Acadia University Senate


A meeting of the Senate of Acadia University occurred on Monday,  21 November 2005, beginning at
4:10 p.m. with Chair Ian Wilks presiding and 39 members present.
1)   Minutes of the Meeting of
      14 November 2005
It was moved by R. Perrins and seconded by R. Nilson that the minutes of Monday, 14 November 2005 be approved. 
An amendment agreed upon to 2)b) second paragraph, last sentence to read "no academic program will be implemented/adopted/enacted until it has the approval of the Senate".

2) Announcements and
   a) From the Chair
      -re Regrets
      -re Visitors
      -re Agenda
Regrets were received from A. Irving, J. MacLeod, J. Roscoe, A. Smith, N. Van Wagoner, and J. White.
Guests in attendance at this meeting were:  Shane Donovan of the VP (Academic) Office, Angela Wilson, and Colin Hoult both of the student newspaper, Athenaeum.
I. Wilks reminded Senators that the agenda for this meeting was to discuss the proposed Strategic Plan.  Any motion brought forward for consideration at this meeting, would require that notice of motion be waived.

  3) Business Arising From the
   a) Vice-President (Academic)-
      Proposed Strategic Plan
G. Dinter-Gottlieb opened the discussion by expressing her appreciation for the participation of faculty in developing the strategic plan to this point.  She noted that in these highly competitive times, it was important for Acadia to be clear about how it differentiates itself from other universities.  Acadia Advantage did this in the past, but now something new is needed.  The strategic plan affirms the many good things that we already have, and also identifies two new directions to help differentiate Acadia:  community based learning and environmental studies.  This document is not a directive; what it does is create an opportunity for faculty who wish to be involved in these initiatives.  The President acknowledged that there was some concern at the last Faculty Council meeting regarding the consulting process, and said that the wording in the current document can be clarified.

  Referring to statements and data analysis in the proposed Strategic Plan, H. Hemming asked, "How do we know the points in the document, particularly those around curriculum, were generated by faculty?"
G. Dinter-Gottlieb replied that any significant amount of concern indicated during this study, in any area by anyone, requires further investigation.  If there is concern on campus, there will be concern on the part of prospective students and their parents.  Therefore it must be looked into, whether curriculum or another area.  She added that any curriculum change is the responsibility of faculty and the Senate.  The President confirmed that this plan is a draft.  At this point we are not here to question the process by which we arrived at this draft.

  J. Eustace began discussion with a prepared presentation as attached (APPENDIX A).
G. Dinter-Gottlieb agreed that more attention should be paid to the traditional orientation of Arts and Humanities and the type of research that is done there.  A strong School of Faculty of Arts benefits the university both financially and culturally.  She felt that the Strategic Plan enhances the current faculty contract, and does not supersede it.  She agreed that the Strategic Plan could be read as being overpowering, but emphasized that decommissioning of any research centre would only happen if a centre is not working to its full potential.  Review and reconsideration must be ongoing.

  D. Piper questioned the fact that there was neither marketing research data in this document, nor a definition for the term "transformative" as used here.
G. Dinter-Gottlieb explained that the term transformative refers to the transformation of students into adulthood while at our undergraduate university.  She noted that an American firm was hired to do the Study, as there was no one available in Canada.  An external firm took the huge task of compiling data to create this plan and worked with it, as faculty could not be expected to devote the time and energy to such a job.  She felt that that part of the process is past and done; therefore, and we should move on.
  S. Barkanova found the document poorly written and difficult to understand.  She felt the emphasis on a diverse education, as outlined in this document, could put the current major and honours programs in jeopardy.
G. Dinter-Gottlieb reminded Senators that Acadia is a liberal arts institution, as stated in its mission statement, where a broad range of education is beneficial and allows for diversity.  This should be the norm for all students, not just the most talented.  She believed that the relationship between professors and students at Acadia was a strong point.

