Taking action on Student Mental Health
This is an excerpt of the latest entry in President Feridun Hamdullahpur's blog and also appears in the Insight section of the Waterloo Region Record.
Millions of Canadians, including celebrities, sports teams, governments and universities, made it a point to show their support for people struggling with mental health challenges at the end of January.
Hitting the retweet button is an easy way for any of us to show our support for mental health wellness. It is a lot harder when we're asked to do more than click a button.
The conversation about mental health in our community extends well beyond one day in the middle of winter.
During the thorough work of the President's Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health over the past year, the committee explored the complex issue of student wellness on campus. As the committee's work progressed our students had their voices heard.
I hear their voices. I hear their concerns. And, I hear their ideas.
As the President's Advisory Committee has said in its report — talk needs to turn to action. That's why we're starting to implement the recommendations contained in the committee's report on improving student mental health.
As the committee's report has recommended to support our growing student community, we are starting the process to hire more mental health professionals, providing students with the access to the support they need.
The actions we take cannot simply be limited to counselling support. The recommendations I received from the committee are a wide ranging, thoughtful collection of ideas that will help us reshape the student experience at Waterloo and equip our faculty and staff to identify and respond to student mental health challenges.
Educators at every level understand that for students to achieve their potential, they must feel well. We cannot let the demands of life outweigh the need for our students to experience the enriching and fulfilling experience I know Waterloo can provide for them.
Waterloo named one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers
In early March, The University of Waterloo was recognized as one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers. The Canada’s Best Diversity Employers Award recognizes organizations from the Canada’s Top 100 employer group that have exceptional workplace diversity and inclusiveness programs. Employers are awarded for noteworthy and unique diversity initiatives for one or more of the following groups a) Women; b) Members of visible minorities: c) Persons with disabilities; d) Aboriginal peoples; and e) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender/Transsexual (LGBT) peoples.
The University of Waterloo was selected for its commitment to gender equity. With input from various advisory councils and change champions, the University proactively promotes the advancement of those who self-identify as women.
In addition, the following are reasons the University was selected for the award:
- The Organizational and Human Development Office’s unique 7-part inclusivity series.
- The only Canadian organization participating in the United Nations HeForShe campaign. Through the campaign Waterloo has been committed to boosting participation in STEM experiences for girls, enhancing female faculty representation to 30 percent by 2020, and supporting the advancement of women in leadership roles.
- W3s (Waterloo Women’s Wednesdays), a monthly gathering and discussion between woman-identified grad students, post-docs, staff and faculty.
- The Equity and Inclusivity Award to recognize a member or affiliate of the University community whose actions have demonstrated exemplary commitment to improving equity, inclusivity and diversity on campus.
When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusivity, everybody at the University is a stakeholder. Our recruitment policies and practices have been reviewed to ensure we recruit from as wide a pool of candidates as possible, including historically disadvantaged and under-represented groups. We won’t shy away from the challenges of creating a safe, equitable and inclusive environment for the entire campus community. After all, as Marilyn Thompson, Associate Provost Human Resources puts it, “We have every reason to want our people to be successful.”
Representatives of the University attended a reception on March 2 and received the award.
Canada's Best Diversity Employers is now in its 11th year.
Academic freedom discussed at President's luncheon
More than 85 faculty and staff members gathered in Federation Hall on Monday for a conversation about academic freedom at the University of Waterloo.
The President's Luncheon on Academic Freedom included opening remarks from President Feridun Hamdullahpur and interim Vice-President, Academic & Provost George Dixon and featured panelists Karen Jack, university secretary, Bryan Tolson, civil and environmental engineering professor and president of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW), and Shannon Dea, professor in the philosophy department, associate chair of graduate studies and a FAUW vice-president.
“Academic freedom is more than a concept,” said President Hamdullahpur, “it’s an important issue. We should be proud that Waterloo is taking a leadership role and approaching this subject in an open and free manner."
Each panelist spoke for a few minutes, giving their perspectives on academic freedom through an institutional, academic, and advocacy lens.
