Minutes: February 22, 2010

MINUTES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO MISSISSAUGA ACADEMIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE of Erindale College Council meeting held on Monday, February 22, 2010 at 1:10 p.m. in Room 3129, South Building.

Present: A. Lange (in the Chair), G. Averill, U. Krul, A. Wensley, M.A. Mavrinac, D. Schulze, N. Copeland, S. Munro, G. Rattan, S. Kamenetsky, U. Farooq, R. Da Silva
Regrets: D. Crocker, A. Daniere, J. Fletcher, K. Xiao, J. Cruz, T. Bhandari, S. Badhwar, S. Bernstein, N. Woolridge, A. Bendlin, T. Sanders
In attendance: Monica Scott (Career Centre), Devin Kreuger (Research Affairs)

1. Minutes of the previous meeting (January 18, 2010)
The minutes of the previous meeting were approved.

2. Reports of Committees and Officers
a) 2008 Departmental Reviews - annual report: Professor Gage Averill, Vice-Principal Academic and Dean

The Dean announced that Professor Angela Lange, has been appointed UTM's first Vice-Dean, Undergraduate, Teaching, and Learning for a five-year term, effective May 1, 2010. The Dean noted that throughout her career Professor Lange has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to undergraduate education, receiving UTM's Faculty Teaching Award in 2004. She recently developed the Biology Professional Development Certificate Program, a program that so impressed her peers in other departments that some are developing their own versions. She has been Associate Chair of the Biology Department with stewardship of the undergraduate program in Biology since 2004 (serving one year as Interim Chair of the Department) and was chair of the Biology Group from 1999-2002.
Professor Lange has extensive experience in governance and in program development and approval activities, which have given her an ideal preparation for this position, including her experience as Chair of this Committee. The Dean led a round of applause to recognize Professor Lange's new appointment.

Professor Averill continued his report with an overview of the departmental review process, which he noted is normally done every 5 to 7 years, or when a Chair's term is completed. When a department is due for a review, the Office of the Dean contacts the Chair and through consultation develops a set of standardized diagnostics. During phase one of the review process, the first step is consultation with the Chair of the department being reviewed and a provision of templates and discussion of the state of the department and its programs. This step is followed by an internal self-study, which looks at performance indicators, programs, research, teaching, governance, planning and ranking. The Office of the Dean also asks for an audit of a department's University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations or UUDLES by Cleo Boyd, Director of the Academic Skills Centre. During the final step of phase one, managed by Melissa Berger in the Office of the Dean, external reviewers are selected and invited to conduct a review. These reviewers, who typically include a Canadian and a non-Canadian representative, meet with faculty, staff, and students and conduct a thorough review during a 2-day campus visit. They produce a report, which is submitted to the commissioning officer or the Dean.

During phase two of the review process, a departmental administrative response to the external review is produced by the Chair. The Chair and the Dean then meet and discuss the review and the following year, the Dean submits a response to the external review, which is submitted to the Provost. The Provost in turn provides a summary of the external review, which then requires a decanal administrative response. At the conclusion of phase two of the review process, the departmental review is submitted to the Academic Affairs Committee as an annual report for governance oversight.

During phase three of the review process, the summary and administrative response is reviewed by the Committee on Academic Policy and Programs or AP&P who are charged to produce an analysis of how well the review summary captures the review and how well the Dean's comments capture the report. The whole document, including the issues for discussion produced by the AP&P, then goes to the Academic Board for consideration. The review could then be subject to a possible future audit by the Quality Council.
The Dean proceeded to give a summary of the Chemical & Physical Sciences departmental review. The review noted that faculty members have received national and international research awards and national teaching excellence awards. The Department does face external and internal challenges. The reviewers recommended that the next department chair should have a research program based at UTM.

The reviewers commented on the department's clusters:
• The Biological Chemistry and Biophysics clusters are "dynamic and synergistic" although they have not yet reached a desirable critical mass.
• The Earth and Space cluster has not yet developed a "clear vision or synergy" although the reviewers commented that the emphasis on paleoclimate and climate-tectonics links was an appropriate one. Geobiology, geomicrobiology or biogeosciences could also be valuable future areas for consideration.
• Astronomy at UTM has "lost critical mass" and recruitment and perhaps retention "would pose significant challenges". The reviewers suggested it would "either be better to 1) devote the astronomy resources to the earth sciences, leaving astronomy/astrophysics as a focus for the other two campuses, or 2) place emphasis on the planetary sciences which would be more likely to encourage synergies within the department and with UTSC where, we understand, a planetary emphasis is also evolving.

In order to proceed with academic planning, the reviewers suggested the department hold a one-day retreat on an annual basis. Internal departmental relations could be facilitated by a Chair's Advisory Committee that is representative of the department's interest. Based on tours of the undergraduate laboratories, the reviewers observed that labs are "not adequately vented and students and staff are being exposed to noxious chemicals." They also reported that "students commented strongly about inadequate safety in the laboratories: insufficient hood space, and air quality issues." The Dean commented that as a result of the review, the department is currently working with the Offices of the CAO and the Vice-President and Principal to undertake renovations to the labs and to make much needed improvements.

