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September Senate Summary: The Top 5 Issues

Academics are, on the whole, excellent communicators. We hone our communication skills over thousands of hours; crafting research papers, articulating our ideas at conferences, mentoring our students, and engaging in the performance art of lecturing. So one might ask “when it comes to some of the really big academic decisions we make as an institution, why is it that we are not good at getting an effective message out there and engaging in a much broader open discussion of principle and practice?”

At least part of this is a function of available time. With so many pressing issues at hand, not to mention the ever-present round of meetings, it can be hard to prioritise the time necessary to engage fully in this communication process. But that isn’t the whole story.

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/council_of_300.png
xkcd: Council of 300 http://xkcd.com/1224/

Many organisations, including our own, have come to rely upon very thin human chains to ensure that these kinds of communications propagate throughout. Not only are these prone to error, operating much like a (very slow) game of “Chinese whispers”, but all such chains are only as strong as their weakest link. As we all know, it doesn’t take long for one of the links in the chain to break triggering complete communication breakdown.

So with that in mind, I welcome you to my inaugural Senate Summary blog. Following each Senate meeting I will provide a brief account of the issues discussed, policies approved and invite you to join the conversation in the most direct way possible.

Academic Senate is actively working to improve Macquarie’s academic enterprise and it is vital that its business is transparent and communicated in a way that fosters broader discussion and awareness.

The Top 5 Issues

Following is a précis of the top 5 issues discussed at the Senate meeting last week. I’ll keep the summary brief in the hope that you’ll read the headlines and dig deeper into a particular issue if it grabs your attention.

  1. Following extensive consultation, Senate approved the Research Integrity Framework, a key part of Macquarie’s broader risk and governance framework. The Research Integrity Framework is a document that outlines the culture of good research practice we want to enshrine at Macquarie. Dr Kandy White, Director Research Integrity and Ethics and her team, which now roll out a series of training and information workshops to implement the Framework.
  1. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Pretorius updated Senate on the feedback received about the Research Framework Green Paper during the consultation period. The common theme raised across all key objectives was workload concerns and the need for further support for staff in meeting our research goals. All feedback from this process will be forwarded to the working groups who have been refining our research strategy for consideration. The White Paper is scheduled for release towards the end of this month.
  1. Senate discussed the future of the University Medal following the retirement of most of our Honours programs. Read more about the discussion here and have your say by completing a brief survey.
  1. Earlier in the year the University Council approved a new Student Discipline Rule (April 2014). This provides an overarching framework for the University’s Student Discipline processes, but it leaves much of the specific detail to a range of other policies and procedures, such as the (also relatively new) Student Code of Conduct. One key document is a draft Student Discipline Policy and Procedure, which will provide the operational framework for handling academic and general student misconduct matters.Senate discussed the proposed Student Discipline Policy and some of the finer operational details that it encompasses. It was noted that this document didn’t presage a radical shift in process; instead it enables a refinement of the current Faculty and University level Discipline Committee structures. It does, however, place a renewed emphasis on the maintenance of procedural fairness in the conduct of processes of this kind.The key to the success here is not the Policy itself, but rather the procedural and operational aspects that underpin it. A key focus during the implementation phase will be providing adequate support and training for those individuals making discipline decisions. In particular, measures will be put in place to train participants in principles of natural justice and to ensure consistency of decision-making through the sharing experiences and precedents.The Student Discipline Policy, workflows and procedures will return to the October Senate meeting for approval. The draft Student Discipline Policy can be found as an attachment to the Senate agenda papers (2nd September 2014).
  1. Senate considered a proposal to change the name of the Faculty of Science to the Faculty of Science and Engineering. The Faculty of Science argued that the name change would reflect the growth of the engineering program and improve its visibility and recognition in the community. Ultimately, the name change is the prerogative of University Council. However, Academic Senate is in a position to exercise significant influence on this decision, both through its obligation to advise Council on all academic matters and via its Chair’s standing membership of that governing body. To that end, Academic Senate provided its provisional blessing, pending the close of the consultation process in the Faculty, and asked that the matter be returned for final endorsement at its October meeting.

Come to the Next Meeting

The next Academic Senate meeting is on Tuesday 7 October 2014. I should note that all meetings of Senate, and its sub-committees, are open meetings and we’d welcome your attendance as an observer (particularly if you are thinking about nominating for the 2015-16 Senate term). Those wishing to attend must ask leave of the Chair to do so, via an email to senate@mq.edu.au.

Until next time…

Dom

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