S. Franceschet continued discussion with a prepared presentation as attached (APPENDIX B ). 
G. Dinter-Gottlieb felt that the community based learning which students would have done in high school is volunteer, compared to that at Acadia.  She believed that students did want this type of learning experience and that faculty who now offer such programs are over subscribed.
  D. Brodeur spoke to this document with a prepared presentation as attached (APPENDIX C).
G. Dinter-Gottlieb believed that engaged learning is necessary but agreed that it was overemphasized, in this document.  She clarified that faculty members, within each unit, would do the ongoing strategic planning referred to in the document.
  H. Wyile spoke to this document with a prepared presentation as attached (APPENDIX D).
A. Quéma asked for clarification on the type of democratic process being thought of to reach a final draft of this document - will it be the majority choice or a balancing of the different ideas?
G. Dinter-Gottlieb stated that a balance was preferred.  She noted that the faculty's fear of this document surprised her.  She hoped for some innovative/new ideas and distinctive features for Acadia to add to the Plan, as well as clarification of wording.  Some discomfort with the Plan results in growth toward the future and encourages us to stretch our imaginations in regards to Acadia University.
In reply to a question from the floor, G. Dinter-Gottlieb agreed that in regards to community-based education and service learning, the document should say "willing faculty".
A. Thomson felt it was time to thank the consultants and move on with the Plan ourselves and the President clarified that is exactly the intent.  He also had some discomfort with the teacher/student ratio mentioned in this Plan and felt that the small ratio was a marketable advantage and should have more emphasis in the Plan.  G. Dinter-Gottlieb agreed and pointed out that economic realities had to be considered in regards to class size.
  A. Franceschet commented on the Strategic Plan from a prepared presentation as attached (APPENDIX E).
R. Perrins felt that the fear of control from the top had been relieved somewhat through today's debate.  Curriculum change is the cause for most of the fear.  He said that Senate does not have the power to create new curriculum as stated in the Plan, but approves curriculum changes that come from units, where renewal and change is constantly being done.  He also asked why the creation of an Environmental program is in this Plan, when we already have such a program that is not even acknowledged.
R. Nilson felt the most important asset at Acadia University was the Academic program and the faculty who deliver these programs.
  P. Abela spoke to the Strategic Plan from a prepared presentation as attached (APPENDIX F).
G. Dinter-Gottlieb replied to the question of finances and the establishment of four new centres on campus.  She confirmed that these centres have been created and maintained through endowment funds to the University and capital campaigns.  Therefore the money has not been taken from operation funds.  She noted that she turns to the faculty for curriculum matters, not financial matters.  Therefore she felt that disclosing all financial matters was not necessary.  The cost of an outside consultant to create this strategic plan was not shared information.  The President felt that the process used was an effective one, rather than doing such a review on our own.
J. Gould expressed concern that the proposed Strategic Plan has no meaningful mention of research in relation to graduate programs or what role the graduate programs play in the overall plan of the University.  Small classes are required for the Graduate Program and although this makes a graduate student more expensive for the University, they bring a high level of research prestige.  R. Nilson noted that because the Graduate Programs were not mentioned, that does not mean that they are not included.  The very deliberate and strong reference regarding these programs in the Mission Statement was sincere.
H. Wyile responded to the President's comment on the faculty's reaction of fear to this document.  He felt that the responses were very sustained, engaged, and the sceptisism taken very seriously.
G. Dinter-Gottlieb closed by stating that she was very taken in a positive way, with the response of faculty.  She recognized that the fear, of this document, was that it was going to be imposed upon them.  She felt that the sceptisism was healthy.
R. Nilson noted that when the feedback was submitted, individuals were not asked for permission to post on the website.  Therefore, this permission will be sought.
4) New Business
   a) Notice of Motion
      Vice-President (Academic)-
      Ad hoc Senate Committee
      on Proposed Strategic Plan
As this meeting did not waive notice of motion, the following was given as notice of motion:
That the Senate create an ad-hoc committee on Strategic Planning to review the draft Strategic Plan (submitted to Senators on September 27, 2005) and make suggestions for revisions to the document.  This committee will be chaired by the Vice-President (Academic) and include one faculty representative from each of the three faculties.  The membership of this committee shall be determined by nomination and election at Senate.
G. Ness expressed concern regarding the process to bring this motion forward.  It would be valuable to hear the opinion of all faculties in regards to this Plan, not just an ad hoc committee.
The Chair noted that if this committee was formed, it would review, and revise the Plan where needed, and bring the altered text of the Plan back to the Senate for consideration.
S. Markham-Starr asked whether the Executive of Senate could help in determining the membership of the as hoc committee.  The Chair replied that, if Senate did not determine the membership of the ad hoc committee directly, it would be more fitting for the Senate Nominating Committee to make this decision.
4) Adjournment

A. Franceschet moved that this meeting be adjourned.  It was

5:50 p.m.


