Senate Report: October 5, 2020

The latest senate meeting included discussion of invigilation software, EDI and academic dishonesty

Photo from Peak archives

By: Serena Bains, Staff Writer

Exam invigilation software for the Fall 2020 term

During the question period, Senator Gabe Liosis discussed proctoring software. SFU expressed interest in implementing new exam invigilation for the Fall 2020 term. Liosis asked if there were any updates on what exam software would be used in the Fall term.

Senator Elizabeth Elle noted that instructors have the most knowledge of whether an exam is needed for their course. She added that if an exam is required, proctoring software is necessary to prevent cheating. SFU is currently piloting a new software to meet BC privacy requirements. Elle added that the software must be integrated into Canvas. The software is currently being piloted in 12 courses, which began the last week of September. 

Possible appointment of an Associate Vice-President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Senator Liosis posed a question regarding the possible appointment of an Associate Vice-President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). He asked what the process would look like, what the timeline would be, and whether President Johnson would consider a Vice-President of EDI rather than an Associate Vice-President.

President Johnson stated that her comments regarding EDI were said in a casual conversation about how to improve the structure of SFU. While she has not ruled out the possibility of a Vice-President of EDI, she stated that it is currently in the consulting phase. President Johnson said she would like to move forward with a recommendation later in the Fall.

Process to report academic dishonesty

Senator Eric Gedajlovic posed a series of questions related to the issue of academic dishonesty, discussing the significance of academic dishonesty in the Spring semester, what is being done to avoid this issue in the future, and the process for professors to deal with such instances. 

Vice-President, Academic and Provost pro tem Johnathan Driver stated that there have been concerns from professors and students alike regarding academic dishonesty. It was recommended that a working group be established to address the issue of academic dishonesty and any gaps currently present. The membership of the university board on student discipline has already been increased to address the greater number of cases of academic dishonesty. He added that, “We won’t solve all the problems by technological means, such as online proctoring software, but we will obviously be taking a look at this.”

According to Driver, the Centre for Educational Excellence has also developed resources for professors to deal with academic dishonesty and possible alternative forms of assessment that would make academic dishonesty less common. Professors can also receive guidance from the academic integrity advisors, department chairs, and the student conduct office to determine what an appropriate penalty would be for a specific offense.

Senator Rummana Hemani stated that there were 275 reported cases of academic dishonesty in the Summer 2020 semester, with two courses involving multiple students, classified as “mass-cheating.” Senator Hemani also described that the process for reporting academic dishonesty is already present in current policy. 

Driver also responded by stating that the amount of academic dishonesty that goes unreported may be anywhere from 20% to 60% of students and 50% of instructors speculate that cheating may have occurred in their courses. 

Driver did not state how instructors will be compensated for their increased workload as negotiations are ongoing with the faculty union, however he encouraged professors to document the additional time spent dealing with academic dishonesty.

The status of the student to faculty ratio in relation to tuition

Senator Gord Myers explained that more than 93% of the universities ranked in Quacquarelli Symonds have a greater student to faculty ratio than SFU. He added that the amount of tuition revenue has increased by 89% in the last 11 years, where the increase in the amount of tenured positions has been insignificant. Myers concluded by asking whether there was a plan for hiring more tenured professors. 

Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Academic Wade Parkhouse responded by providing an overview of how SFU plans for an increase in faculty hiring. It was stated that the student-to-faculty ratio is part of the planning process. Senator Parkhouse affirmed that the numbers of faculty members from March 2020 show relatively no change. He noted that this is due to hiring usually occurring either in July or September, therefore, the statistic that Myers cited was indicative of the number of staff in the 2018/19 recruiting year. As of September there has been a net increase of 30 faculty members. 

The next senate meeting is planned to occur on Monday, November 2.