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.
Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides said his work is “not stuff you can physically see” in his interview. Indeed, that is true.
Seven months into his term and students’ have yet to see a single policy out of him. He said he’s wrapping up an inquiry-based learning policy, a policy started in September. By this time last year, the previous VP Academic had two policies.
Nicolaides lists the bookstore loan as a success. However, he and the Students’ Academic Assembly were approached by the university bookstore with the idea and most of the details. Nicolaides’ role was to ensure it was implemented, which he dealt with competently.
A success Nicolaides can truly claim is the quality survey. And praise must be give because both Dr. Peggy Patterson, Associate Vice-President Student Affairs, and SU President Jayna Gilchrist said the $1 million from the university for quality initiatives is a direct result of the survey. The survey is also important because the university believes increasing tuition leads to higher quality. Even though it has been delayed due to budgetary matters, it looks like it will have an impact.
One failure of Nicolaides is pushing back Academic Awareness Week. Nicolaides delayed it because he "wanted it to be good." However, students should ask why one could not plan an awareness week in seven months prior to the event. He has listed it as one of his goals for the next semester, along with his only other goals of completing policies on blended learning, research and admission procedures, and "going full force into issues."
Nicolaides does not use his commission to its fullest extent. It seems there are no projects for them such as policy development or even helping plan the awareness week. However, it may have been because his commission was not complete until the recent by-election.
Perhaps related is the lack of leadership in Students’ Academic Assembly. The VP Academic is an important position as it develops the academic direction for the SU. To do so, the VP must use SAA to delve into pressing academic issues.
However, Nicolaides’ SAA has been in session for seven months and only one policy has been brought forward. There are 13 faculty representatives and with such diverse issues like blended learning, inquiry-based learning and research developing at the university, there is plenty to develop and discuss. Add a delayed Academic Awareness Week and it might be a while before students know how these policies will affect them.
Nicolaides has also failed to use his commission to his advantage by not defining their roles or delegating tasks. However, with a full commission now this may be rectified.
In Students’ Legislative Council, he becomes "worked up about additions to the agenda and having late meetings," wrote one student representative. In fact, because Nicolaides was so intent that new additions could not be made, it delayed discussion on issues that mattered and made the meeting longer.
While there are some strong personalities among the executives, many have said Nicolaides is approachable and open to new ideas while also asking the advice of student and faculty representatives.
In short, Nicolaides is a nice guy, which some have said is not praise at all.