Last week’s meeting with the Committee to Review the UTM and UTSC Campus Councils (CRCC) addressed feedback on the performance of the Academic Affairs Committee, the Campus Affairs Committee, and areas of membership. It also discussed recommendations on ways to improve communications.
The report-back session was held last Wednesday at the Council Chamber in Davis and was part of a broader consultation process that began in September to review the efficacy of the UTM and UTSC Campus Council operations for the previous year and make recommendations.
During the review process, student representatives such as those from the UTM Students’ Union also gave their feedback.
Shirley Hoy, the vice-chair of Governing Council and the chair of the CRCC, said that the first set of activities that the committee has been doing involves meeting with various campus estates, students, faculty, administrative staff, librarians, community members, and senior administrators from both UTSC and UTM.
The committee also called for an online proposal to encourage the whole university community to provide feedback to inform their final report, which is to be handed to the Executive Committee on December 1.
The feedback on the Academic Affairs Committee involved concerns that it was seen as a rubber stamp instead of a forum for effective discussion before making decisions. Feedback included concerns that the time given to discuss material prior to the voting is not enough, especially when the material is substantive.
The composition of the AAC was also discussed. Some felt that the smaller bodies that previously existed afforded more specific expertise on the matters their members dealt with. Others suggested that the presence of the deans in the committee has resulted in a reluctance to challenge or oppose motions, said Hoy.
Accordingly, the committee took into consideration a few observations made by the voting assessors on governance bodies. Hoy said that these observations included a lack of awareness by members of the committee, mainly on the availability of the assessors for consultation on committee business outside the committee meeting; the appropriate alignment of assessors’ areas of expertise with the appropriate governance bodies; and the overall need for greater awareness on the part of assessors on the correct processes of the committee.
Regarding the Campus Affairs Committee, the main concern was that the number of representatives from various estates on the committee needed to be increased.
Greater engagement of the membership estates in governance was also an important part of the discussion during the session. The feedback on this point was that the administrative superiors needed to give more support to estates’ involvement in governance.
Another suggestion was to bring in external expertise to inform the review committee and discuss changes to specific academic programs.
With regard to communication and engagement, Hoy stated that it had been a “recurring theme” in all the consultations they have had. She mentioned that most of the feedback the CRCC received was that the orientation sessions are very useful. Some, however, thought the information was too much to take in in one session, and others found the sessions redundant for returning members.
Hoy said that in October, the review committee heard from student representatives on the issues of elections and the appointment of student members to Campus Council.
“UTM students are allowed to run for positions in the Campus Council and its committees, [but] students that run in elections can be removed from their seats if an elected student governor is opted into the council,” said UTMSU president Hassan Havili in an email. “This can demotivate students from running in the UTM Campus Council elections because they are at risk of being replaced.
“The other issue lies in student representation on the Agenda Committee,” Havili continued. “The executive committee of Governing Council does not adequately represent students. […] In the 2013/14 academic year, we had only one graduate student reresent all undergraduate (full-time and part-time) as well as graduate students.”
Hoy said the responses from student representatives would be considered for the final report.
In response to the discussion, UTM’s principal Deep Saini said, “There is a general sense that we are not discussing things enough, that there is broadly an issue across the board in U of T governance that we don’t seem to discuss or argue issues in the governing consular boards as much as I see in other universities.”
However, he added, “We do have a feeling that we are very engaged with the community, but a comment from somebody indicates to me that we probably need to step up”
Professor William Gough, the chair of UTSC’s Campus Council, vice-dean of graduate education and program development at UTSC, and a member of Governing Council said, “UTSC is actually quite envious of UTM’s engagement. UTM has done a better job at communicating than UTSC.” However, he added that new panels will help provide that campus a more direct means of communication.
After going to the Executive Committee, the CRCC’s final report will be submitted to the Governing Council on December 11.
Campus Council was created in the summer of 2013 to replace Erindale College Council, which was an advisory body only.