Engineering gets civilized, Gender Studies gets real, and the Senate gets censored

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The UVic Senate reconvened on Friday, Nov. 6 to discuss such issues as department title changes, new departments entirely, and student enrolment.

President Jamie Cassels opened the meeting with an update on his recent trip to Ottawa to represent UVic interests in light of the new federal leadership. Highlighting the 10 per cent representation of UVic alumna in the Cabinet (Ministers for Justice, Women, and Sport & Disability), Cassels went on to discuss the priorities of UVic going forward: indigeneity, research, and accessibility. At the local level, UVic remains committed to the imminent UVic Campus Plan, and the university budget is set to balance once again.

Women’s Studies gets name change

The second motion put before the Senate was a proposed nominal change, shifting the Department of Women’s Studies to Gender Studies. This change would not affect any structural component of the department, or the accreditations available, but rather better represent the current programs on offer to the student body. The motion was enthusiastically carried.

Civil Engineering has its day

The fourth motion proposed the creation of a new department: the Department of Civil Engineering. While a massive undertaking, with repercussions financially, academically, and politically for UVic, this motion is the result of years of studied effort on the part of the engineering presence on campus. The creation of a civil engineering department reflects demands from current and prospective students, and would attract a greater diversity to the department: women are particularly partial to this engineering specification. It would also reflect certain core values of UVic, as civil engineering historically maintains ties to green and sustainable practices.

Additionally, this department would offer students a greater accessibility to post-graduation opportunities in their field of interest, and may even scrape up some government interest. While it is true that the current Department of Engineering gives out academic accreditation in civil engineering, such accreditation is not as respected as a degree from a dedicated department, and risks the future of graduating students moving into professional capacities.

The motion carried, but the actual implementation will naturally be subject to financial considerations.

Report on enrollment

The status of enrollment at UVic is currently trending on a high, but can be expected to slide iminently straight through to 2023. Demographic shifts in 18–35 year olds are declining and as a result UVic will need to increase outreach to untapped pools of potential in order to maintain numbers. These potentially under-represented groups include recent immigrants, second-generation immigrants, and aboriginal persons, all areas of recruitment in which UVic has recently begun to expand with positive results.

While the domestic representation remains high, the international representation in undergraduate initiatives has been rising steadily, both in terms of initial enrollment and returning students. Formerly consisting of a student body drawn from Asian countries, the pool has now expanded to include significant numbers of students from the EU, U.S., various South American states, and Saudi Arabia.

UVic consistently meets its targets for enrollment,  both those expected by provincial ordinance and those created internally at the university. In comparison with its main competitors, Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, UVic stacks up well. In particular, UVic’s academic record tends to be higher compared to the larger institutions, with higher GPAs reported on average. Evidently, students who decline our university in favour of UBC or SFU do so only as a result of program preference.

Senate censorship . . . or not?

As a matter of closing business, Associate University Secretary Carrie Andersen casually mentioned that the Senate would be using a different process for writing minutes, choosing to use more of a summary style rather than verbatim records of who said what. This move was done without the express consent of the Senate, some of whom raised concerns over the right of the Senate to censor discussion. However, President Cassels stressed that any changes would only be incidental, removing language which might impact future political careers, while maintaining the tenor of discussions.

Furthermore, any comments deliberately requested to be on record would be entered verbatim. The decision was made out of functionality, making reports more streamlined and easier to comprehend, and had been in place for several weeks without any of the Senate members noticing, so, yeah, probably not as dramatic as censorship could be.   

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated named Julia Eastman was the one who brought up Senate meeting summaries; it was actually Associate University Secretary Carrie Andersen. We also referred to the process of summarizing meeting minutes as editing, which does not accurately reflect the change in procedure. According to Andersen, the Senate Committee is changing the way minutes are drafted to be less detailed, while still reflecting the essence of the discussion. 

We regret the errors and have edited the article to reflect this change. 

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