Karen Jack outlined the policies and documents that underpinned academic freedom at the University of Waterloo: the Memorandum of Agreement between the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo and the University of Waterloo, the University's Policy 33 on Ethical Behaviour, and Policy 71 on Student Discipline, which she noted was a policy aimed at protecting students even though the word "discipline" appears in its title. This framework of guiding documents served to enshrine both rights and responsibilities when it comes to the issue of academic freedom on campus, bringing the institutional autonomy of the University into focus as well as protections for members of the University community.
Professor Tolson spoke about FAUW's commitment to the academic freedom of its members and the advocacy work done by FAUW's Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee, which supports FAUW members when questions of academic freedom and tenure arise.
Professor Dea spoke in her role as a scholar who has been doing research into academic freedom and its dissemination and highlighted some misconceptions about academic freedom and freedom of expression, which she said were on the one hand related, but on the other hand not the same thing. Professor Dea's research into academic freedom is being highlighted on her Daily Academic Freedom blog, and includes thoughts on institutional academic freedom statements, statements made by post-secondary advocacy networks, and collective agreements at Universities.
"One of the results of my research?" Professor Dea said. "Academic freedom is complicated."
Professor Dea noted that the issue is often fraught with competing employer-employee issues and principles that for one organization, like Universities Canada will lean towards institutional autonomy but for others like the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) will lean towards individual freedoms. "My position is that the path is somewhere in the middle," Dea said.
Provost Dixon posed questions to the panelists, including 'what is academic freedom?' (which Dea answered by saying "a distinctive class of freedoms possessed by certain types of education and research institutions in virtue of the social role they fulfil"), 'who has academic freedom at Waterloo? (which Jack answered by saying 'anybody engaged with the teaching and research enterprise, has protection within our policy documents'), and 'when does academic freedom work well at Waterloo?' (which Tolson answred by saying 'academic freedom works well when the administration and FAUW agrees that there has been a violation.').
The panel engaged in a Q&A session moderated by Dixon, with questions from the floor on a number of issues including how to protect the presentation of unsavoury or unpopular ideas and the financial costs involved in providing security, the possibility of funding a scholars-at-risk program for academics who have fled their unstable or hostile home countries, the encroachment of non-academic bodies on research, and how academic freedom is affected by government funding (or lack of funding) and budget cuts.
“This is a subject near and dear to my heart – I wouldn’t consider myself an academic or scholar without subscribing to the notions of freedom of expression and academic freedom,” President Hamdullahpur said in closing. “We all came here to discuss a subject we all agree on, but we have different ideas. My understanding and knowledge increased significantly here today, which shows the value of having these discussions."
Academic freedom is also the subject of a recent entry on President Hamdullahpur's blog.
Nutrition Month "myth vs. fact" for March 16
Here's the latest Nutrition Month "myth vs. fact" supplied by Health Services Dietitian Sandra Ace:
Myth: Processed foods aren’t healthy and should be avoided at all costs.
Fact: A recent study commissioned by Heart and Stroke Canada found that Canadians consume more ultra-processed foods and drinks than any other country in the world except for the United States. In fact, nearly half of the average Canadian’s daily calories come from foods and beverages that contain very little intact, wholesome food. There is plenty of evidence showing that people with a high intake of these nutrient poor, sugar-filled, salty and saturated fat-laden foods are more likely to be overweight or obese and have higher risks of many diseases including diabetes, heart disease, dementia and some types of cancer.
Healthier convenience foods are minimally processed and still retain most or all of a food’s natural nutrients. Use them to help you make tasty meals in minutes. Check the Nutrition Facts and select foods with less sodium, fat and sugar. Here are some convenience foods that are shortcuts to easy, nutritious and tasty meals: canned tuna or canned salmon, pre-cut fresh veggies, canned legumes such as chickpeas or lentils, canned diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, eggs, plain frozen fish fillets, frozen vegetables and fruit, 100 percent whole wheat pasta and 100 percent whole grain wraps and pizza crusts.