Acadia University Senate


A special meeting of the Senate of Acadia University occurred on Monday,  25 April 2005, beginning at
12:00 noon, following a light lunch with Chair Ian Wilks presiding and 37 members present.
1)   Minutes of the Meeting of
      11 April 2005
It was moved by R. Perrins and seconded by S. Bondrup-Nielsen that the minutes of Monday, 11 April 2005 be approved. 
On page 5 under 3)a) concerning recommendation # 17, it was agreed to change the last word of the accepted motion to "affiliation".

2) Announcements and
   a) From the Chair
      -re Regrets
Regrets were received from P. Corkum, G. Dinter-Gottlieb, R. Gossage, A. Irving, B. Latta, S. Phillips, I. Spooner, and J. Tillotson.
I. Wilks acknowledged visitor, S. Donovan.
The Chair reminded Senators that the agenda for this meeting contained a discussion topic only.  That topic was to do with curriculum as part of the Strategic Planning underway at Acadia University.

  3) Business Arising from the
   a) Liberal Education at Acadia
      University (045-42-VPA)
      - Introduction of Topic
      - Discussion of Topic
I. Wilks outlined issues which have come forward, such as that of defining a major - whether it should be "pre-requisite intensive" or "pre-requisite light".   He felt that this question was derived from considerations relevant to the deeper question of liberal education.  He asked:  When students are educated, are they being prepared for a field or for life?  What is an educated person, such as is the purpose of our institution to produce?  What are we looking to create in the minds and persons of our graduates?  I. Wilks felt discussion should be centred on these questions and hoped it would be deep, searching, and that it would inform the Strategic Planning process, now underway here at Acadia University.
Much discussion was held around the topic of the meeting, Liberal Education at Acadia University with many Senators participating.  The following are some of the points brought forward by individual Senators:
· Need to define "liberal education"
· Are Acadia's programs course driven rather than student or curriculum driven?
· Double majors are blocked because of strict guidelines.
· Students would benefit from more flexibility.
· Currently, too much emphasis on a major.  Multi-disciplinary or cross-faculty programs should be available.
· 1st year should be an exploration year, without hindering a long-range goal.
· The current Arts core courses were not functioning as they should.
· It was noted that some of our course requirements have not changed in many years, even though fields in those subjects are expanding.
· Students leaving university with a huge debit, but not prepared for a job.
· Employers looking for job candidates with a broad liberal education.
· Important to discuss how a liberal education leads to a well- developed individual.
· Liberal Education is not just about particular courses and whether they are disciplinary specific or not, it is also about the way a course is taught.  It is challenging people to fully realize themselves, which can be done within the current majors.
· A general degree in all faculties, giving students flexibility, may be an option.
· Important to give students opportunity to choose; but, with proper academic advising.
· Breadth is not necessarily more liberating that depth of studies. 
· Student Senators felt there was a lack of awareness on how to choose courses to complete a degree.  Online registration meant students could register without choices being checked for the long-range plan.  Many students do not understand how a double major works and need academic advising for this.
· What is meant by "liberal education" and how do we implement liberal education ideas?
· University should be a place to explore, especially in the first year.
· Students are not able to get into the courses they desire because some these courses may be restricted to majors only.
· Some felt Acadia was more of a methodology curriculum with an overview of choices missing.
· The opportunity to explore is through electives.
· Not all students continue to a Ph.D. program, therefore a broad education is to the benefit of those students.
· Students are not planning a four-year program from the beginning, therefore may not have reached their goal.  Mentors are necessary for students, but final choice must be the students'.
· If curriculum change is to be made at Acadia, it must be done collectively, across all faculties.
· It was noted that "liberal education" has been talked of for a long time and believed it is something Acadia University is in favour of.  How do we address this?  Resources are tight and some faculty are protective of their programs. 
· Often courses are restricted/limited by the physical size of classes.
· Student senators felt that a detailed handbook for various programs would be helpful.
· Definition of "Liberal Education" should be clear on the Senators' ideas.
· Physical education (or health and wellness) should also be part of a liberal education.
· The study of the Bible as literature can also be part of a liberal education.
· Advising - a process and should give choices.  Outcome - career emphasis.
· There will be cost to implementing a liberal education at Acadia -- would require more instructors, more classrooms, more teaching assistants positions, and etc.
· Whether liberal education is developed at Acadia or not, a system to encourage individual program planning would be beneficial.
· A second major would develop diversity.  The Science programs allow for a second major by reducing required hours.
· It was noted that Acadia faculty currently provide academic advising and individual attention opportunities.

