An open letter to the Carleton University Board of Governors regarding the proposed new Sexual Violence Policy:

On 1 December 2016, Carleton’s Board of Governors will vote on whether to approve a sexual violence policy that the administration has been drafting. The province mandates that such a policy be implemented by 1 January 2017, so the board’s feet are being held to the fire by the administration with this very late submission. There has been a modicum of consultation with stakeholders on campus, albeit in a divide-and-conquer fashion. A description of the latest draft of this important new policy, dated 15 November 2016, is a contentious document, with many members of the campus community still having serious concerns.

As things currently stand, on 1 December 2016, the administration will present the board with the new sexual violence policy, but no other members of the campus community have been invited to present their concerns and suggestions about how to improve this policy. I therefore strongly encourage the board to invite interested stakeholders to present their concerns and suggestions. At a minimum, the board should invite the following groups to present on the sexual violence policy at the 1 December 2016 open session:
– Carleton University Student Association (CUSA)
– Graduate Student Association (GSA)
– CUPE 4600
– CUPE 2424
– Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA)
This will allow the board to genuinely make a balanced decision as to whether to approve or modify this important sexual violence policy.

Given the extraordinary interest and relevance to the roughly 30,000 people on campus who will be affected by the new sexual violence policy, it also behooves the board to allow the campus community to watch the 1 December 2016 debate in-person. To this end, I strongly recommend that the 1 December open session be moved to a larger venue. The existing boardroom only has space for between three and eight audience members. Therefore, move the open session to some place like Porter Hall, a large room in Residence Commons, or the large open space on the second floor of the River Building by the living green wall.

This letter simply reflects my own personal beliefs and is not written on behalf of anybody but myself. Thank you very much.

Sincerely,
Root Gorelick

Immediately after the end of today’s Board of Governor’s meeting, i.e. less than an hour after the board meeting ended, the chair of the board sent an en masse e-mail stating that, “all faculty and staff will receive a meeting summary after each Board meeting.” However, what was sent was not a summary of the meeting, but rather a pre-written and pre-authorized statement about what the administration and board’s executive hoped would come out of the meeting. There was not enough time to write a summary, let alone have it approved, after the board meeting ended. The document that was sent thus sounds more like public relations than a summary. Indeed, a genuine summary of the 27 September 2016 open session would have contained items such as:

  • The board was asked to approve Audited Financial Statements that board members did not have time to read – the statements were only distributed to board members an hour before the meeting;
  • Deb Matthews, the Ontario Minister for Advanced Education, will probably require that all universities submit new Strategic Mandate Agreements this fall that include all new programs that universities wish to offer over the next several years, even though Carleton’s Senate has never been consulted on this vital academic matter;
  • A request for retraction and apology from a governor who called Carleton students “Brownshirts and Maoists” and who subsequently got promoted to vice-chair of the board despite or maybe even because of this brazen remark;
  • Lack of meaningful input from students into the provincially mandated but still undrafted Sexual Violence Policy;
  • Board meetings will now be recorded in audio, albeit without any promise to release such audio recording to the public and without any promise to preserve these important public records.

Although I am highly critical of the prescient so-called summary released by the board, the board chair did do something very good by posting on a public website the agenda and consent agenda for today’s open session, including supporting documents. Kudos.

Ambience

This was my first board meeting as an audience member. I had to request a seat in the boardroom a week in advance, although was only told on the day of the meeting that I had been allotted a reserved seat. The boardroom ostensibly has eight seats for audience members. However four of those eight seats today were filled by staff reporting to the vice-president finance, and those four individuals left at the end of the open session without having ever said a word. Another of those eight seats was reserved for the dean of engineering. Another seat was reserved for a reporter from the campus newspaper, the Charlatan, which I think is a stellar idea. Ironically when I requested an audience seat for all board open sessions this academic year, the university secretary wrote, “As the number seats available is subject to change based on the agenda, you cannot reserve a seat months in advance.” She also wrote that, “Due to fire and safety restrictions, seating in the room is limited, and is generally reserved on a first-come, first-served basis subject to ensuring diversity of access by members of the community.” What kind of diversity can you have when audience seats are mostly occupied by administrative underlings? The board needs to return to a larger room, such as the senate room in which they met for many years.

The Board of Governors’ executive committee ratified the collective agreement with my faculty association, CUASA. That collective agreement states that, “The [faculty] association shall have the right to have an observer present at open university meetings.” This should include open sessions of the Board of Governors. As the faculty association’s communications officer, it would make sense for me to be that observer at all upcoming board open sessions. Yet the university secretary wrote, “you cannot reserve a seat months in advance”, despite the board’s executive approving a collective agreement that specifies that I can reserve a seat as the CUASA communications officer.

The so-called open session still seemed prison-like. A special constable guarded the boardroom door and had to verify my identity before entering. While this boardroom has beautiful views of the river, with windows on two of the four sides, all the blinds were fully closed so that nobody could look in or out.

The chair of the board announced that audio recordings will now be made of all board meetings. He then said that this is largely to insure accurate taking of minutes. That is a peculiar assertion insofar as meeting minutes are usually and intentionally devoid of controversial items. The chair said that these audio recording will not be made public and possibly not even retained once minutes to the meeting are drafted. While I applaud making audio recordings of public meetings, such as open sessions of the board, it seems absolutely wrong to not release or to intentionally destroy such important public archival records. It is far too contentious destroying or hiding recordings. For instance, consider the case of José Rodriguez.

