Senate Moves Change Forward

April 08, 2009 - Campus Bulletin

Following a marathon meeting, the University's Senate Tuesday night voted to ratify an earlier decision made by its Board of Undergraduate Studies (BUGS) to cancel the women's studies and five other majors and two degree programs.

The organic agriculture major was given a one-year reprieve. Senators directed the Ontario Agricultural College to spend the next 12 months looking at how to attract additional students to the major. The college was also asked to seek new commitments for industry funding and teaching support.

The changes only affect incoming students. People currently enrolled in women's studies and the other cancelled majors and programs will be able to complete their degrees.

More than 40 courses offered by departments across campus concerning women's issues, gender, sexuality and diversity will continue to be offered.

Prior to making its decisions, Senate discussed and debated the issues for four and a half hours. Members listened to comments from visiting students, faculty and others who were opposed to the changes. Senate also heard from the colleges and departments that put forward the recommendations to cancel the majors and programs.

"These were difficult but necessary decisions," says president Alastair Summerlee. "While upsetting to some, it's important to keep in mind that in these trying economic times we must better utilize our resources. We must focus on the majors and programs with the majority of our students in order to retain quality and improve the learning process."

The changes to majors and programs are among a bevy of proposals that came out of discussions in units, departments, program committees and colleges as part of the multi-year plans for reaching budget targets.

To better use resources, colleges, departments and program committees were asked in the fall to discuss courses that consistently have fewer than 10 students enrolled and majors that consistently register fewer than 40 students. Those discussions led to the recommendations that went to BUGS in March. The other majors that were cancelled include classical languages and urban landscape management.

Senate also took note of BUGS decision to approve in principle the elimination of minors in the degree programs, with the understanding that BUGS will study a report to come from the Provost's office by March 2010.

The report will result from wide consultation with stakeholders, identify proposals for alternate methods to achieve the academic objectives of secondary areas of study, and include a list of minors proposed for elimination. Senate voted to consider this a matter of undergraduate educational policy, which means that BUGS's recommendations will return to Senate for discussion and decision.

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