Driver hosts consultations

By Graham Cook

Kyle Acierno also proposes to the VP his plan for a student affairs officer

Last week SFU VP-Academic Jon Driver presented his draft for the next academic plan, titled “Engaging Students, Research, and Community 2013—2016” at a consultation specifically for students. Approximately 20 students were in attendance, which took place on the Burnaby campus last week. Driver had been consulting with faculty and staff in previous weeks.

Driver included in the talks an acceptance that SFU was not in a period of growth and that he expected the situation to continue for a few years. His view is that the causes of this include slow economic growth, lack of government funding, low population growth for 18-to-24-year-olds, and a score of other issues. Following this, the VP addressed the challenges that the university will face in the near future including demonstrating the value of universities, adapting to the changing demographics within the student body, and preparing students for the post-graduation world.

The overall goal of this academic plan, according to Driver, is to contribute to each of the three ‘core themes’ of the university and encourage links between them. These themes are described in the SFU mission as engaging students, engaging research, and engaging community.

The drafted plan also included three over-arching goals under the section titled ‘academic priorities.’ These were described as, “To equip students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences that prepare them for life in an ever-changing and challenging world, to be a world leader in knowledge mobilization, building on a strong foundation of fundamental research, and to be Canada’s most community-engaged research university.”

At the meeting, Kyle Acierno, arts and social sciences representative on the SFSS board, shared with Driver his proposal to create a student affairs officer, similar to positions that exist within the Beedie School of Business and multiple faculties at UBC. This SAO would help students become active within their faculty, and, according to Acierno, become better citizens.

Driver agreed with Acierno’s assertions that more effort needs to be made within the academic units in order to encourage engagement. However, he added that this should not be seen as a position that is held by a single person as their only job, but that “there has to be engagement particularly by the faculty members . . . we would like to see administrative staff also being involved.”

Kyle Acierno spoke with The Peak after the consultation. He said that he felt that “Jon Driver echoed students concerns about the lack of institutionalized communication between faculties and students . . . [He] was receptive to the proposal for the creation of a student affairs officer. The SFU administration is at a point where they are well aware about the problems with student engagement. Now it’s just a matter of watching if the university will actually be willing to invest the proper funds to do something about the problem.”

The final consultation will be held on Wednesday, April 4, for faculty, staff, and students.