The new chair of the board did a fabulous job following proper parliamentary procedure, thereby remedying many of my complaints in previous blog postings. Kudos, although this does not fix the myriad due process wrongs of the previous two years.

Dog-and-Pony shows

While the Board of Governors has plenty of really important decisions to make, for some reason the upper administration distracts them from this important work by taking up huge portions of open sessions with silly show-and-tell. This time around, the board had two of these dog-and-pony shows, with the vice-president research having 20 minutes to discuss university rankings and the dean of engineering having 30 minutes to discuss the engineering capstone course.

The discussion of university rankings should have taken no more than five minutes. Many of the rankings are silly. Carleton, as well as most (all?) other Canadian universities, has recently done worse in rankings of universities world-wide because Asian universities are now ascending the rankings. Our rankings will be further diminished because a large component of the rankings are “international orientation”, which means numbers of international students, international faculty, and international collaborators. Many potential international students and faculty members may now opt for schools in Asia, which until recently had not been an attractive option.

One item that was noteworthy in this presentation was the vice-president research stating that a viable option for improving our ranking may be to recruit senior faculty members. This would be a major shift for Carleton, who almost exclusively recruits assistant professors, not faculty of higher rank, other than for administrative posts.

I have no idea why the dean of engineering was asked to waste a half-hour of everybody’s time to talk about their capstone course, something which does not really affect university policy, but is a mandatory requirement for accreditation. In fact, I felt sorry for the dean being given such an unenviable task. He did the best he could, but this is really boring material. The only highlight was a slide that he showed about a sustainable urban development on Albert Island. The dean briefly said this project included community involvement. What he failed to mention was that this is a hugely contentious project to develop Chaudière Falls (Akikodjiwan) with the so-called ‘Zibi’ development by Windmill Developers, which is development on sacred Algonquin territory. The dean may have been prudent to not emphasize the highly contentious nature of this project, but it is surprising that Carleton is involved at all, possibly giving the impression that the university is complicit in this development. I no longer know the background of all external board members, but wonder whether any of them have involvement with this contentious real estate development, although nobody declared a conflict of interest.

Audited Financial Statements

The audited financial statements were distributed to governors an hour before the open session. Yet, despite protests from some governors, the board still voted to approve this document without having time to read it. The advisor to the board claimed this was an inadvertent error and that the board’s executive committee at least had a few weeks to examine the full document, which should be good enough. I have no idea how that constitutes due diligence, especially when the university has a brand new vice-president finance. Why have full board meeting if they act as rubber-stamps of executive committee decisions? I guess the answer to that rhetorical question is that there are no internal governors (students, staff, faculty) on the executive committee and that executive committee minutes are still considered confidential despite the recently passed Appendix A to the bylaws, which seem to specify that executive committee minutes are presumptively public documents. The audited financial statements are probably fine (and can be downloaded from the board’s public website). The problem was instead with process, with the board seeming to once again violate its new vaunted bylaws and code of conduct, i.e. many governors were effectively compelled to abrogate their fiduciary duty by voting for something that they could not read.

Ontario university presidents met with Minister of Advanced Education & Skills Development

Last week, Ontario university presidents met with the Minister of Advanced Education & Skills Development, Deb Matthews. Carleton’s president conveyed to the board her reading of the tea-leaves from that meeting. Our president anticipates a new funding formula soon, which will be contingent on both provincial metrics and each university’s own boutique metrics. The provincial metrics will probably include graduation rates and an envelope for enrollment. Demographic data in Ontario shows that the number of 18-year-olds will bottom-out in 2020, finally starting to slowly increase in 2021 (data here). Therefore it makes little sense to have funding dependent on enrolment growth, rather than an enrolment envelope, which was referred to as an “enrolment corridor”. The board chair stated that the change to the funding formula will occur in the next fiscal year.

The blockbuster news was the board chair stating (and the university president concurring) that drafts of new Strategic Mandate Agreements (SMA) will almost certainly be due this fall. The president said that any new programs that universities hope to start in the next several years will need to be in the SMA, otherwise the province will not approve them. New academic programs are the purview of our university Senate. Yet, not only has Senate not yet been consulted about such matters, but ironically this week’s Senate meeting was cancelled for lack of anything to discuss! This basically means that the upper administration is again trying to foreclose Senate from having any role in deciding the academic future of Carleton, merely looking for Senate to rubber-stamp a draft SMA at the last second. In my humble opinion, the full Senate (not just a committee) needs to convene a very thorough discussion about what should be in a new SMA and should deliberate on this at two or more successive open sessions. Does anybody want to call a special session of Senate to discuss a new SMA?

According to the university president, the Minister of Advanced Education talked ad nauseum about experiential learning. Therefore expect a lot more impetus for things like co-op programs and capstone programs. While this sounds too much like commodification of post-secondary education to me, it may be reality in Ontario

The Minister also broached that she will impose more collaboration between colleges and universities. Mandating something does not make it collaborative, except in the most Orwellian sense. Regardless, expect more vertical integration between colleges and universities.

