Quick Links

September 25, 2007


Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Minutes of the Departmental Meeting on September 25, 2007

Present: R. Abhari, T. Arbel, J. Bajcsy, B. Boulet, C. Brown, C. Champness, L. Chen, J. Cooperstock, M. El Gamal, F. Ferrie, K. Fraser, F. Galiana, D. Giannacopoulos, W. Gross, A. Hamoui, V. Hayward, K. Johnson, P. Kabal, A. Kirk, F. Labeau, T. Le-Ngoc, H. Leib, S. Lessard, M. Levine, E. Lotayef, D. Lowther, S. Mannor, L. Mason, H. Mayer, L. McKenna, P. Menon, Z. Mi, B. Ooi, L. Parris, D. Plant, I. Psaromiligos, R. Rose, C. Rossi, I Shih, T. Szkopek, J. Webb, A. Wojciechowska, S.C. Wong, Z. Zilic. F. Nabki, I. Kostko

Regrets: R. Khazaka

The meeting was called to order at 3:04 pm.

D. Plant opened the meeting: I would like to welcome everyone back. I hope you all had pleasant summers.

1. Approval of the Agenda: D. Plant asked for a motion to adopt the enclosed agenda. He stated, Before doing so and as I indicated in my email from this morning, I would like to table the item proposed by Professor Cooperstock entitled “Academic Integrity Issues” to our planned October 30, 2007 meeting. This will provide everyone who would like to participate in the discussion ample time to prepare.”

J. Cooperstock requested that this item “Academic Integrity” be reinstated to the agenda and asked for the agenda to be amended.

D. Plant asked for a motion to amend the agenda to include “Academic Integrity”. J. Cooperstock, seconded by M. Levine. Carried.

D. Plant opened the floor to discussion: F. Galiana expressed that everyone should have more time to read the amendment. J. Cooperstock stated that the issue had been discussed at a previous meeting and that the department was given the amended agenda early on the morning of September 25th to read. Not all people have had the chance to read it. J. Cooperstock stressed that it was urgent. Furthermore, J. Cooperstock wished to discuss this issue at today’s meeting.

F. Galiana commented that this kind of discussion does not belong in a department meeting and suggested it should be done within another forum. J. Cooperstock responded that he believes in transparency and feels it is time to address these matters. M. Levine felt that a compromise could be made with a postponement of this issue until the next department meeting in October. J. Cooperstock requested that a vote be taken to reinstate the tabled agenda item.

D. Plant called for a vote to approve the inclusion of “Academic Integrity”.

A vote was taken: 4 for, 6 opposed, remainder abstained. It was concluded that a majority vote had not been achieved to amend the agenda. Motion denied.

J. Cooperstock requested to read his statement during “Other Business”, D. Plant agreed.

D. Plant asked for a motion to adopt the agenda. B. Boulet, A. Kirk seconded. Carried.

2. Approval of the Minutes (May 23, 2007): K. Fraser, seconded by B. Boulet. Carried.

3. Security at McGill University

Mr. Pierre Barbarie, of the McGill Security Services, made a presentation to the Department. He circulated emergency pamphlets and explained who the Security Committee was and their function. P. Barbarie also request suggestions on how the security service could be improved. M. Levine inquired about several incidences that have been going on in universities across North America (i.e. Virginia Tech) in the past few years, and asked if our campus was well prepared. P. Barbarie responded that he is in the process of researching at other campuses around the city to compare and look at ways of dealing with a crisis situation. F. Ferrie commented that maybe security could implement a type of fire alarm alert sound for each floor. K. Fraser commented that a great percentage of the student body all log onto computers and suggested that an alert could be set up online in case of emergency. B. Boulet also mentioned that there are concerns about break and entry and asked what could be done about this. P. Barbarie assured everyone that the Security Committee is trying to improve response times in order to limit theft and that Security relies on the technology (i.e. cameras) and manpower (security guards) to counteract theft. He explained the success of the new STOP Program, a plug that can be put on laptops to enable stolen laptops to be tracked. A. Kirk asked if we are conducting our security services the same way as other campuses downtown. P. Barbarie assured him that McGill’s downtown campus is safe. B. Boulet asked the number to use in case of emergency. P. Barbarie stated that all 911 calls are first put through to extension 3000 then a security guard is dispatched to the location immediately. P. Barbarie closed by urging everyone to look at Security Services website or call if they have questions or concerns.

