Western's senators hit the ground running in 2017 as they debated opening up their subcommittee meetings at their first meeting of the year last Friday. 

Senate committee transparency

The biggest topic of contention for this meeting revolved around whether or not Senate subcommittee meetings should be open to the public. The debate lasted a considerable amount of time, with both sides making their arguments. 

Senators like Nick Dyer-Witheford and Courtney Hardy were in favour of increased transparency. Other senators argued that Senate subcommittee meetings should be made public in order for more people to feel engaged and to show that Senate does not have anything to hide.

It was also brought up that there are many other post-secondary institutions in Canada which have open committee meetings, including York University, the University of Manitoba and McGill University, as shown in a student senator-led report.

Senator Samuel Trosow proposed an amendment to institute a one-year trial period in which Senate subcommittees would be made public. After the trial period, a decision could be made on whether or not to make the decision permanent.

Despite this amendment, many senators still felt that committee meetings should be kept confidential. For example, student senator Arjun Singh was against making meetings open, since the population should put their trust in the senators to make sound decisions. The issue of self-censoring was also raised, where senators may not feel as free to voice their opinion if the public is involved.

Another amendment that was proposed suggested that instead of opening up the committee meetings to the public, they could be opened up specifically to student senators instead. This motion was quickly shut down by Senate with 37 opposed and 26 in favour.

Debate on the matter continued until Senate decided to to scrap the original proposal to make committee meetings open. 38 people were in favour of this decision and 18 were opposed.

Other topics of discussion

As debate on whether or not to open Senate meetings took up the majority of Senate's time, other issues raised during the meeting were rushed through.

A presentation on the revision of policy and administrative procedures involving computer resources was also presented to Senate. Another presentation was made by Erin Campbell regarding the recruitment and retention of female faculty members. Her finding outlined a decline in the number of women holding long-term faculty positions.

Briefly discussed was Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the proposed routes on Western’s campus. Currently, the recommended route goes through Lambton Dr., citing the minimization of impact to sensitive activities and supports the objectives of a vehicle-free core campus. Due to a lack of time the presentation was cut short and there was minimal time for debate.

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