Enrolments

With the current provincial funding formula and our self-imposed Enrolment Based Allocation (ELBA) formula, funding is still very much dependent on increased enrolments. Final tabulations of enrolment are based on head counts on 1 November, but forecasts are relatively robust based on end of September numbers. Overall, Carleton is doing well, with almost a 2% increase in new first-year enrolments in undergraduate programs. Most of this increase is due to science and engineering. Our public affairs and arts & social sciences (FPA and FASS) enrolments are holding steady, which is still pretty good given the decreasing numbers of high school graduates. However, our undergraduate business enrolments dropped 7% this year, which makes arguments for a new business building precarious. That said, I do not necessarily advocate making decisions on capital investments dependent on income. With that logic, we would never have built a new health building or even contemplate building a new concert hall.

Sexual Violence Policy

The university had been pursuing a new sexual violence policy as a community during the 2015/2016 academic year, along with a facilitator. That process devolved, with the administration not showing up for several successive meetings and the facilitator eventually quitting in spring 2016. During summer 2016, the university administration opted to go it alone in drafting this provincially mandated policy. In September 2016, the administration consulted with individual stakeholders, but never engaged in collective discussions with the entire community. The administration’s new tack was more divide-and-conquer. A draft of the resulting policy will be distributed to the university community and posted on a public website during the first week of October.

A final draft of the sexual violence policy will be submitted to the Board of Governors for their 1 December 2016 meeting. This is the last possible meeting for board approval before the provincial deadline, leaving governors in a bit of quandary on 1 December 2016. If they reject the draft sexual violence policy, then Carleton will be defying provincial directive. Therefore the board’s hands will be tied to approving almost any document handed to them.

Today, one governor lamented that students will be foreclosed from meaningful consultation in drafting the sexual violence policy. The vice-president students & enrolment replied that students will have a say via their representatives on the Board of Governors, who can adequately represent their constituencies. The problem is that the new rules recently foisted on the board stipulate that governors are expressly forbidden from acting as representatives of the constituencies that originally selected them. After a short exchange about this important bureaucratic disenfranchisement issue, the university president half-jokingly said, “On that note, let’s move on,” which is exactly what the board did.

Question Period and Regulatory Capture

A governor posed a question for question period about what actions the board has or will take regarding the three recent unprecedented no confidence motions against the board and university. The question was asked of the board, not of the administration. Yet the question was answered by the university president, not the board’s chair nor vice-chair nor any other board committee chair. This is a clear sign of regulatory capture of the board by the university president.

Compounding this problem, the president answered that nothing needed to be done regarding the no confidence motions. This was an abbreviated version of her answer from an earlier board meeting, in which she said that the no confidence motions were regarding the new code of conduct and bylaws, which had been passed by a large majority, hence meant that the board considered there to be no problems. However, on 27 September 2016, the president added that, “the board will improve communications, engagement, and transparency.” Promulgation of a summary of open sessions written before open sessions have actually occurred should not constitute improved communications. Effectively shutting out students from consultation on a new sexual violence policy should not constitute improved engagement. Continual posting of special constables at the boardroom door and filling audience seats with administrative underlings should not constitute improved transparency.

“Brownshirts and Maoists”

A governor broached that the former chair of the board’s governance committee, who is now the board vice-chair and current clerk of the privy council, had previously and unapologetically called several Carleton students “Brownshirts and Maoists”. One of those aggrieved students is now a governor on Carleton’s board and was present at the open session today. A motion was put forward asking that the “Brownshirts and Maoists” pejorative be retracted and that the individual apologize to the students. Part of the rationale given for this motion was that another individual had been disciplined by the university for supposedly making almost identical defamatory remarks, but that the person who first used the phrase “Brownshirts and Maoists” had not only been exempt from discipline, but had been promoted to vice-chair of the board.

To the credit of the current chair of the board, the motion was allowed to be brought forward in open session, was seconded, debate was allowed – but nobody said a word during that debate period – and a vote was taken. The vote was two in favour, a majority opposed, and five abstentions.

What was striking is that the person who first used the phrase “Brownshirts and Maoists” sat silent throughout these proceedings, even though they could have easily offered an apology. All members of the board’s executive committee voted against the motion, possibly making them complicit in this degradation of the affected students, students they are supposed to watch after.

Closing Remarks

This post only reflects my opinions and reporting of what occurred at the open session of the board. I hope to keep up this tradition of reporting, at least if the board allows me to continue attending so-called open sessions. And, as always, I truly welcome your comments and feedback.

Security Checkpoints

While the open session of Carleton University’s Board of Governors on 28 June 2016 was still authoritarian sensu Bob Altemeyer, as it has been for over a year now, at least one thing drastically improved, for which I thank the university president and outgoing board chair. The multiple security checkpoints in the building near the boardroom were gone. The barricade on the street by the Gandhi statue was gone. The boardroom blinds were half open. There was just a single special constable seated by the boardroom door, who was not even checking names [correction posted on 7 July 2016: the special constable did have a list of those invited and was checking names of guests on 28 June 2016]. I genuinely hope this means that open sessions of the board will be freely open to the public in the future, without the onerous requirement for preclearance of observers. Kudos.

