Senate Summed Up: Libraries and standardized testing during COVID-19 discussed at October 21 meeting

The UBC Vancouver Senate met last night for a brief meeting over Zoom.

Here’s what you need to know.

Library in an ‘unsustainable situation’

Dr. Susan Parker, the university librarian, gave a report on library happenings over the past year, highlighting how the library has adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All but one of the UBC libraries have closed, and decisions on when to open certain libraries or spaces will be “data driven,” based on public health recommendations.

Parker said despite the closures, there is a continued demand for librarian support.

“This summer, for example, we saw almost a 70 per cent increase in daily calls and inquiries over the same period the year before.”

She also discussed the access to resources amid COVID-19, saying that electronic resources are generally more expensive than print.

“This continues to challenge us as we develop our collections and we try to grow them to meet this varied set of needs.”

To make materials accessible to students and researchers, Parker said the library has been using the HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service, which provides the library access to 750,000 copyrighted, digitized items from its print collections.

Parker also touched on the financial situation of the library, saying that the library spends 85 per cent of its collection budget on purchases in American dollars, resulting in a 17 per cent decrease in the library’s buying power.

The library is in an “unsustainable situation,” Parker said, adding that Provost and VP Academic Andrew Szeri is aware of the issue and is working with the library on this.

Temporarily axing the SAT/ACT requirement

Senate also approved a “test optional” proposal for 2021 winter session applicants coming from United States or United States-style secondary schools.

As UBC currently requires a standardized test from this pool of applicants, this new proposal would allow students to optionally submit SAT or ACT scores.

Senate Admissions Committee Chair Carol Jaeger said limited accessibility students had to standardized testing this year due to the pandemic spurred this conversation.

“In the test-optional scenario, the impact of the test score would not factor into the admission outcome of the individual student which ... is beneficial for students who experience challenges submitting these test results due to cancellations of test sittings and the uncertainty of test availability in the future,” the proposal reads.

The proposal also suggests that UBC review its policy requiring test scores in the first place, as many post-secondary institutions such as New York University have removed that requirement altogether.

At the meeting, a senator confirmed that the committee will discuss this possibility in the near future.