The reviewers noted that communication with the St. George campus is "poor" both in terms of graduate student recruitment and lack of communication among graduate students from different research groups. The reviewers suggested that a department graduate student group and a better departmental web site could help with the latter issue.

The reviewers suggested that the establishment of a single undergraduate club be a priority for the department. A faculty member should be assigned as a mentor, and dedicated club and undergraduate study space should be identified in the new building. With some exceptions, the department's web resources are "weak" in terms of course web sites and available research opportunities. The Dean reported that the department had created a single departmental club and has also moved ahead with improving its web resources.

The reviewers observed that although enrollment has increased substantially in the department, the operating budget has not: "This leads to management from one crisis to another through appeals to senior management for emergency financial support. This lack of autonomy is inefficient and lowers morale." The reviewers suggested a formula be applied for funding of the department based on enrolment in order to "restore a sense of equilibrium, permit effective planning, and incentivize efforts to increase enrollment." The Dean reported that the department has met with Business Services to analyze its budget and have increased it by approximately $200K; they have also instituted lab fees for undergraduates to ensure ongoing maintenance and the upkeep of supplies. The reviewers also noted that some of the equipment in the physics labs is very old and needs replacement if the programs offered are to be credible. In response more lab technicians have been hired to manage safety concerns of students.

Reviewers also commented that the department's general seminars are only partly successful. The department should emphasize speakers that can present accessible seminars in order to maximize attendance. The reviewers also suggested in addition to external speakers, the department should include UTM, other UofT faculty and, especially graduate students, so that the sense of community is enhanced within the department.

The Chair opened the floor to questions.
In response to a member's question, the Dean reported that he had assembled the chairs of wet labs to look at lab safety issues; this process also fostered better communication, so that the CAO and the VP Research were able to collaborate effectively to solve lab safety issues, which appear to transcend to other departments. 

The Dean continued his report by giving a summary of the Geography departmental review.
The Department of Geography has strong teaching and administrative staff. Many of the faculty members are relatively recent to the University. They are productive in terms of research and work together in a cooperative and collegial manner with respect to research infrastructure, community outreach and courses. The reviewers were struck by this admirable department culture. In particular, the reviewers highlighted that "the faculty at UTM are remarkable for their engagement with, concern for, and generosity to students." The department administrative staff is "excellent", "highly trained, willing and eager to constantly upgrade their skills". Staff members are dedicated to students and the larger community.

The program is unusual in Canada for its pragmatic focus, including community-based research and community building, a strong quantitative training component, and a sophisticated skills component.

The Geography and Environmental Studies programs "co-exist well and cooperatively and arguably each gives the other strength it would not otherwise have." The recent streamlining of the environmental studies programs has been positive resulting in healthy enrolment in the programs. The Geographical Information Systems has suffered as a result of a recent faculty member loss and the reviewers recommended that the hiring of a Remote Sensing specialist would "significantly strengthen" the program.

The reviewers report a consensus amongst faculty, staff and students that better math requirements are needed for the Physical Geography and GIS programs, but the Dean reported that there has not been a consensus as of yet as to how to specifically accomplish this.

The reviewers noted that there are some difficulties with the graduate program at UTM, "arguably because it is not under the control of UTM and students must split between campuses". The reviewers reported that "graduate students and faculty within the program suggest that there is good mentorship within the program, that faculty are available for consultation and instruction, and that the quality of the graduate students is high." The reviewers commended the naming of Professor Amrita Danière as Graduate Chair for Geography for the whole U of T system in that it "has gone some considerable distance in redressing a systemic imbalance between the St George campus and the other two campuses but there is lingering concern over how research overhead funds, graduate funds, teaching assistants and teaching assistance funds are allocated between the campuses." It is important that UTM faculty members continue to access a critical mass of graduate students, in particular in the area of human geography. The reviewers noted that it is important the "governance and resources are equitably shared between the campuses" as well as the UTM Geography department "does all it can to create a local community for its graduate students."

The reviewers highlighted an immediate challenge for the department in terms of faculty complement. The faculty complement is "vulnerable: given many members are relatively junior and others are nearing retirement. The Dean commented that although no new hires are planned now, this will be reviewed in the next year and a half.

The reviewers considered that "resources seem to be appropriately distributed" with good Canada Foundation for Innovation CFI-funded labs being constructed to support the research of the physical scientists.

Taken as a whole, the reviewers conclude that the "the tri-campus Geography program at the University of Toronto is one of the largest and most highly regarded in Canada and globally." The UTM Department compares "very favorably" in terms of "numbers of undergraduate majors, educational experience provided by its undergraduate degrees, faculty research productivity and reputation and teaching and research infrastructural support."
The Dean noted that since the Institute for Culture and Communication review was already reported at this committee's last meeting under the agenda item of "ICC Renewal", he would omit his report on the ICC review.