Master Plan and Buildings

The university’s new master plan shows some interesting things. The parking garages over the O-Train are only scheduled to quadruple in size, which is a bit better than being sextuple the size of the existing garage at that locale, as previously planned. There are also plans for replacing the existing at-grade parking lot P3 between the hockey rink, CTTC, and NWRC with a stacked garage. In concert with a new P3 parking garage, the master plan shows Carleton re-opening Raven Road to Bronson Avenue to encourage car culture, especially rapid escapes from the university. The master plan shows a future pedestrian bridge over the Rideau River between Carleton and Vincent Massey Park. But this may only go in when the O-Train bridge is rebuilt. Given that rail bridge repairs were done there just a few years ago, I don’t expect a pedestrian bridge anytime soon. The master plan shows Patterson Hall being torn down. Therefore I asked what will happen to the Aboriginal Student Centre, Ojigkwanong, designed by Douglas Cardinal. The director of facilities maintenance said that the building will be taken down and then rebuilt in stages, leaving Ojigkwanong intact. Therefore, this lovely and valuable space will be preserved, albeit possibly not accessible for a year or two. The board seems to have decided that the new business building that we are self-financing will go just north of the new health building. The north part of campus, north of Sunnyside/University Avenue, is planned to be developed into a new academic quad, but 25-50 years from now. Someone asked about how climate change would affect storm water drainage on campus. There really was no answer. I suspect that was because we have no idea about projected precipitation. The incoming vice chair of the board asked how do we prioritize the pipe dreams on the master plan, to which the answer was “nothing is prescriptive”.

Universities are all waiting to hear about new infrastructure monies from the government. Carleton put in a bid to rebuild our existing Life Sciences Building. I asked why, given that most of the residents of that building are slated to move into the brand new health building in a year. Apparently one floor of the rebuilt Life Science building will be for “clean tech”, another floor for an industrial partnership with Ericsson on 5G networks, and another floor for human-based health and neuroscience that do not need to be in the new health building.

Academic Programs

The board approved the name change of the School of Canadian Studies to the School of Canadian and Indigenous Studies. This is an important change.

The provost put on one of his long-winded dog-and-pony shows, but at least eventually deferred to two of his more succinct deans to highlight some programs. The dean of arts and social sciences said some nice things about the undergraduate program in “global and international studies”, which must rank as one of the most redundant names of any program at Carleton. The dean of science spoke about our highly commodified new data science program and about our new health science program. I truly appreciated his candour about the latter, stating that, “Health sciences is finally getting traction in its third year”, i.e. starting to come close to its enrollment targets, but lamenting how still everyone signs up for the pre-med concentration of biomedical health, whereas nobody signs up for community health or environmental health. Why is the board’s time wasted hearing good news about boutique programs? Why doesn’t the board hear about typical programs or maybe hear nothing at all about academic programs? Aren’t deep dives into academic programs the purview of senate, not the board?

Public Relations

The university president stated that there have been no complaints about the giant posters with portraits of disembodied heads of people associated with Carleton. Allow me to remedy that. These posters, some of which are enormous, with people’s faces blown up to about 6 foot across, are the antithesis of what makes universities great. Universities are about dialogue and interaction. Yet these giant two-dimensional faces just stare blankly into space, looking down from the skies like gods, conveying no information, imparting no knowledge, and giving nothing back but propaganda. While this may be appropriate for the current state of Carleton governance and leadership, I personally want much more and our students and faculty deserve much more. While Carleton is supposed to be non-religious, despite our affiliation with Dominican College, at least this campaign with overhead disembodied god-like heads looks like we are espousing polytheism. Why have we eschewed substance for style; intellectual verve for Madison Avenue? Carleton’s Campus now looks like Tom Tomorrow’s cartoons in Sheldon and Rampton’s classic “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” or the streets of Pyongyang with Kim Jong-un’s face plastered on every wall.

At question period, I asked, “Will this board continue contracting KPMG for audit services after recent controversies regarding its tax avoidance schemes (offshore and divorce related) and gag orders against witnesses testifying before the House of Commons?” The university president tersely replied that, “KPMG is reputable, so we will continue to hire them.” The term ‘reputable’ means having a good reputation and being honourable. It is hard to have confidence in someone that publicly implies that defrauding the Canada Revenue Agency and silencing speech counts as being honourable, with a good reputation.

Governance

I requested the following items be added to the open session agenda at the 28 June 2016 board meeting: (1) my eligibility to serve a second term as a governor, (2) discussion of a sexual violence policy, and (3) the no confidence resolutions from early April 2016. The board chair denied all three requests, but promised they would be covered in closed session later in the evening. I requested that this promise be included in the open session minutes, which the chair agreed to. But I still do not understand why these matters could not be discussed in open session, other than that inaction on the latter two matters might embarrass the university and board.

The governance committee chair reported that the governance committee recently met, but decided not to push anything forward for now because they had accomplished enough with the new code of conduct and bylaws. My suspicion is that the board is hoping to once again push through a bylaw change to exclude union officers from serving as internal board members.

At question period, I asked, “During the first half of 2016, ‘Candidate Selection Handbooks’ and ‘Expression of Interest’ forms were created for academic staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students for elections to the board of governors. Who created and approved these handbooks and forms, and on what dates were they approved?” These documents did not exist when I ran for a board seat three years ago. The university secretary answered that the handbooks had been updated several years ago and that no approval of them was needed. Neither the university secretary nor anyone else answered about the Expression of Interest forms. The Expression of Interest forms made many requirements of potential governors that were not mandated and some that were mandated by the new bylaws that did not apply to the recent elections. This again indicates lack of due process and lack of accountability, when rules for campaigning and election can be created by fiat, especially when nobody is willing to answer when and by whom the pernicious Expression of Interest form was approved.

