After almost two hours of debate, Western's senators approved the 2017-18 operating budget at Friday's meeting.
The debates centred on the proposed funding cuts to the arts and humanities faculty, which attracted protest before and during the meeting who held up multi-lingual signs in challenge. One read, "Global Citizens? Global Leaders? In which language??" while another asserted that "Western can't go Global by cutting language courses... you can't have it both ways."
The administration is currently working with a new funding model from the provincial government that affects funding based on enrolment numbers. Provost and vice-president academic Janice Deakin explained during the meeting that low enrolment numbers were a factor behind why the Faculty of Arts and Humanities is operating at a deficit, and that the cuts to the faculty are in an effort to reduce this generated deficit.
"We have tried for the last six to seven years with our partners in the faculty and we have invested in a number of initiatives including student recruitment initiatives [and] scholarship initiatives that have really not been successful in the way that we would have liked to see them be successful in terms of bringing in more enrolments."
While the dean of arts and humanities, Michael Milde, showed support for the administration's decision to reduce funds for the faculty, several other senators raised concerns that the cuts would have a negative impact on the faculty going forward.
Senator Nick Dyer-Witheford argued that the cuts would prevent the department from innovating to attract students which would, in turn, make them financially healthy.
"How do you foresee faculties that are undergoing financial difficulties renewing themselves under austerity conditions?" Dyer-Witheford asked during the meeting.
Dyer-Witheford also asked why the low enrolment numbers was being treated as a faculty-specific problem and not one on the university level that would invite help from other faculties. Deakin argued that revenue being generated by faculties such as Schulich has been distributed to other faculties.
"We have deans here who are both wise to the issues and willing to work together," she said.
Michael Strong, the dean of the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, said that as the dean of a faculty that is bringing in revenue, he appreciates the value that the faculty of arts and humanities brings to the university.
"In a conversation that Janice [Deakin] and I had, really in my first six months here ... was the question of 'Do I value being a medical school at a full-functioning university that has arts and humanities, that has FIMS, that has music in place? And the answer was an easy one: the answer is yes, we do, and I have never returned in seven years to ask that question again."
Strong also insisted that Schulich was under the same funding model as the other faculties at Western and had to justify new programs and expenditures according to Schulich's current budget.
After a failed motion by student senator Arjun Singh to have the vote on the budget be done by roll call, the budget was approved by Senate with 59 senators for and 19 against.
The department of film studies was also formally closed during Friday's meeting, after being effectively dissolved last year. However, the program will continue to be offered under the arts and humanities faculty and will continue to accept students.
Also approved during the meeting was a motion to task the Senate Committee on Academic Policy and Awards (SCAPA) with reviewing the exam accommodation policy and presenting their findings during the February 2018 meeting of Senate. The motion specifically wanted to answer the following questions:
1. Under the current examination policy framework, how many conflicts typically arise in a given academic term?
2. Does this policy add or contribute stressors to students’ academic experience?
3. Is the current policy reflective of practices at peer institutions?
4. Should this policy additionally apply to mid-term examinations?
5. What are the ramifications of extending the number of hours provision in the policy by a marginal amount (e.g. changing “more than two such examinations in any 23-hour period” to a 24, 25, or 26-hour period)
6. Should this policy be amended in some capacity?