they are sympathetic to the issue. They want to address it. They just did not know what the effects of this motion were going to be and were very thrown off by the provost’s adamant opposition to it,” Holmes said after the meeting.
“When the academic leadership of the university stands up there and heavily opposes something like this and you don’t have a lot of information, it’s hard not to vote with them.”
Teaching and learning updates
Simon Bates, associate provost of teaching and learning, provided an update on the successes and issues of the winter term so far.
He said that many students are struggling due to being in different time zones, the increased workload, increased range of digital tools to navigate and the concerns around remote invigilation tools. Bates acknowledged faculty struggles as well, given their workload increase and challenges of finding balance working at home.
Faculty members spoke up on their experiences during the pandemic.
Faculty Senator Toph Marshall said his workload has significantly increased. He said he’s been sacrificing time with his children and aging parents in order to get all of his work done.
“I really want to beg that this not become a new normal.”
Senator Anubhav Pratap Singh asked whether administrators would lower the minimum teaching load for faculty. Bates did not answer, instead saying that it was up to faculties to allocate support for instructors.
Looking ahead, UBC is considering a tentative return to in-person instruction for the summer 2021 semester.
Priority will be given to classes where remote learning isn’t feasible, such as labs, and required courses for student degrees.
Szeri said that summer enrolment is typically lower than winter, and a smaller number of students makes summer a “favourable time” to test out more in-person courses.
“This is all predicated on the ability to do so under currently prevailing public health orders and guidelines,” he added. “Once we get to summer, we’ll also have to watch carefully the availability of study permits and ease of travel for students.”