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Senate meeting full of contention

The Feb. 22 meeting of the Dalhousie Senate saw many different threads of ongoing narratives intersect.

The lion’s share of the meeting was taken up by discussion of a proposed reform of the Senate seats allocated to students, bringing this number from seven to 22 seats, allocated to various faculty and equity groups.

While the increase of seats had been presented to Senate twice before, both times the proposal was sent back to the Senate Governance and Planning Committee for further development, in order to address the concerns brought forward by other Senators.

The second update of the Taskforce on Misogyny, Sexism, and Homophobia in the Faculty of Dentistry also took place, following the first update in November of 2015. While no written update was provided to Senators before the meeting, a written update was shared with the university community on Nov. 30th via the Dalhousie Culture of Respect web portal.

The Taskforce’s report included specific changes to the clinical practices and methods of instruction within the Dentistry faculty, as well as attempts to ensure that past incidents would not be repeated.

During the question period after the presentation, it was brought up that while efforts had been made to help change the Faculty of Dentistry, no outreach had been made to members of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, especially those who work in areas directly related to research in racism and misogyny via a social sciences perspective.

Senator Bayliss closed the discussion by formally requesting that the matters specified within last year’s Constance Backhouse report (Report of the Task Force on Misogyny, Sexism and Homophobia in Dalhousie University Faculty of Dentistry) be brought to discussion at a future meeting of Senate.

Provost Watters presented the report of the Budget Advisory Committee, which mirrored her presentation to the Board of Governors on Feb. 9. Watters provided details about the nature of the budget proposed for 2016-17, including a 2.5 per cent cut to almost all units throughout the university, a general three per cent tuition hike, tuition resets for Engineering, Pharmacy, and Agriculture, and some special funding in areas deemed to be in special need.

Going into an extension of the Senate meeting, President Florizone presented remarks regarding the issues of dispute between clinical faculty members, the Dalhousie School of Medicine, and the Capital District Health Authority (now part of the Nova Scotia Health Authority).

This issue had arisen as a result of an independent report that the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) brought up in January, where they identified that a number of clinical faculty had been deprived of the protection of their academic freedoms.

“At Dalhousie, we are completely committed to the freedom of every academic staff member to study what they want,” said Florizone.

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