The Dean continued his report by giving a summary of the Language Studies departmental review.
The Department of Language Studies is "one that the University can be proud of. It serves its various constituencies well, and it is responsive to the multiple needs of a university with a diverse student body, and a diverse faculty and staff." The reviewers were impressed by the "high quality of instruction to its students" by teaching staff. They were also "quite impressed by the collective quality and quantity of the members of the entire Department, many of whom have scholarly profiles that are recognized nationally and internationally. The overall impression of this Department is that of a collegial group of teachers and scholars with a strong commitment to the enhancement of the quality of the Department as a whole through individual and collective efforts."
The reviewers noted that the department has met the expectation of its Stepping Up academic plan "by finding new synergies, increasing student enrolment, and building on its strengths in language teaching and learning."

Several of the department's programs have experienced dramatic growth in enrolment, including French Studies and Linguistics. There are currently seven programs in French, as well as a joint program with Italian. The reviewers consider that this is an "unusual amount of program options for one discipline in a medium size department." The Dean noted that the department has worked to cull these program options.

Four options are offered in Italian, which is appropriate for the size of the department. The Language Teaching and Learning option is an "important and distinctive asset" for the program. The reviewers comment on the distinctive and unique aspects of the program. In particular, the "theatre courses with performances sets the Department's Italian section apart from more conservative Italian programs in North America. It is a great academic experience for undergrads, an excellent one for community outreach and a good recruitment tool in high schools. The Department also hosts a vibrant Italian club."

The Linguistics program has a good curriculum and is distinguished by its Experimental Linguistics major and focus in Second Language Pedagogy, Bilingualism and Multiple Language Acquisition. The reviewers noted that this focus is "a great example of programmatic differentiation between the Mississauga and St. George campuses. The program promotes diversity in the language of instruction with courses in English, French and Italian. The reviewers recommended an additional faculty member be hired given the great enrolment increase in the program. The Dean noted that in response to this, there is a search underway in Linguistics.

New languages have been funded on a trial basis depending on demand and Stepping UP academic initiative funding. The courses are well attended however their long-term planning and funding has not been addressed. The reviewers recommended a possible focus on Spanish. The reviewers lauded the Persian project. 

The review also commented on the high quality partnership achieved through the CTEP program. There was also a recommendation for more ROP style projects for students.
The Dean commented that overall the review was extremely positive and pointed out that the department's efforts in community outreach was a model to other departments.

3. New Business:

a) Research report - Devin Kreuger, Director, Research Affairs

The research report presentation is attached hereto as Appendix A in its entirety.

Regarding data sources, Mr. Kreuger noted that Revenue values & award count numbers come from the Cognos data model, based on data uploaded from the Research Information System (RIS) module of SAP. The Cognos data is accurate as of May 21, 2009; Annual tenure-stream faculty FTE data was obtained from the Office of the Vice-Provost, Planning & Budget.

In terms of the challenges in administering units, Mr. Kreuger pointed out that faculty have the option to designate any U of T administrative unit (with which they are affiliated) as the
‘home' of the award and that awards held by UTM faculty anywhere at U of T other than UTM are not captured in the Cognos data as ‘UTM' awards.

Regarding co-principal investigators, Co-Principal Investigators RIS data is only linked to a sole U of T Principal Investigator Research revenue (& award counts) for UTM faculty who
engage in research as co-PIs is not identifiable in the data. He suggested that a solution might be that Co-PIs can request from the PI that she/he authorize an internal sub-grant (a new fund) be established for the co-PI's share of the research funding.
In a note on aggregate data, Mr. Kreuger noted that Data in the Cognos system does not identify individual PIs, nor individual grant awards.

He proceeded to report the findings for the 2008-09 year. Total research revenue for that year came in at just under $10M. In terms of active awards the trend is an increase. With respect to core council grants, NSERC was trending up, CIHR decreased last year, and SSHRC funding also dipped last year, but Mr. Kreuger explained that this kind of up and down movement was a very common pattern in SSHRC funding.

With respect to St. George campus comparisons, UTM core program revenues in 2008-09, were approximately $6K less revenue per FTE faculty (NSERC Discovery, SSHRC Standard & CIHR Operating). In 08-09 UTM has essentially reached parity with St. George on active core grants. UTM's grants may be of lesser value, but per faculty, the campus holds just as many grants.

In terms of department specific data, the analysis done for UTM was duplicated for each academic unit at UTM, and the results distributed to the Chairs in July. There were a number of interesting findings, including UTM units that are ahead of their St. George counterparts in per faculty core program revenues & active awards, and UTM
units that have dramatically increased their quantifiable research activity in the last five years.

For department specific trends, please refer to the report presentation available in Appendix A to these minutes.

The next meeting of the Academic Affairs Committee is scheduled for Monday, March 29, 2010.
The meeting adjourned at 2:10 p.m.

Chair _____________________________ Secretary ___________________________