Senate Report: November 2, 2020

The Senate meeting included discussion of the reopening of some athletic programs, expectations for professors in the remote environment, and postponing external reviews

Photo from Peak archives

Written by: Serena Bains, Staff Writer 

SFU reopens some Athletic & Recreation programs 

During the question period, Senator Colin Percival asked if there were any plans to reopen Athletic & Recreation programs. Vice-President, Academic and Provost pro tem Jonathan Driver responded by stating that the gym and pool were open through appointments, where other safety protocols — such as sanitizing stations — are in place as well for students who live on residence and staff and faculty who work on campus. Following the BC health orders announced on November 7, SFU Athletics & Recreation announced that the Fitness Centre and Aquatics Centre reopened on November 12. Consult with the SFU Athletics & Recreation website for updated safety protocols.

President Joy Johnson added that some of the SFU athletics teams — such as football, soccer, and track and field — have been training on campus and discussions are currently underway regarding whether athletic competitions will be available next term. She also recognized that athletics includes the additional challenge of athletes having to travel across the border.

Expectations for professors regarding remote course delivery

Senator Lyn Bartram posed a question about how professors are expected to deliver courses to students who are working from home all around the world. 

Bartram expressed that for the first time, she had to describe whether her course would be taught synchronously or asynchronously. She recognized that some students will be joining from outside of the lower mainland, but that with some aspects of the course requiring real-time communication, Bartram felt that she’s teaching two courses with the blend of synchronous and asynchronous components. 

Bartram added it now takes two to three times more effort to deliver a course, not taking into consideration the time it takes to prepare. 

Driver responded by stating that SFU is currently working with the faculty association on this issue. Professors who are pre-tenure (meaning that they have not been offered a permanent contract) have been given flexibility so they can delay tenure. Delaying tenure, however, means that professors can be terminated without justifiable cause. Senator Rob McTavish commented in the chat that delaying tenure for professors who are pre-tenure is a difficult decision, as it can have long-term consequences on salary and pension. 

There are options to modify study leave plans and performance review processes, and there is a review occurring of support that has been implemented at the faculty level, which includes financial assistance to hire more teaching assistants, among other accommodations. 

President Johnson responded that there is recognition for professors who have gone above and beyond and that the workload has increased for everyone during these difficult times. 

Senator Pablo Nepomnaschy spoke to the impact that COVID-19 has on research, and agreed with Senator Bartram that teaching online takes three times the amount of effort. In addition to this, professors who work abroad or at field schools have seen a negative impact on their research as they can no longer travel. Professors explained that this problem also extends to their graduate students and that there needs to be a solution.

Postponing external reviews for 2020–21 academic year

Senator Wade Parkhouse explained what an external review consists of. The purpose of external reviews are to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each academic unit, gain the perspective of external experts, and support future planning. Academic units are reviewed by external reviewers not only from Canada, but across North America. This usually includes a social event, in-person meetings with faculty members, and a review of documents and reports. All units were allowed to delay the review, except for the units who postponed the reviews in the previous year. Geography and Physics would go forward in 2021, most likely later in the year.