The board would not allow me to run for a second three-year term because I would not sign the heinous code of conduct that contravenes my collective agreement. This is ironic in that the governance committee chair that unapologetically referred to Carleton students as “Brownshirts and Maoists” was not only appointed to another term on the board, but was promoted to vice chair of the board, to be elevated to chair of the board on 1 July 2018. I guess that is the way to garner recognition and prove leadership prowess at Carleton

Closing remarks

My ineligibility for another term as governor representing faculty, instructors, and librarians means that this is my final reporting of Carleton University’s Board of Governors’ open sessions as a board member. It has been a fascinating three years, albeit time to move forward. While this blog may or may not continue, I hope to continue serving the Carleton community as the incoming communications officer for the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA). So, while the venue for communication may change, I will do my best to keep you informed of all the good and bad – progress and regress – of this university. Thank you for your support and feedback!

When the men’s-only football team was reincarnated at Carleton University a few years ago, the university community was promised that it would be entirely funded externally, without a dime of university monies. The Carleton press release of 15 August 2013 stated, “The team will be fully funded by Old Crows Football.” That promise was recently broken when the vice president finance secretly injected a half-million dollars of internal funds into football for the upcoming season.

On 21 June 2016 I submitted a question for the board’s open session question period regarding this matter. To my surprise, the chair of the board read my question verbatim in open session, even though it contained information from the minutes of the board’s executive committee meeting of 14 April 2016, suggesting once again that executive committee documents should be open to the public. I had expected the chair to at least paraphrase my query so that he would not be leaking information that was supposedly confidential. My question, that the chair of the board read aloud, was:

On 14 April 2016, the executive committee approved a half-million dollars from our ancillary budget to cover men’s-only football. Will this large new expense be discussed at the open session of the board on 28 June 2016, i.e. placed on the open session agenda, especially since the Carleton community was promised that football would be solely supported via external funding and the ancillary budget is an open session item?

Not only was the earlier promise of no internal funds for football abrogated, but the university and board tried to hide this information. Less than a month before the half-million dollars was shunted to football, the full board in open session passed the 2016/2017 ancillary budget on 21 March 2016, but that ancillary budget contained no internal monies for football. Twelve days after the board’s executive committee tacitly approved the half-million dollars of internal funding for football, the full board met in open session on 26 April 2016, but not a word was mentioned about this football expense. The only place I had ever seen this half-million dollar expense for football was buried in the executive committee minutes of 14 April 2016 that was recently distributed to board members.

At the 28 June 2016 open session of the full board, in response to the question at question period, the vice president finance said that he personally approved the half-million dollars from capital funds for football and that this was for information only, i.e. the board did not need to approve this expense. My jaw dropped, but nobody else said a word. How is this not a conflict of interest when Carleton’s vice president finance is a board member on Old Crow Football? Why have an ancillary budget and why have the board approve it if the administration can simply change it days later, at will, without meaningfully consulting the board or the community?

Half-million dollars is not a trivial sum. It could go to many good causes. It could be used to offset tuition increases or used for scholarships. Ironically, on the day before I first learned about this outrageous (no longer) secret expenditure, I blogged about how university football throughout North America is almost always a huge financial loser. Apparently that is still true at Carleton. Financial burdens were why Carleton scrapped the football team in the 1990s (here). I wonder how much more of our university budget will get diverted to a sexist and violent activity like football in subsequent years…and whether the university community will even hear about this.

This debacle provides another example why the Carleton community has lost confidence in the university president, vice president finance, chair of the board, and chair of the board’s governance committee. In my opinion, these individuals should stand down from all administrative duties at Carleton, including serving on its board, until they have successfully addressed the specific non-confidence complaints and then regained the confidence of Carleton’s faculty, staff, and graduate students.

This post only reflects my opinions and reporting of what occurred at open sessions of the board. I do not report on anything gleaned from closed sessions. I welcome your comments and feedback.

 

This is a follow-up on my previous post about selection of an academic staff member to serve on the board, albeit this new post applies more generally to all internal governors. But allow me to begin with words from Ani DiFranco’s 1993 poem “My I.Q.”:

When I was four years old, they tried to test my I.Q.

They showed me a picture of three oranges and a pear.

They said, “Which one is different and does not belong?”

They taught me different is wrong.

Over the past few years, the process for selecting new governors and appointing existing governors to subsequent terms has deteriorated in terms of how candidates are allowed to campaign, requirements for signing gag orders, and the executive committee increasingly flouting the board’s bylaws and procedures

On 26 March 2010, the university secretary wrote the following regarding campaigning for an open internal seat on the board:

There are no restrictions as to what the candidates may post (or say). I can suggest that they elaborate on their statements and positions on various issues.

On 23 March 2016, the university secretary wrote the following regarding campaigning for an open internal seat on the board:

You may not use the image that includes “Real Change – freeze tuition, increase funding for mental health, empower marginalized students”. The presentation of this information implies that you are presenting a platform with electoral promises and this is not permitted…. Should you be elected as a Governor, you would be pre-judging the discussions and actions of the Board, and yourself, with respect to these issues and as such, potentially violating your fiduciary responsibilities, and the Code of Conduct.

