By: Srijani Datta, Assistant News Editor
A lengthy debate around the motion that “the Senate approve and recommend to the Board of Governors the establishment of a school of environmental science within the Faculty of Environment” was tabled by the Senate Committee on University Priorities (SCUP) during the SFU Senate meeting held on June 11.
The proposal to establish the School of Environmental Science within the Faculty of Environment had been previously reviewed and approved by SCUP during the previous Senate meeting held on May 16. The school would host the environmental science undergraduate program along with the joint SFU/BCIT Graduate Master of Science in Ecological Restoration.
The undergraduate program was introduced in SFU in 2009 and has been a part of the faculty of environment since its inception. The creation of a new unit structure, in the form of a department or a school, to house the growing program was recommended by an external review in 2015, and an earlier one in 2006.
Following the motion regarding the establishment of the new school of environmental science on the June 11 meeting, several senators expressed their concerns on the matter.
Opening the discussion, Claire Cupples, having acknowledged the “valid desire of the faculty” to establish such a school, called the motion “premature.”
“Discussions with greater depths between the different faculties of sciences and environmental science are needed.” – senator Claire, Cupples, Dean of Faculty of Science
Responding to senator Cupples’ comments, senator Daniel Leznoff also acknowledged the FENV’s efforts. Leznoff, who was the neutral internal member on the external review committee that recommended the establishment of the school, expressed his support for such a department or school. He also pointed out the lack of support from other academic bodies, such as the department of biology and the Faculty of Science. Leznoff continued to explain that “a program of environmental science is interdisciplinary in nature,” and that currently the interdepartmental support for the new school was lacking.
The need for interdepartmental support and the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the program was echoed by several other senators, such as Nancy Forde, Tracey Leacock and John Stockie.
Stockie also raised concerns regarding the governance of the proposed school. He focused on the suggested method of cross-appointing instructors from different faculties to staff the new school, pointing out that the plan did not have a well-defined and detailed method to do so. “Cross-appointments are fraught with difficulties unless there is a very clear idea upfront,” said Stockie.
Jon Driver and Jeremy Venditti, resource persons on the proposal for the school of environmental science, stressed the need to establish the school soon. Venditti, after acknowledging the concerns around the proposal and agreeing that “the program is inherently interdisciplinary,” pointed out that the original proposal was written in 2015.
“The students of the environmental science program need action now, rather than years of deliberation.” – Jeremy Venditti, director of environmental science program
Driver also pointed out that the students of the environmental science program needed a departmental structure and asked if the issue should be opened beyond the Faculty of Science.
Venditti also replied to the concerns regarding the lack of details on the administration of the proposed school. He pointed out that the plan was not as detailed yet, to allow flexibility and decision-making power to the future appointees. “People will have their own ideas on how to guide their units, and since they will administer it, it should depend on them,” said Venditti.
Following an hour-long debate, the motion was tabled in the meeting.