By Natalie Sit
Academic issues are at the heart of this portfolio, which encompasses everything from scholarships to university programs. The vp Academic must lead members of the Students’ Academic Assembly in representing students at the General Faculties Council, and in developing policy regarding students’ academic lives. In addition, the vp Academic must ensure that students who seek assistance from the su on academic matters receive the help they need.
Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides is a nice guy, but that’s about it. He’s had his shining moments like the quality survey and the quality of education money proposal but, that’s about it.
The power of the vp Academic lies in representing students on various committees and creating academic policy, which will direct the Students’ Union when it comes time to communicate students’ needs to administration, Nicolaides has failed to do that for his constituents.
As of Nicolaides’ last review, he only completed one policy on inquiry-based learning. Over the past four months, he’s only completed a blended learning policy and an academic integrity policy. But Academic Commissioner Beth Counsell produced a Goods and Services Tax on textbooks policy, which the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations adopted.
What’s worrisome is he admitted there were other policies on research and the educational impact of tuition he wanted to examine and pass but became distracted by the election and legislative matters. Considering an important role of the vp Academic is to examine the academic practices of the university, that internal focus is detrimental.
Nicolaides has also been criticized, and rightly so, for meddling too much in legislation and trying to horn in on non-academic issues. He claims his roles as an executive member and slc member entitle him to move out of the academic realm, but he would better serve students by initiating closer studies of the university’s policies.
It’s good Nicolaides initiated the quality survey, even though it was $1,000 over budget and several months late. It has directed the quality of education money towards better teaching and faculty scholarships-money that was probably already in the works from the university. However, it hasn’t made the expected large splash and probably demands more work to promote students’ concerns to the general public, something vp Academic-elect Laura Schultz pledged to do during her election campaign.
Also, it is still unknown how Nicolaides used his commission in any useful way. Counsell wrote her gst policy but Academic Commissioners Kassim Amery, Birju Dattani and Chris Ng did not produce any tangible results other than joke motions in slc meetings and a malicious and time wasting yet understandable desire to pester President Jayna Gilchrist. However, the commission did advise Nicolaides when needed and he seems satisfied with their efforts.
As for the Students’ Academic Assembly, it has been plagued by many members leaving on academic requirements. Understandable, but it is to the detriment of the assembly. And while the remaining faculty representative is competent in their own faculty, as a whole saa served only as passive consultants to Nicolaides’ two policies. This is highly ironic since Nicolaides enacted legislation which will allow saa to cover more academic topics like quality of education, teaching and tenure.
A bright point was the one brainstorming group composed of Ng, Faculty of Humanities representative Paige Forsythe, Faculty of Fine Arts representative Janet Downie and Faculty of Science representative Gloria Mak, which brought up interesting points such as withdrawal dates.
Nicolaides is also responsible, along with 20 other individuals, for the absolute horridness of the su. While Gilchrist did provided poor leadership, it was no excuse for anyone to allow the su to denigrate into the shitshow it is.
As the second-in-command, the onus was on Nicolaides to step up. Instead he resorted to pestering Gilchrist and busying himself elsewhere.