Prior to Fall 2008, Carleton’s Board of Governors did not have a code of conduct, aka gag order, loyalty oath, or statement of duties. For the subsequent seven years, while there was a code of conduct, signing the statement of duties or code of conduct was voluntary. In late June 2015, the board was set to vote on whether signing the code of conduct should be compulsory for all governors, but the chair of the board unilaterally cancelled that vote on 29 June 2015. In late Fall 2015, the board altered the code of conduct and mandated signing of it by all governors. But I use the word ‘compulsory’ loosely insofar as I refused to sign the code of conduct, yet am still a governor, at least until my term ends on 30 June 2016. In spring 2016, the board passed a new code of conduct and new bylaws that will become effective on 1 July 2016. This is all relevant to selection of new governors and re-appointment of existing governors to subsequent terms because the board’s executive now declares candidates ineligible for board seats unless they promise to sign the code of conduct.

On 26 May 2016, I submitted an “Expression of Interest” form to run for a second three-year term in the seat that I currently hold on the board. The boilerplate version of this Expression of Interest form has never been approved by the full board, but does include the requirement to sign the code of conduct. Given that the code of conduct violates my collective agreement, which the board’s executive committee ratified, I again refused to sign the code of conduct. In practice, I did this by altering the Expression of Interest form by adding the words ‘do not’ to the existing form in order to say, “I have read, understood and do not agree to comply with the Code of Conduct for Governors.” On 30 May 2016, the university secretary declared me ineligible to run for the board, with my ineligibility formally declared by the board chair the following day. I appealed this ruling from the chair, a matter that is then supposed go to the full board, but instead was referred to the board’s executive committee. I subsequently appealed the executive committee’s 2 June 2016 ruling to the full board, but a decision on that is still pending. On 2 June 2016, the executive committee ruled that I was ineligible to run for a seat on the board because:

As stated in s.4.03(b) of the new Bylaws, in order to become and serve as a Governor, signing and complying with the Code of Conduct is a mandatory eligibility requirement.

New board members and renewal of terms of current members are to be voted on by the current full board on 28 June 2016. But neither section 4.03(b) nor any of the new bylaws take effect until 1 July 2016, i.e. three days later. The board’s executive thus violated due process by invoking bylaws that had not yet taken effect, thereby trying to have their cake and eat it too.

The above paragraphs are predicated on new bylaws and new code of conduct being validly passed by the board during the first half of 2016. However, I strongly disagree with this premise. The board was not properly constituted for its 2015/2016 academic year because, in violation of its bylaws, new members were never approved by the full board, thereby rendering votes during the 2015/2016 term null and void. The board’s executive committee approved new members on 24 August 2015. But despite my request in open session for the board to adhere to its bylaws, the full board refused to ratify the decision to approve new governors and those starting new terms at the full board’s first meeting of the year on 29 September 2015. This is remarkable because even an advisor to the board later admitted that there is a legal requirement for the full board to approve new members and renewals of terms. Moreover, the new bylaws were improperly passed on 21 March 2016 because of the bifurcation of essential parts, Appendices A and B, for which the five-day notice of special resolution requirement was not met. The new bylaws were also improperly passed because of extra-parliamentary harassment of those seconding amendments to those new bylaws. Thus not only should the new bylaws not apply until 1 July 2016, but they should never apply because of serious procedural errors.

Selection of new internal board members and renewal of existing internal board members has been a due process nightmare and a microcosm of the numerous governance failures of the board’s executive. This provides even more justification for the Carleton community having no confidence in the current board chair, the chair of its governance committee, and the university president (here, here, here, here).

Because of the specious reasons for declaring me ineligible to continue serving on the board, I will only have one more board meeting to participate in and blog about as a governor. Please stick around for that. In the meantime, here are more insightful words from Ani DiFranco’s “My I.Q.”:

I sing sometimes like my life is at stake

’cause you’re only as loud as the noises you make.

I’m learning to laugh as hard as I can listen

’cause silence is violence in women and poor people.

If more people were screaming, then I could relax.

But a good brain ain’t diddley

if you don’t have the facts.

The university secretary just posted online a new document titled, “Carleton University Board of Governors candidate selection process for academic staff governors on the board for the 2016/17 board year” (here or here). This new document has never been approved by the full board.

This new document states that, “The decision of the University Secretary in any matters including without limitation regarding validity of nominations, voter eligibility and verification, disqualification and tabulation of returns shall be final.” The board’s procedures and bylaws do not confer such powers on the university secretary. Lack of an appeal process is virtually a guarantee that due process has been discarded.

This new document states that, “Should you decide to use campaign material (i.e. posters, social media, etc.) it must be submitted to the University Secretary for approval PRIOR TO BEING used.” [caps in original; comma missing from original]. The board’s procedures and bylaws do not confer such powers on the university secretary. Censuring of campaign materials violates academic freedom provisions of the academic staff’s collective agreement.

This new document states that, “Any incomplete Expressions of Interest or those submitted after the deadline will not be considered.” The board bylaws and procedures do not require this Expression of Interest document.

This new document states that, “Campaigning on a slate or with a platform is prohibited.” The board’s procedures and bylaws do not stipulate this prohibition. If you cannot campaign on a platform, then what can you campaign on? This new document then requires a photo to be supplied by the potential candidate prior to election. Therefore, campaigning devolves into nothing more than a beauty contest.

