Middlesex College

Western University's Middlesex College, February 26, 2018.

Alan Shepard and Western’s top financial decision makers faced a trio of issues last week, in their second meeting of the semester and the last before the new decade.

The board tackled Queen’s Park’s rewritten funding scheme, passed their new sexual violence policy — also courtesy of government mandate —and looked into the aftermath of a professor using the N-word in class.

As at every board meeting, Shephard began with his president’s report. It was only his second to the group of top officials since taking office, as every other meeting this decade was stewarded by Amit Chakma, who led from 2009-2019.

In that span, Western University’s defining issue has become its relationship to the government. Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives have weighed heavily on Senate and the board. Their grappling with the hawkish conservative party continued in last week’s meeting.

The board first discussed Ontario’s new performance-based model for grant money, that would tie the millions universities get from the government to how the schools perform on certain metrics the government has determined.

As Western’s chief financial body, the board has input on just two of the 10 metrics the Progressive Conservative government has put in measuring universities’ grant funding. However, the board does have some say in the overall weight of each metric in calculating Western’s funding.

Members raised concerns about how to balance the metrics, as not all finish at the same time. This means figures about Western graduates’ earnings and the school’s overall graduation rate may be expected before other measurements the government is requesting to determine how much tax-payer money universities receive.

As of right now, the board is working to draft a contract for Dec. 17 which will include the weightings of the two metrics Western controls. By January, the draft will be brought to the board.

The draft will then be sent to the Senate and be toured in town hall meetings. There has already been mention of this draft in two budget town halls, but there will be more in January so that there is community input and the draft can be committed to by March.

New sexual violence policy passed

Ontario's post-secondary ministry announced in March that universities review their policies on gender-based violence, spurring a review and writing process that culminated in a new policy passed in last week’s meeting.

The main changes will clear up the policy's language, streamline the process for survivors and increase education on violence and the policy itself. Though the policy passed, Western is aiming for all its stipulations to come into effect by May 1.

Jennifer Massey, Western's associate vice-president of Student Experience, oversaw the policy's creation, and is its top administrator.

She recommended that the policy should be implemented by the summer so that it can be communicated across campus — leaving enough time to train all the officials and volunteers the policy governs. 

Some raised doubts, mainly about how to deal with offenders on campus.

Massey suggested that a record be kept and serious investigations should be made, but her main focus was on education.

"[The policy] is going to be an educational tool. So, wherever possible and appropriate, we do respond with educational interventions,” she said.

Massey has said the same of the Student Code of Conduct, which some see as a rulebook, but which she instead characterizes as a way to educate students — not punish them. This came as students heard of how the code now set some rules for off-campus parties, around the time of Fake Homecoming.

With the new sexual violence policy, Massey is handling another major policy change.

Anti-racism strategy

The Board also addressed the recent incident in an English class in which a professor used the N-word. Andrew Wenaus, who was teaching a second-year English class, used the racial slur while lecturing on historical racial language.

There was a great deal of praise for the students who first spoke out against the professor — including one, Chizoba Oriuwa, who faced anonymous racist hate for doing so. One board member expressed some doubt about the university’s response and its proposed group to combat racism.

Because the issue was a personnel matter, the board discussed it further in a private session not open to spectators or the media, which is their protocol.

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