4. Remarks from the Chair:

a) New Arrivals: Mi bio: Zetian Mi received the B.Sc. degree from Beijing University in 1997, the M.Sc. degree from the University of Iowa in 2001, and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Michigan in 2006. From 2006 to 2007, he was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan. He also worked as a MBE engineer in Picometrix from 2001 to 2003. At McGill, he is a member of the Nano-Electronic Devices and Materials Group, working in the areas of epitaxial growth of self-organized nanostructures and their applications in nanophotonics and nanoelectronics.
Parris bio: Lois Parris holds a diploma in Library Technology and an Administrative Office Technology Certificate. Over the past 10 years she has worked for Webster Library (Concordia University), international trade (steel imports) and recently did a temporary assignment with the provincial government (Batshaw Youth and Family Services).
Brown bio: Caroline Brown is a graduate of Concordia University with a B.A. in Psychology. She has been with McGill for 20 years in the Desautels Faculty of Management which included 13 years in the Masters Programs Office. Her role included the development, implementation and management of specialized and private Masters Programs.

I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome back Sarah Lessard as the new Student Affairs Coordinator for the Undergraduate Programs Office.

b) Kudos: I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Ms. Lori McKenna who has reached a significant milestone having been at McGill for 25 years. Congratulations Lori and we are glad you are with us!

c) Since our last Dept. meeting in May, and working with the Departmental Leadership Team of Associate Chairs and Directors, the Nominating Committee, and the Professional Staff, we have been focusing on the following issues:

  • Defining the Departmental committee structure for the current academic year (more on this later)
  • Defining and implementing a new services oriented model for the Professional Staff (more on this later).
  • Renovations to Departmental office suit and elevator lobby
  • Budget negotiations with the Dean’s office
  • Hiring three new professors
  • Accreditation

Please allow me to review where we stand on these subjects.

I will speak more about the first two items, namely the departmental committees and the services model in a moment.

As you are all aware renovations to 633 and the adjacent elevator lobby have commenced. Inspired by renovations to the Student Center, and to the Mechanical Engineering Departmental Offices, Debbie Davies and I have worked with our building director, Mr. Jonathan Rousham, and the architects to finalize plans over the summer. I trust everyone will be pleased with the results. As to the projected completion date, current estimates indicate the job will be completed by early November. I will keep everyone apprised of relevant developments. As an aside, we have negotiated with the EEGSS to have mailboxes for our graduate students reside in the EEGSS lounge located in MC017. I would like to personally thank Fred Nabaki and his team for working with us to make this happen.

With respect to the budget and as I indicated throughout the year last year, we are currently running a deficit. I am working with members of the Professional Staff as well as the Dean’s office to determine mechanisms to produce a balanced budget. We are making good progress. The service model I will be describing in a moment is designed to help solve this problem. I had hoped to present to the Department the 2007/08 budget at this meeting, but I’m afraid it’s going to take some additional time. I should be able to present the number in October.

d) Hiring: we have been given three slots this year. Please note that the hiring process will be accelerated and will commence this fall as opposed to next spring. The rational of course being that we want to get the best and brightest here commence this fall as opposed to next spring. The rational of course being that we want to get the best and brightest here for interviews early in the process in order to be in a position to make competitive offers by early 2008. Stay tuned on this, more to come.

e) Accreditation: please note that the CEAB will be visiting November 5 and 6. The visit is being coordinated at the faculty level by Associate Dean Jim Clark – thus we are in good hands. For those implicated in the visit, we will provide additional information as soon as it becomes available. If you have any update on your Professional Registration status, please send this to Associate Chair Benoit Boulet.

f) Committees: Although already announced earlier in the month, I would like to point out a few attributes of the current committee structure.

1) Nominating Committee and Merit Committee: I would like to personally thank the members of these two committees for their service to date. 2) Teaching Assignments and Teaching Loads Committee (TATLC): given the success of this committee last year under Professor Boulet’s leadership, we will have the committee operate again this year to continue its good works. We will endeavor to have the 2008 – 2009 teaching assignments completed by December. 3) Curriculum Committee: we have “stacked the deck” by including a significant number of registered engineers on this committee. This strategy is designed to assist us during the upcoming accreditation visit. 4) Undergraduate Advising and Awards Committee and the Graduate Student Financing Committee: now that Caroline Brown has joined us, we wanted to create two separate and identifiable entities; the first committee will focus on our undergraduate students and the second on our graduate students. This will provide flexibility and efficiency. 5) IT Services Committee: This committee is chaired by Professor Zeljko Zilic who has agreed to take the helm on this important topic. I will have more to say about this committee in a moment when I discuss the organizational chart. 6) Software Engineering Program Review Task Force: adopting the model used last year when we struck the Teaching Assignments and Teaching Loads Task Force, we struck a committee that Professor Frank Ferrie has agreed to lead. The mandate of this committee will be to review our current program in order to determine ways to improve. Having been operational for 5 years, this seemed like the appropriate time to undertake such a review. Frank will be populating this committee shortly; stay tuned.