This new document states that, “The following services will be made available to all candidates, at no cost to the candidate, but at the discretion of the Chief Electoral Officer”. Nowhere in this document nor in board bylaws nor procedures is it specified who the chief electoral officer is or even that such an officer exists at the university. Also, how is it fair that some receive resources, while potentially others do not?

Given that this new document was never approved by the full board, it is incumbent upon the board’s executive to show that they approved this document. The recently approved Appendix A to the bylaws implies that executive committee minutes must now be made public. In the event that the executive committee has not yet approved this new electoral document, the academic staff should convene their own election.

It is no wonder that most of the Carleton University community has lost confidence in its board of governors.

Prison-like security

Once again, anybody attending the board meeting had to run a gauntlet of security officers. Special constables were stationed in the parking garage, at the first floor elevator, first floor stairway, second floor stairway where the boardroom is, outside of the boardroom door, and possibly on other floors further up. The elevator and doors to the stairway were locked, with special constables unlocking the doors only for allowed board members and guests of the university president. I had to pass through three police ‘checkpoints’ to enter the boardroom. Shades on the boardroom windows were fully drawn so that nobody could look in from the outdoor Gandhi statue into the boardroom. Police barricades, yellow sawhorses, were set up at the side of the road by the boardroom window. This is an utterly unwarranted and embarrassing level of security for a supposedly open session of Carleton’s board of governors.

The open session began with an announcement that minutes of the 21 March 2016 open session would not be voted on because the board’s executive wants to add unspecified new items. The acting chair provided no further details. The 21 March 2016 minutes were sent to all board members on 18 April 2016, supposedly ready for approval. This timing seems odd insofar as the board’s executive committee met on 14 April 2016. Regardless, I shall eventually compare old and revised versions of the 21 March 2016 open session minutes to analyze what changed. As with the extreme security, this secrecy over open session minutes seemed like a suspicious and dubious way to start an open session.

Appendix A and B of the new board bylaws

Today’s open session was dominated by passage of Appendices A and B to the new bylaws, bylaws that were passed with dissent on 21 March 2016. Appendix A stipulates which materials and topics are to be open versus closed. Appendix A is a reasonably good document. Appendix B contains “Rules of Procedure at Meetings”, is poorly written, and further centralizes power in the board chair and now completely imposes tyranny of the majority. Appendix B is an embarrassing document.

Before delving into details regarding the two appendices, I need to discuss what these appendices are procedurally. The advisor to the board and vice chair of the governance committee (the chair of the governance committee was absent) pitched these appendices as not being bylaws themselves, but instead being standalone guidelines akin to the Code of Conduct. Such assertions are either false or misleading. I suspect that these assertions were in response to my 22 March 2016 point of order asking that the new bylaws be repealed because, before 21 March 2016, the board had not yet seen Appendix A and B, which are integral parts of the new bylaws, mentioned explicitly therein. Even more curiously, after the chair of the board rejected my point of order via e-mail by citing Robert’s Rules of Order, I appealed the ruling of the chair via e-mail on 11 April 2016, but the chair never called a vote on my appeal. Yes, once again the board’s executive disregarded its own rules and bylaws. But there are other major problems to considering Appendix A and B to be separate from the new bylaws. First, the appendices are both labeled as being parts of the new bylaw. Second, the motion passed today refers to “Appendices A and B of the General Operating By-law”. Third, if the appendices were genuinely separate from the bylaws and akin to the Code of Conduct, then only a simple majority would have been required for passage. Instead, the board insisted on a two-thirds supermajority for passage. Thus, Appendix A and B are integral parts of the new bylaw, rendering null and void passage of the bylaws on 21 March 2016 because they lacked the requisite five-day notice of the two appendices.

Appendix A does a reasonable job of delineating what should be in open versus closed sessions of the board. In part, Appendix A stipulates that:

The University may allow that a matter be considered in a closed session of a meeting for the sake of frank and open discussion, but any record generated as a result of that discussion is available to the public unless the record is otherwise exempt from disclosure.

This is not only a good tenet, but one that effectively compels the board to release minutes of executive committee minutes to the public as open session documents, at least if the board adheres to Appendix A. Kudos to the board for being so open and open-minded.

Appendix B not only imposes tyranny of the majority, but is self-contradictory and contradicts the bylaws that it supposedly is part of.

In general, rules of order or procedure exist to establish rights for members of a group. Rights are not there to protect the majority, who can always ride roughshod on the minority. This was apparent in late June 2015 when the board violated its own bylaws in trying to change the bylaws. My lone dissent was eventually honoured and the bylaw vote cancelled mid-vote because the board’s executive had not followed its own rules. All this has now changed with the newly passed Appendix B. The new Appendix B and the opinions of the vice chair of the governance committee and advisor to the board all say that the new rules vest virtually all power to rule on procedural matters in the hands of the board chair. The only appeal of that is for a member of the board to call an appeal of the chair’s ruling, which only requires a simple majority vote. Furthermore Appendix B only applies to meetings of the board, hence excludes things like electronic voting. Thus, if there are procedural defects in electronic voting, no points of order are allowed. This flies in the face of Robert’s Rules (Article IV; Section 21), which allows for points of order and appeals at any time if a motion contravenes existing laws, bylaws, constitutions, or basic parliamentary procedure.

