Senate Report

Notes from the May 19 SFU Senate meeting

(Photo from Peak archives)

Written by: Michelle Gomez, News Editor

Student senators inquire about SFU’s COVID-19 policies during the question period

Beginning the question period of Tuesday’s Senate meeting, Senator Colin Fowler started by asking: “Will SFU commit today to do a thorough, independent, and unbiased survey of all students and faculty members to create a blueprint for a future emergency response?”

Senator Jonathan Driver, Vice-President Academic and Provost pro tem responded that SFU is too busy to conduct a survey at the time. “I think it will be more sensible to investigate our experiences once we’ve got to a more stable point, if that ever happens,” Driver added. 

Senator Jennifer Chou, who is also VP Student Life of the Simon Fraser Student Society, asked a number of questions. 

Her first question involved multiple sub-questions regarding support for international students, including when the Summer 2020 emergency funding would open, what percentage of this funding would be allocated to international students, and if SFU is involved in advocacy on behalf of international students to the government. 

Driver responded that the emergency funding offered in the Spring 2020 term was intended as a one-time funding program. After the application deadline for the SFU’s regular bursary for the Summer 2020 semester, they will review to see if additional funding is needed. Driver also noted that the allocation of funding to international students is not dictated by a percentage. 

“If you look across the country, you will find that SFU’s bursary support to international students is quite a bit more generous than most other universities,” added Driver. 

According to Driver, SFU is advocating for international students to the government. “There is a very very wide range of activities taking place locally, provincially, and nationally in order to improve conditions for international students,” he explained. 

Chou’s second question was: “Why are students still being charged late fees for tuition, and what are SFU’s plans for students who cannot afford the extra 2% late penalty?” 

“We charge late fees for a very simple reason: that is to provide an incentive for students to pay their tuition,” Driver responded. He noted that the tuition deadline has been extended and that students are now allowed to enroll in Fall classes if they haven’t paid their Summer fees, provided that they are on the payment plan. 

Chou asked if SFU would consider implementing pass/fail grading or the Summer 2020 semester. 

“For the Summer term students have plenty of time to understand what assessment practices will be used, they can therefore make up their minds as to whether or not they wish to take the course, and we see no reason to implement the pass/fail option under these circumstances,” answered Driver. 

Lastly, Chou asked how SFU will accommodate students in different time zones, or students who may not be able to attend live lectures due to other time conflicts. 

“We have recently sent out an email to all instructors encouraging people to adopt asynchronous learning methods where that is consistent with the learning outcomes of the course,” said Driver, although he noted that it is not a requirement at the moment. 

Senate Chair Andrew Petter also noted that there are plans for virtual town halls to be held in the future, where students and faculty can submit questions and have them answered. 

Senate approves and recommends to Board of Governors new programs

A number of motions involved approving and recommending to the Board of Governors the proposals for various new programs at SFU. 

Effective Spring 2021, the Senate approved both a new Geographic Information Science Minor in the Department of Geography and a Minor in Indigenous studies in the Department of Linguistics and the First Nations Languages Program. 

Additionally, the Senate approved in the Beedie School of Business a Graduate Diploma in Management as well as a Master in Management, both effective Fall 2021. 

Senate suspends programs

The Senate voted to suspend admission and terminate the Modelling of Complex Social Systems Graduate Certificate within the Faculty of Applied Sciences, starting Fall 2020. 

Also beginning in Fall 2020, the Senate also voted to suspend admission to the Latin American Studies Graduate Certificate within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.