Concluding remarks: In a department of our size, our committees are the engine that moves the department forward; I am grateful to everyone for their service.

g) New Org. Structure: I would like to introduce you to a new Organizational Structure and Services Model for the Department. This structure was presented to the Professional Staff members on September 18, 2007. Working closely with the Associate Chairs and Directors for the past four months, we have identified what we consider to be an optimum configuration. It also reflects the current compliment of professional staff assigned to the Department. In addition to the enclosed organizational structure, we are also building documentation describing the roles and responsibilities of each service group. This information is also included in the handout.

Comments:

1) The structure is designed to provide transparency, flexibility, and efficiency, amongst other things. 2) Each of the groups will endeavor to work as a service group. These groups will provide services to all members of the department, including students, professional staff, and academic staff. 3) Through this structure, ideally all members of the department will know where to go to receive the service they require. 4) Each of the groups is currently working on detailed descriptions of the services they will provide; this is a work in progress that we hope to complete this fall; your input is most welcome. 5) This structure represents the Professional Staff compliment assigned to the Department for the moment. Because this group is paid from the Departmental Operating budget, their mandate is to support the teaching and administrative mission of the department. 6) All research based services moving forward will have to be delivered on a cost-recovery basis; given our budget situation, we have no alternative. Each of the implicated services groups (e.g. IT, Mechanical Design and Machining) is currently working out details for operating in a cost-recovery mode, where appropriate. You will find some of the details in the handout. Again, your input is most welcome.

Before opening the floor to questions, would Jon, Benoit, Fabrice, or Zeljko like to add to this overview.

T. Szkopek asked if there was an official policy regarding how things are paid over the budget or research fund. Z. Zilic indicated that materials used for courses should be covered from the basic budget while everything else could be paid for by what is left in the balance. F. Labeau asked about the budget for licenses. D. Plant explained that this structure is meant to be flexible and provides a definite way to cover these costs. R. Rose asked if there are possibly mechanisms in place to do things. D. Plant explained it’s a work in progress. B. Ooi questioned the structure and asked if it is completely necessary to go to the exact person who is listed; since often the person he needs to see for certain tasks is not available. A. Kirk commented that this model could be more effective if we were reporting back to Directors or the Chair. B. Boulet agreed to meet with supervisors and managers to review how this model is functioning and give a complete report on the results. F. Labeau commented that people are getting service from the staff on the bottom of the chart; however, when that staff is not available, they go straight to the top. D. Plant stated that he wants to avoid Administrative staff being pressured.

5. Appointment procedures and invitation letters

L. McKenna explained how an appointment sheet has to be done. She asked that professors ensure that all the information be supplied so that she can fill out the appointment efficiently and quickly; without the appointees filling in the HR forms nothing will get processed. L. McKenna stated that everyone must be accounted for because of McGill regulations.

J. Johnson asked if all these regulations apply to people who have not been appointed by formal letter. L. McKenna explained that if we do not do appointments for the appointees and something happens, the University could be liable. B. Ooi commented that this past summer two visiting students came and he just put them in as Academic Trainees. D. Lowther and A. Kirk explained they did the same thing as well. F. Labeau commented that for the Graduate Exchange, people are asking how they could hire graduate students.

10. Report from the Curriculum Committee

L. Chen explained what the Curriculum had planned for this year and gave some important points of information. He informed us that the Faculty of Engineering is thinking of offering courses in conjunction with the Continuing Education Program under a banner which will be non-degree granted. L. Chen explained that the idea is to implement intensive type course and/or professional development. He asked for suggestions for input on courses and continuing education and urged that if there is anything to add simply contact J. Clark. R. Rose asked how these continuing education courses are different from courses at American universities. A. Kirk added that these courses are voluntary and would be a great way to earn more money. F. Labeau commented that Continuing Education is looking for ideas on what kind of courses they should have. L. Chen stated that the areas are likely environmental engineering, aerospace engineering, and microelectronics.

11. Other Business:

Academic Integrity: J. Cooperstock came forward to read his statement:

“Mr. Chairman,

As professor at this university, we are expected to uphold standards of academic integrity. We are asked to place a notice on our course outlines stating that McGill University values academic integrity. Our department’s web site declares, “If any part of a document you submit for credit towards your degree is not entirely your own work and you do not make it clear in the document that this is the case, then you have committed plagiarism and, if discovered, will be punished.” Recent actions by our Faculty make a mockery of these principles.

