This video blog summarises the two latest Senate meetings – the full Academic Senate meeting on May 28 (papers are available on Truth) and an extraordinary meeting called for June 25 (papers are available on Truth). As per usual, the minutes and the ‘Senate in Brief‘ summary of Senate decisions are available from the Academic Senate website 

For a quick run-down, watch the vlog and check out the Top 5 items discussed at the two meetings below:

1. Senate Project – Shared Academic Governance

This is a major project for Academic Senate in 2019 and was discussed at length at both meetings. We are now at a point where Senate is considering to authorise Faculty Boards to undertake a number of academic decisions that have so far been taken by Senate and its subcommittees.

In recent years, several initiatives have strengthened the University’s academic governance. These include:

  • establishment of Faculty Rules and consistently constructed Faculty Boards
  • a comprehensive review of the Delegations Register
  • the establishment of the Research and Research Training Committee; and
  • the review of the Academic Senate Rules, including redefining Purpose and Composition of Academic Senate.

These changes provide an opportunity for the University to move towards a more mature shared responsibility model of academic governance shared with Faculty Boards.  It will empower Faculty Boards to work together with Senate on ensuring academic quality and allow Senate to focus on understanding higher order and systematic trends across the University.

At the last two meetings, we discussed in greater detail the exact functions that will stay with Academic Senate and those considered for authorisation to the Faculty Boards. While these discussions may not have been the most exciting, they were absolutely necessary in order to manage the risk associated with these authorisations and the be very specific about the actual function so as not to create governance confusion. We are now in the final stages of refining those authorisations to go to Senate for approval at the July 23rd meeting.

At the May meeting we also asked the Executive Deans of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Faculty of Arts to talk to their Faculty’s readiness for shared academic governance. The Deans spoke of their Faculty Board and committee structure, their culture and about the changes they would need to implement in order to discharge this new responsibility.

Some of the discussion following the Deans’ presentation was about the balance between elected and ex-officio members on Faculty Boards, and the dual role of the Executive Dean as both the chair of the Faculty Board and the Chair of the Faculty Executive Committee.

2. Senate Project – Freedom of Speech, Inquiry and Assembly

This is a project of Academic Senate in 2019 that commenced in February. It was stimulated by the intense media coverage of freedom of speech on campuses last year and has become highly relevant since the release of the French review on Freedom of Speech. While the French review acknowledges that there is no freedom of speech crisis on Australian campuses, it does propose the voluntary adoption of a national code. The code contains a number of higher-level principles and the Senate working party evaluated these principles relative to our current policy landscape.

In this update to Senate the working party reported that Macquarie University’s policies would be relatively well aligned to the French Code, if the University were inclined to adopt it. The working party also highlighted areas of improving our current documents including providing aligned definitions of freedom of speech, freedom of intellectual enquiry and academic freedom. 

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3. Outcome of Elections for Chair and Deputy Chair

At the May meeting, the Registrar, Gail White, who is also the Secretary to Senate informed Senate that at the recent elections to the positions of Chair and Deputy Chair of Senate, myself and Professor Jackie Phillips (a Human of Macquarie) were re-elected unopposed for another 2 years. Following the announcement, both Jackie and I provided Senate with a brief plan of our main goals for Senate over the next 2 years. In particular, my focus will be to will be to ensure that the work of Senate is clearly understood, and to establish Senate as a source of advice and opinion for the broader University.  I want to continue to improve the efficiency of Senate’s meetings, ensure Senate working groups have a broad membership from across the University. To achieve this, working with the Senior Executive in a collaborative manner is essential.

Jackie’s focus will be to support not just to the Chair of Senate but to members of Senate especially the student members.   She also undertook to ensure that research continues as a focus of Academic Senate.

4. External review of Academic Senate

As part of continuously monitoring and improving our work, Academic Senate undergoes an external review at least every 7 years, which is coming up in 2019. At the June meeting, Academic Senate discussed the terms of reference for this external review, and Gail White, the Senate Secretary invited feedback to be sent to her on the terms of reference. The review is expected to commence in Session 2.

5. Farewell to Associate Professor Mitch Parsell – Chair of the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee (SLTC)

Mitch has been the Chair of the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee for over 3 years. He has led the Committee through a program of policy review and reinvigoration.  He has been ruthless in weeding out stale policies and ensuring an approach to policy review and development which is transparent, consistent and accessible for both staff and students.  His energy, his humour and his endless supply of good will are going to be missed by Macquarie.

The next Senate meeting will be held on July 23, from 9:30am onwards. All staff and students are welcome to observe, please email us at senate@mq.edu.au to ensure there are enough chairs in the room.

 Dates are also advertised on the Senate website, in This Week, and on the Campus Facebook page.

Posted by Marie Herberstein

I am a biologist who works on the behaviour of spiders and insects here at Macquarie University. I am currently the Chair of Academic Senate.

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