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Board and Senate notes: October 2017

Read the highlights from Concordia’s most recent governance meetings
November 8, 2017
By Karen McCarthy

Read the Board Notes from October 25, 2017.

Read the Senate Notes from October 13, 2017.


BOARD NOTES: Strategic directions update, annual reports presented

President’s remarks

In his remarks at the October 25 Board meeting, Concordia’s president Alan Shepard referred governors to his full report, included in the Board materials, and provided brief highlights.

He noted that convocation would be taking place in a few weeks. At the November 20 ceremonies, the university will present honorary doctorates to three distinguished individuals: trailblazing environmentalist Bernard Voyer, business leader Isabelle Hudon and technology entrepreneur Kon Leong.

In the recently published Maclean’s University Rankings, Concordia held steady overall among comprehensive universities and made gains in reputation, said Shepard.

The president also said he recently participated in a lobbying activity on Parliament Hill organized by Universities Canada. The effort focused on seeking additional research funding for universities from the federal government, a request aligned with the report Canada’s Fundamental Science Review led by David Naylor.

Update on Strategic Directions

Graham Carr, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs, provided an overview of the community’s achievements in implementing the first moves identified in the Strategic Directions Game Plan for 2016-17.

He also led governors through the five transformational projects identified for implementation in 2017-18, along with five new principles to guide decision-making.

Read more about the provost’s Strategic Directions overview.

Concordia Alumni Association unveils strategic plan

Kim Fuller, president of the Concordia University Alumni Association (CUAA), presented the highlights of the association’s 2015-17 strategic plan, which was implemented following the merging of the three alumni associations.

The plan’s 2015 priorities were based on how the association could best meet its mission of fostering lifetime connections through meaningful professional, academic and social opportunities for alumni, the university and the community.

Fuller said the association also seeks the active participation of current and future alumni to strengthen Concordia’s reputation and outreach worldwide. Finally, as a partner with the university, the association and its supporters are committed to creating lasting positive change.

The 2015 strategic priorities connected to how the association could best serve the university’s nine strategic directions. These included enhancing the volunteer experience, strengthening the student and young alumni experience, and expanding the alumni network.

One of the association’s achievements has been the revision of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the university.

Fuller said the association’s board sees this as the next step in unifying the CUAA following the merger. It also provides direction for guiding the association’s relationship with the university to best support the work of the Alumni Relations Office and its staff.

The CUAA board held a successful retreat in early September and will be developing its new strategic plan, to be implemented in early spring 2018.

Going forward, there will be more emphasis on how the association can play a larger role in setting and achieving financial goals, said Fuller.

Board members are also looking into how to strengthen their volunteer experience through mentoring. She said they are looking at new ways to connect with alumni that are based on industry interests instead of the faculty.

Office of Rights and Responsibilities presents its annual report

Lisa White, interim director of the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, presented the highlights of the office’s 2016-17 annual report.

The Office of Rights and Responsibilities offers impartial, confidential, non-judgmental and independent services to Concordia students, faculty and staff. Among its services is the provision of support and redress to members of the university community who have complaints or concerns regarding behaviour and the management of complaint resolution processes.

It is also responsible for administering the Code of Rights and Responsibilities (BD-3), which sets standards of conduct for all members of the university community (students, faculty and staff).

In the 2016-17 academic year, the office received 286 requests for assistance. Overall, the number of requests, excluding those arising from exceptional circumstances, have remained stable throughout the past three years.

Consultations accounted for the majority of all services provided (188 consultations) with 98 cases. Informal resolution was used significantly more often than a formal resolution in these cases.

The Office saw decreases in all harassment categories (general harassment, sexual harassment and psychological harassment), and in threatening and violent behaviour.

However, reported incidents of discrimination and communication of a discriminatory matter were higher in 2016-17.

The Office also received an increase in new or ongoing requests involving students of concern and in relation to the Policy on Student Involuntary Leave of Absence (PRVPAA-15). There was a significant decrease in complaints related to the obstruction and disruption of university activity.

Ombuds Office presents its annual report

Amy Fish, Concordia’s ombudsperson, provided highlights from the 2016-17 Annual Report of the Ombuds Office.

The Ombuds Office is an independent office that reports directly to the Board of Governors. Its role is to assist in the informal resolution of concerns and complaints related to the application of university policies, rules and procedures.

In making the distinction between her office and the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, Fish said while the latter deals with complaints related to behaviour, the Ombuds Office deals exclusively with academic issues.

There was a slight decrease in files, from 514 in 2015-16 to 470 in 2016-17, and Fish said very few of these files became formal or serious complaints.

For the past five years, the number of cases has hovered around 500. Fish said this is an expected volume for a university of Concordia’s size, representing approximately one per cent of the student population.

The majority of concerns were brought forward by students (78 per cent), followed by faculty members or staff (11 per cent) and from other people, such as alumni, parents, or citizens (11 per cent).

Similar to last year, grades and other course management issues represented the largest percentage of student academic concerns. This included any dispute regarding course requirements, unfair grading practices, applications for re-evaluation and/or grading policies in the classroom.

However, compared to last year, exams were third in terms of student concerns, following by academic standing. Program degree requirements and registration were less of a concern in 2016-17. This may be attributed to continued improvements in the Student Information System (SIS) and increased communication with students regarding graduation requirements.