D. Murphy, Recording Secretary


Senate Minutes/Item 3)a)/21Nov05




Reservations about strategic plan


I offer these statements not by way of rejecting the plan, but by way of suggesting that it is going to require some radical revision.  I’ve decided to focus on one aspect of the plan, Research, and to leave other aspects to my colleagues.


1) In its current form, the document threatens to place serious limits on the kind of research that is done at Acadia.  From the Arts perspective, I’ll focus on a couple of the research emphases.  The plan’s emphasis on interdisciplinary and group research is a serious problem for a number of reasons. In favouring or privileging the interdisciplinary model of research, it is putting too many eggs in one basket.  As an interdisciplinary researcher, I’d definitely appreciate the added support that the plan advocates, but the emphasis on interdisciplinarity is in this case over the top because it undermines the excellent and innovative work being done by scholars at Acadia who don’t fit into the new model.  We could be dealing with a very serious faculty retention problem were this model to be adopted.  And frankly, I believe we would also be facing some very serious recruitment problems were it to be adopted.  And this is not an easy market to recruit in these days.


2) Add to that the new privilege given to group research, and we might have a recipe for disaster in the Arts.  As an arts senator, I can tell you that most of the work done in the humanities and the arts continues to be done by single researchers.  Articles and books tend to be written by single authors.  That’s still the fundamental nature of Arts research.  So people in the Arts and Humanities look at this document and are struck by how little it reflects them and what they do.  I don’t know how we are going to keep people in the Arts and Humanities here, or how we are going to attract new faculty after the exodus, given the limited description of research espoused by this plan.  And if Bob Perrins got his numbers right—that is the numbers saying that the faculty of Arts is the only faculty to have actually maintained and increased student numbers in recent years—I don’t think the university can afford to alienate that Faculty to the extent this document does.


3) Hinging renewal, tenure, and promotion—which have been primarily, though not exclusively, based on research productivity—on adherence to the plan is just not workable, not only because of the way it again undermines the research done by a good many faculty, but also because that’s something that would have to be negotiated in the collective agreement.  And to put on my other hat for a second as a member of AUFA’s executive, I will tell you that I’d be most surprised if this were even to get off the ground with the membership.  I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to them after negotiating something like this.


4) Of course, the alienation of Faculty isn’t the only problem here, because on page 17 the document suggests that “Undergraduate research will not be limited to majors in the sciences; valid research projects are possible for undergraduates in every discipline.”  I think a statement like that alienates just about every student who isn’t in the sciences because it assumes that the only legitimate research that is done on campus is being done in the sciences.  Just so you know, I’ve supervised one or two research projects in the humanities at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and my undergraduate students are almost always involved in research of some form or another.  The fact that the document doesn’t even mention honours programmes across the campus—the source of the most significant undergraduate research—is also a troubling and alienating oversight.



Senate Minutes/Item 3)a)/21Nov05





5) One final issue.  I do understand that the university has to review the programmes it can support, and that it isn’t desirable to maintain research centres that aren’t productive, but the goal to decommission Research centres that don’t adhere to the strategic initiatives, regardless of the good work that is being done there is a problem. (See page 17).


After all of this, my advice is that we revise this document so that it becomes much more inclusive.  I don’t think it would be useful to reject it in its entirety, but it has enough fundamental problems to warrant a fairly radical revision.


Dr. John Eustace

Arts Senator

Associate Professor

Department of English


Senate Minutes/Item 3)a)/21Nov05




Special Meeting of Senate

November 21, 2005


Concerns regarding the Strategic Plan for Acadia University

Draft: September 27, 2005


  1. There is an overemphasis on engaged learning throughout the document.

(e.g., pp. 5, 7, 8, 10, 15, 16, 19)