I first turn to the question of a penalty assessed for late submission of a course assignment. I quote from a March 24 email received from Professor Ghoshal, Associate Dean Student Affairs:

“We generally accept the student was genuinely sick if the medical note does not appear to be forged. The question here is, could he have contacted you before the 15th to inform you of his situation? If yes, your penalty holds. I’ll figure this out in my meeting with the student.

“I have no problems with your policy on late submissions except that, if a medical situation arises where the student cannot possibly contact you a week in advance (e.g. hospitalized, rendered immobile), the student should be exempt from this policy.”

I now quote from an email received from Professor Clark, Associate Dean Academic, who conducted the re-evaluation of the student’s work:

“I remind you all that the re-grade form that I signed actually states that the grade in the course should NOT be changed! As far as I was concerned when I signed the form (and I never retracted or altered this form), the student should have failed the course. …

“It was only a few days later that the late penalty for one of the assignments was removed. It was this latter step (which I had nothing to do with, apart from acknowledging that dropping of the late penalty would increase the overall grade to 50+%) that the student was given a pass. I believe that the Associate Dean of Student Affairs must have had some reason to override the instructors application of the late penalty. Again, this may have involved confidential information that we are not privy to. I don’t know. My personal opinion is that this student should have failed the course, and likely plagiarized the assignment. This opinion was communicated to the AD student affairs and the Dean, and they noted my concern.”

Mr. Chairman, how can we, as professors, maintain academic integrity when repeated instances of plagiarism are ignored? How can we maintain fair and objective standards in grading our students when, at the whim of the administration, one student’s work is regarded by another professor who candidly admits to applying different standards? Keep in mind that this practice, applied to assignments – not final examinations – goes against the written policy of our Faculty, which reads: “Any request to have term work re-evaluated must be made directly to the instructor concerned.” And I (as the instructor) had already conducted a re-evaluation of the grades assigned by the TAs. Finally, how can we expect to maintain credibility when students guilty of academic misconduct see their marks increased after sending belligerent emails, in which they threaten to sue the professor, the department, the faculty”?

Mr. Chairman, when I first raised these issues in our Departmental Meeting of May 23, you advised me to communicate my concerns to the Dean, which I did that same day. When I met with you privately on June 7, at your request, you offered me several assurances: (1) That you would demand the Dean meet with me one-on-one to discuss my concerns; (2) that you look after your faculty and make sure they are treated fairly, and (3) that no change of grade would be effected without my being consulted and intimately involved in the process. You gave me your word on this.

None of these assurances were borne out by actual events. The Dean would not meet until he called for disciplinary action against me, the student’s grade was elevated, with neither my being consulted as to what that grade should become nor any involvement in the process, and my private computer files were extracted from archives at the demand of the Dean, with neither my consent nor my being informed.

Mr. Chairman, your assurances have proven worthless, and your silence until now has left me questioning your leadership. If you value academic integrity and if you wish to convince us of your personal integrity, I call on you to step down as Chair, effective immediately, until such time as these matters are resolved in a manner as outlined in my list of Desired Outcomes.

After J. Cooperstock finished reading his statement, F. Galiana reiterated as he stated earlier in the meeting that he feels J. Cooperstock must understand that this is not the time and place for this kind of discussion, he suggested that J. Cooperstock should go to a Grievance Committee or the university Senate with this matter. F. Galiana also remarked that J. Cooperstock was being very disrespectful towards D. Plant requesting him to resign as Chair. M. Levine told everyone that this sort of thing is rampant around the university and if they thought that J. Cooperstock is the only one, they are wrong because it may very well happen to them. M. Levine also stated that he himself had received a death threat and that he believes that when it comes to the subject of grading students, the university usually takes the student’s side. He also said there are only approximately 1,000 professors, so the professors are outnumbered in situations like this, however, he agreed with J. Cooperstock that this requires urgent attention; something definitely must be done. A. Kirk also remarked that he did not appreciate or feel comfortable with J. Cooperstock’s demand that the Chair step down. A. Kirk stated that kind of remark was not appropriate.

After the discussion D. Plant asked if that was all for “Other Business”. K. Fraser reminded everyone about the Iron Ring ceremony (November 16th, 17:00 in Redpath Hall) and requested that everyone put in an effort to attend. If staff are not obligated and are engineers, this is the opportunity to be come a member of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.

D. Plant asked for a motion to close the meeting.

Motion to adjourn: B. Boulet at 4:46 pm. Carried.

L. Parris, Secretary

Classified as