SENATE NOTES: New undergraduate minor in biophysics approved

President’s remarks

At the October 13 Senate meeting, president Alan Shepard began his opening remarks by sharing the results of the recent Maclean’s  annual University Rankings. Concordia held steady in the overall ranking among comprehensive universities and has improved on certain indicators, including by making significant gains in the Maclean’s National Reputational Ranking. Concordia placed in the top 15 among 49 Canadian universities for Best Overall, Highest Quality and Most Innovative.

Faculty members continue to capture international attention for innovative and relevant research, said Shepard.

He referred to the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance and its partner organizations, which received the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for their work in creating and implementing the Learning Toolkit.

Hydro-Québec has invested $3.9 million in Concordia to advance cutting-edge research and attract top students in engineering, business, arts and science, said Shepard.

This support will allow Concordia scientists to deepen their research and experiment in areas that are critical to serving the public good, such as sustainable energy and smart-grid security.

The 2017 Loyola Medal was recently awarded to James Orbinski in recognition of his contribution as a physician, humanitarian activist, author and leading scholar in global health.

The president also noted the recent unveiling of a new kinetic sculpture donated to Concordia and to the city by Concordia’s Chancellor Jonathan Wener and his wife, Susan Wener, to mark the occasion of Montreal’s 375th  and Canada’s 150th anniversaries..

Di-Octo, created by American artist Anthony Howe, is located on the southwest corner of the Henry F. Hall Building on Mackay St.

Senate approves minor in Biophysics

Senators approved a new minor program in Biophysics in the Department of Physics.

This undergraduate program is intended for non-physics BSc students interested in enhancing their knowledge and problem solving skills in physics and especially in biophysics.

It will offer a coherent overview of the physical aspects of biological systems from the molecular level all the way up to human body systems. The new minor will complement the science training of BSc students with physically and mathematically rigorous approaches to problem solving, modeling and data analysis.

Update on Strategic Directions

In his update on Concordia’s Strategic Directions, Graham Carr, provost and vice-president of Academic Affairs, provided highlights of year one, noting several accomplishments that were identified in the Strategic Directions Game Plan.

He also walked Senators through the five transformational projects identified for implementation in 2017-18, along with five new principles to guide decision making.

Read more about the provost’s Strategic Directions overview.

Overview of the results of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

Lisa Ostiguy, deputy provost, provided a brief overview of results of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE).

Since 2000, first- and final-year students from more than 1,600 bachelor’s degree-granting colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada have taken part in the NSSE.

Ostiguy noted that the survey is administered by a third-party, non-profit organization, conferring upon the results a high degree of credibility and freedom from undue bias.

Concordia has participated in the NSSE six times. Starting in 2014, the university began participating on a three-year cycle along with the majority of Canadian universities.

The survey has more than 100 questions in five categories:

  • how students spend their time inside and outside the classroom;
  • institutional actions and requirements (curriculum and faculty behaviour);
  • student perceptions about the quality of their own experiences;
  • self-reported gains in skills that students feel they have developed as a result of attending university; and
  • background and demographic information.

Concordia’s overall response rate for the 2017 survey was 24 per cent, with a slightly higher percentage of final-year students responding.

The university receives data on each question along with data for Canadian comprehensives, and Quebec and Canada universities.

Generally, Concordia is on par with comparable institutions on most of the NSSE questions, said Ostiguy.

Results show that the diversity of the university population is a strength. Students also reported that instructors provide prompt and detailed feedback on exams and assignments, and students come to class prepared.

Opportunities for improvement include offering more collaborative learning activities; participation in internships, co-op, field experiences, student teaching or clinical placements, co-curricular activities and senior experiences such as capstone projects.

In response to the question, How would you evaluate your entire educational experience at this institution?, 80 per cent of Concordia students rated their experience as good and excellent, slightly higher than some other Canadian comprehensive universities.

In 2017, Concordia chose to participate in the academic advising module, along with nine other Canadian public universities.

Results for first-year students were generally weaker than for final-year students, implying that students’ experiences with advising improves over the course of their studies.

However, Ostiguy said a number of initiatives are underway to provide better support to students.

This includes the creation of an Advising and Retention Working Group last fall, which meets bi-monthly; the launch of a Navigator Program that assigns volunteers to students and provides one-on-one support; as well as information sessions for academic advisors.

Annual Report of the Academic Hearing Panel presented

Every year, Senate receives an annual report that provides information on the number and types of charges laid under the Academic Code of Conduct.

By July 1, 2017, a total of 365 incidents were reported for courses taken during the 2016-17 academic year. Of those, 264 charges were upheld at the Faculty level, 86 were dismissed and 10 files were sent directly to Academic Hearing Panels (AHP). Fifteen incidents are still pending decisions by the Faculties.

Out of the 264 charges upheld by the Faculties, the Office of Student Tribunals received 18 requests for AHP, including nine requests due to repeat offences.

Adding these 18 to the 21 AHP requests carried over from previous years, there were a total 39 AHP requests to process in the past year, including 21 for repeat offences.

In 2016-17, the Office of Student Tribunals conducted hearings related to 17 cases under the Code. As of July 1, 2017, 18 cases await hearings in the 2017-18 academic year, 11 of which are for repeat offences.


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