It is difficult to argue that engaging students in learning is a bad thing. At the very least, there is certainly ample research to suggest that attention plays an important role in the acquisition of information.  I am however, concerned that engaged learning, adopted as a general pedagogical approach could be short-sighted.  Although I know of no convincing evidence that engaged learning is advantageous, I cannot help but be reminded of poor results achieved with one naturalistic experiment using a similarly nice sounding pedagogical approach carried out in public schools throughout Canada-namely- whole language learning.  To summarize, the basic idea was that teaching children to learn how to read was best accomplished by providing them with access to interesting and motivating things to read.  It was thought that this would inspire children to attend to the written word, and reading would follow.  The approach sounded good, was widely adopted, and after decades of research it seems that for many, if not most children, learning to read is actually best accomplished with the teaching of sound-spelling correspondence; not always engaging, but certainly effective. This is not to say that providing children with interesting things to read is not useful.  However, adopting this as a primary mechanism for learning is not useful. I would argue similarly, that engaged learning is great when it can happen, but given it is neither necessary nor sufficient for learning, it should not be formally overemphasized as a cornerstone of the university’s strategic plan.


  1. The document indicates that faculty hiring will be dictated by the strategic plan.


Acadia will…ensure that new or replacement faculty positions are assigned in areas of greatest need, as defined by ongoing strategic planning.” p.15


It is imperative that control over faculty hiring be maintained by the departments/schools that have the expertise required to determine where there is a need in their programs.  The emphasis should not be on hiring to fulfill a marketing strategy such as community based learning, but hiring to deliver high-quality and comprehensive programs within disciplines.


Respectfully submitted,


Darlene A. Brodeur



Senate Minutes/Item 3)a)/21Nov05





One concern that has been widely expressed by faculty is that the language in the Strategic Plan suggests the widespread imposition of the engaged learning model, at the level of both teaching and research. A clause in the “Building Community” section reads that “Acadia will help all campus educators develop both classroom and out-of-classroom learning opportunities that place students in the community for educational purposes while addressing community issues and concerns through research …, programs or services” (10). Likewise, a clause in the “Research” section suggests that engaged learning initiatives will be given priority in funding decisions: “Acadia will especially support projects conceived and conducted by groups of faculty, interdisciplinary research, and research efforts that depend on campus/community collaboration and engagement” (17). Such clauses can be read as imposing limitations on established methods of teaching and areas of research, with potentially negative effects on faculty recruitment and retention. Another concern is with the practicability of such an approach – how well the community can sustain and support a wave of research and teaching initiatives – as well as the impact of such an approach on the workload of faculty. Finally, one clause in the “Research” section suggests that these priorities will shape decisions on hiring and promotion and tenure (17), intruding into the domain of the collective agreement.



Senate Minutes/Item 3)a)/21Nov05




Dr. Antonio Franceschet states,


“Many faculty that I represent have concerns that the language of the Strategic Planning document we are discussing today misunderstands or ignores the institutional and legal realities of Acadia University.  There are at least three such realities:


The first reality is the collective agreement between the Board of Governors and the Acadia University Faculty Association.  The draft Strategic Planning document recommends policies that fly in the face of the 11th Collective Agreement, particularly as regards the appointment of new faculty and the process for renewal, tenure, and promotion (see in particular pages 15 and 17).  Proposed changes in these areas are to be negotiated–the Strategic Plan must not ignore this legal reality.  For us in Senate, it means academic policies should be determined with the recognition of the contractual relationship between the Board and the Faculty Association.


The second reality is that the expression “Acadia University” cannot be used to refer exclusively to any one constituent body, be it the Board, people in the Administration, or the Faculty.  The draft Strategic Planning document tends to use the expressions ‘Acadia University’ or ‘University’  or ‘Acadia’ without being clear about the subject.  At times, the meaning of these expressions seems be the Administration only  (see pages 14 and 15).  This is troubling because it ignores the fact that the University is a collegial governance system – decision-making power is shared by and distributed across different bodies and constitutions.  The next draft of the Strategic Plan should not ignore this, and should not presume any one body on campus can reserve the Acadia University label for itself.  At the very least, these expressions should be used with greater clarity.


The third reality is Senate’s legal authority over determining academic policy.  The Strategic Planning document states that Senate must be encouraged to act or to do something or another (see pages 14 and 16).  I think it would be a dangerous precedent for Senate to adopt a document that in fact presumes to instruct Senate on academic matters – it would in effect eviscerate Senate’s authority by suggesting this body is in a subordinate relationship to the ideas propounded in this document.  The truth is any strategic planning document should be the expression of Senate’s will – and not vice versa. ”