        - Conclusion of Topic
        Document for Strategic
        Planning Committee
I. Wilks thanked all Senators for their input.  A document will go from Senate, through the Vice-President (Academic) office, to the Strategic Planning Committee (APPENDIX A). 
R. Nilson felt a definition of "Liberal Education" at Acadia University would come out of this discussion.

 4) Adjournment D. Kruisselbrink moved this meeting be adjourned.  It was 1:55 p.m.



D. Murphy, Recording Secretary

Acadia University
Office of the Vice-President (Academic)
Special Meeting of Senate
April 25, 2005
Discussion of Liberal Education at Acadia University
As a follow-up to a previous Senate discussion, a special session of Senate was held April 25, 2005, to discuss the nature of liberal education at Acadia University. This session was also meant to help inform the strategic planning process. The following are points raised at this session.
Nature of Liberal Education
¨      Need better understanding of what we mean by liberal education in the Acadia context.
¨      Academic disciplines are expanding. Jobs in industry now require more education.
¨      Liberal education not just about getting a job upon graduation, but developing a broader set of skills for a fulfilling life and career. Employers looking for graduates with a liberal education.
¨      Liberal education is not just a variety of courses, but it is how the courses are taught. Cannot assume more courses means a more liberal education.
¨      Students are looking for relevance in courses, which affects a faculty member’s approach to courses.
¨      Liberal education is about exploring, especially in first year. University should be a place to learn about a variety of disciplines, and students should have the ability to change to a preferred program.
¨      Current curriculum missing the overview of “time and space”, looking at larger principles of subjects and learning.
¨      Liberal education should strive to seek a balance of breadth and depth.
¨      Students should develop critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, while having a broad perspective on education.
¨      Communication skills should be emphasized in a liberal education which will equip students to deal with life’s issues.
¨      A liberal education should enable students to pursue (or even find) their passion.
¨      Acadia should articulate what we believe a liberal education means, without being too prescriptive.
¨      There is a collective understanding that liberal education is important. The academy needs to take a collective responsibility for all students and disciplines, and develop structures and policies that strengthen the education students receive.
¨      A liberal education educates the whole person, with an ability to articulate arguments, problem-solve, think critically and disciplined, and have an appreciation for social diversity and life-long learning.
¨      Faculty need to do a better job of connecting with students, just as students need to take a stronger personal responsibility for their own education. A liberal education should be a partnership.
¨      A liberal education is only valuable if there is a collective commitment from the university community.
¨      Physical education (or health and wellness) can also be part of a liberal education.
¨      Should not be too “fuzzy” in defining a liberal education; students are required to be disciplined in their thinking, Acadia should do the same.
Structural Issues in the Acadia Context
¨      Concern that the current curriculum at Acadia is “course-driven” rather that driven by the principles of a liberal education. This includes programs being to rigid with prerequisites and program requirements.
¨      Students want flexibility in their programs, and claim there is an over-emphasis on the major. Question necessity of the minor.
¨      Availability of courses is an issue, which is also related to class-size.
¨      More interdisciplinary courses would help promote principles of liberal education. This could include a multi-disciplinary First Year program, or more courses such as Sustainable Nova Scotia.
¨      One option would be to offer a general BA or BSc (no major.)
¨      Part of the problem with student choice is related to academic planning. Students not receiving (or aware of) sufficient academic advising to help plan their programs.
¨      First year students should be encouraged to explore a variety of disciplines. This should include more academic sessions as part of Orientation.
¨      Should look at pre-requisites and how other universities deal with this issue.
¨      Non-credit or “pass/fail” options could encourage students to take more courses in different disciplines.
¨      Lack of pre-requisites could actually take away from learning experience, and handicap students going on to graduate school.
¨      Acadia currently provides a liberal education, and current programs were designed with the principles of liberal education in mind. If Acadia wants to improve it further, there needs to be an investment into faculty and scholarships.
¨      Need to resist getting too comfortable with traditional structures and curriculum; need to make the effort to enhance the curriculum.