I therefore proposed a motion to amend Appendix B to fall back on Robert’s Rules of Order if something is not covered by the new “Rules of Procedure at Meetings” or if some of those rules contradict one another, which they clearly do. This would at least maintain some minority rights. My motion was defeated, but did garner support from both internal and external board members.

Rule 17 of the new Appendix B states that, “Approval by a majority of those members voting or by consent without objection shall be necessary to carry a motion”. This contravenes both the new and old bylaws, which require a two-thirds supermajority for passage of special resolutions. I therefore moved to alter this rule, but my amendment was oddly (and reflexively?) defeated.

Rule 4 (“When every member who wishes to speak has done so, the Chair shall call for a vote”) conflicts with Rule 2 (“The chair in his discretion may impose time limits”). Allowing everybody to speak is inconsistent with time limits. Rule 4 also conflicts with Rule 1 (“only one member should speak at a time, and only after being recognized by the Chair”), at least if the chair is unwilling to recognize members, which has occasionally happened with the current chair. Therefore I moved to delete Rule 1 and delete the quoted part of Rule 2 in Appendix B, but my amendment was defeated.

The new Rule 9 makes no sense (“An amending motion which would nullify the main motion is not an amendment and cannot be introduced”), but I also was unsuccessful in getting it modified. How will you enforce people from introducing such motions? You could rule such motions out of order, but you cannot preclude their introduction.

The above problems with Rules 1, 2, 4, 9, and 17 would largely be obviated if Carleton’s Board of Governors relied on professionally written rules of order, such as Robert’s Rules or Sturgis’s Rules. Yet, instead, our board has chosen to abandon well-written rules in lieu of a set of home-made procedures that do little more than vest all power in the board chair, while revoking any semblance of minority rights.

Commemorative Naming Policy

The board spent a long time discussing a motion brought by the university president to no longer require board approval to name things, such as rooms, building, park benches, gardens, etc. The new policy, which passed, states that board approval will only be required for naming associated with single gifts over one million dollars. The old policy was that the board had to approve all naming, even if there was no associated gift. The rationale given for this change was that the board wastes too much time approving names. However, in my almost three years on the board, there have been no requests to approve commemorative names. Someone who has been on the board for at least seven years said that they had only seen one request to approve a name. Therefore I am highly suspicious of this new change, especially if donors can segment their gifts into parcels under one million dollars in order to escape scrutiny. I expect that portions of our gym will soon be named for sponsors of our men’s-only football team. Furthermore, a motion to amend the dollar limit for board approval from one million dollars to one-tenth that amount was defeated. Just when many universities are seeing huge protests over commemorative naming – see for example the racist legacies of Woodrow Wilson at Princeton and John Calhoun at Yale – Carleton’s board abdicated their responsibility to monitor the university’s reputation and took this action at the behest of our university president.

Operating Budget

The operating budget contained some noteworthy items, which I shall discuss in random order.

The library received a $600,000 increase for acquisitions. This was supposedly to make up for how poorly the loonie has done against foreign currencies, which seems sensible.

On paper, Carleton operates with a balanced budget, but in reality currently runs with a surplus that is set aside in various reserve funds. Some of this probably constitutes sound policy. For example, for 2015-2016, Carleton had set aside $19 million in base funds and $91 million in operating funds for pension reserve payments. On 31 March 2016, Carleton made a $30 million special payment to maintain a solvency ratio above 85%. Above this ratio, we file a solvency valuation every third year. Below this ratio, we must file a valuation every year.

More problematic for me are the reserve funds that get set aside for erecting new academic buildings. In the past, we relied on the province for 100% of the funding for academic buildings. For the first time, we recently broke that fiscally conservative and reasonable practice by self-funding the new health building. Now we are doing the same for a new business building. Last year, the board approved almost $4 million for this new business building. This week the board approved an additional $8 million for this building. And this is on top of private donations. This removes incentives for the province to pay for academic buildings. And nobody at the board discusses alternative uses for these multi-million dollar surpluses, such as to offset tuition.

The new operating budget only includes funding for six new faculty members and six new non-academic staff members. Maybe this makes sense with expected enrolment declines of 1% for the coming year. None of the new faculty lines are in science, which has been leading the way on increasing enrollments (supposedly undergraduate engineering applications are quite ‘soft’ for the coming year). One of the six new staff positions is for a new labour relations manager in human resources. I am not exactly sure what such a person would do, but that title seems ominous for anybody in bargaining units.

Graduate students strongly disagreed with the 21 March 2016 board presentation on tuition increases, claiming that upper-year graduate students would incur tuition increases despite contrary claims by the administration. One board member suggested we alter the presentation in the operating budget to better reflect these tuition increases, which otherwise did seem somewhat misleading. The vice-president finance agreed to do this, albeit with details to be agreed upon after the board meeting. Another board member than excoriated the graduate students for publicly critiquing the administration and wanted the board to formally and publicly take a stand on this. But the acting chair of the board (i.e. the vice-chair; the board chair was absent) very wisely said that the promised changes to presentation of the operating budget would help quell this, ending discussion of tuition for the 26 April 2016 board meeting.

Closing Remarks

As always, this post only reflects my opinions and reporting of what occurred at a so-called open session of the board. This blog is not meant as a surrogate for the open session minutes, which conspicuously were never brought forward for approval from the previous meeting. I do not report on anything gleaned from closed session nor from confidential documents. And, truly as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.