Senate Report: June 8, 2020

Here’s what happened at the latest SFU Senate meeting

(Photo from Peak archives)

Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer

Petter elaborates on his anti-racism statement and SFU’s equity initiatives 

During Monday’s Senate meeting, SFU President and Senate Chair Andrew Petter discussed the University’s resources and support to those “working to break down barriers to inclusion through the equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

Petter noted that the University is currently considering further steps that can be taken to combat racism and discrimination, as well as additional support that they can offer to vulnerable students.

“Across the university, we’ve heard an outpouring of opposition, revulsion to racially motivated violence and discrimination, support for black students, faculty, and staff, as well as for members of other marginalized groups and other forms of discrimination.”

“I think there is a genuine and deep commitment to doing so, difficult though it may be and inadequate though our may be from time to time.”

COVID-19 virtual town hall in the works

Petter announced that another virtual COVID-19 town hall is in the works, this time providing information to faculty and staff via a streamed presentation.

“Of course, virtual town halls aren’t the same as in-person ones, but hopefully, this will add to our efforts to provide good information and answer questions as they arise,” Petter said.

Petter provides update on SFU’s COVID-19 research efforts

Petter discussed SFU presenting at the Virtual GovTech Summit to governmental organizations like the Canadian Border Services Agency, Stats Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada last month. 

Director of SFU’s Big Data Initiative Dr. Fred Popowich presented on how governments can use data responsibly and ethically to solve COVID-19 challenges,” Petter said.

He also noted that 50 SFU researchers were awarded over 11 million dollars from the National Science Engineering Research Council of Canada as “part of the Discovery Grants Individual Program.”

Senate discusses the search for the new VP Academic and the conflicts surrounding the search

Senator Daniel Laitsch raised concerns regarding the search for the new VP Academic. In particular, Laitsch noted the Board’s decision to bypass the typical public presentation of a short-list of candidate(s), despite a public presentation being “historically what was done.” Instead, the board went through the selection process and chose a single candidate for the position. That individual will either be approved or denied for the position at a later time.

The preamble provided by Senator Laitsch says: “the public presentation is a key part of building trust between the academic community and the university administration. I am disheartened to know that even this basic opportunity for engagement and collegial self-governance has now been taken away.”

“Ultimately, we have no public accountability. I realize that times are ‘different,’ but we do have the technological ability to provide the SFU community with a public presentation and consultation process.”

According to Senator Joy Johnson, the board went through “unconscious bias training” and then held interviews with candidates.

“As per best practice but, in particular in relation to concerns about equity, diversity, and inclusion, the interviews were based on the competencies and the role profile that was developed,” Johnson continued. Overall, Johnson estimates that about 30 hours went into this decision process.

Petter noted that the wording of the policy writes that these proceedings “may” need to be conducted, but it is the “committee’s jurisdiction” to determine whether or not public presentation of candidates is required.

In an attempt to compromise, Laitsch and Senator Colin Percival suggested having the chosen candidate present to a closed session of the Senate.

“At least in that case, you have a confidential introduction to the VPA in a private manner,” Laitsch suggested.

While Petter acknowledged these concerns, no compromises were established during the meeting.