Carrolyn Johnston of Carleton’s Sexual Assault Support Services gave a fabulous presentation on the work of their office. As an institution, Carleton University does seem to care about sexual violence and sexual harassment, although we are hardly perfect. The Board of Governors was very engaged, which was great. I think the Board was doing its job, although many Board members had seemingly different concerns from me. I primarily care about preventing problems and helping victims if there are problems with sexual violence and harassment, a perspective that several other Board members also seemed to have. However, other Board members were seemingly far more concerned with crisis management and the university’s reputation. Thus, there was much discussion about what to do if Carleton suddenly ends up in a similar situation to Dalhousie’s dentistry program or uOttawa’s men’s hockey team and what to do before the ‘journalist jackals’ descend. I freely admit that such concerns are a responsibility of the Board. However, it was interesting that questions about crisis management and reputation primarily came from board members that I suspect self-identify as male and that questions about prevention of sexual assault and harassment primarily came from board members that I suspect self-identify as female. Carleton’s Board certainly needs more female members!
Regarding sexual violence, there was an interesting thread about training. One board member asked whether training was effective. The answer was a candid we don’t know because so few victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment end up reporting it. I asked whether we are training management people about sexual assault and harassment. Strangely, nobody knew of such training at the supervisory level, which seems troubling. I also wonder whether the “Carleton Leader” training has a specific component on sexual assault and harassment. How are we going to make progress on awareness of and policy on sexual violence when our supervisors and leaders are not explicitly trained in these matters?
There was also a fascinating thread about the burden of proof for sexual assault, i.e. where it should or will fall between the burdens for civil (preponderance of evidence) and criminal (beyond a reasonable doubt) matters. While individual cases of sexual assault clearly are criminal matters, how do universities deal with systemic problems, as seems to have been the case with Dalhousie dentistry and uOttawa’s men’s hockey? What institutional obligations does the university have in such cases? I don’t know the answer, but at least the Board is talking about this. And the university president said that all Ontario colleges and universities are attempting to jointly draft a code of sexual conduct. While I am not sure that this is the right approach – codes of conduct are often used to quell free speech, such as was done a few years ago with Carleton’s Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) – at least people are talking. This matter will undoubtedly arise again when Premier Wynne sets policy on sexual misconduct and sexual violence, probably in early March 2015.
As part of question period, I asked about Carleton University’s 27 June 2014 request to the province to fund a pair of new buildings, for health and business. The vice president finance stated that he originally thought that the request had between a zero and one percent chance of approval, but he should try anyway. He then said that the province rejected our request in early Fall 2014. He said that all the provincial funding seems to be going to the three proposed new university campuses in the greater Toronto area (GTA). For this reason, he asked the Board to fully finance the health building on 2 December 2014 and opted to postpone any planning for a new business building for at least two and probably three years. It also means that our request for satellite campuses in Cornwall and Niagara have probably been turned down. That was all very important information. What is odd is that the university never told the Board about the 27 June 2014 request to the province for funding two buildings; never told the Board about the province turning down our request in early Fall 2014, and never told the Board that Carleton was shelving plans for a new business building for 2-3 years. Without question period, that information would seemingly have been withheld from the Board indefinitely, which does not seem right.
Some procedural problems still remain with the Board. The current chair only asks for votes in favour of motions, not for votes opposing motions or abstentions. The only exception is when he seems to want to show the world that a vote was unanimous, in which case he calls for opposing votes after seeing all hands raised in favour. This tack is a fabulous way to suppress contrary views. For more candid Board operation, I highly recommend that the chair always ask for votes in favour, in opposition, and abstentions on every formal motion, even for approval of agendas and consent agendas.
There is still no verbal recognition at open sessions of the Board that Carleton is on unceded Algonquin territory. There is a watermark at the top of the open session agenda stating that Carleton is on Algonquin territory, but written communication is not the same as oral recognition.
Carleton’s university advancement (aka fund raising) office does a great job, but their standard coversheet is utterly embarrassing. It shows an image of the globe with the north pole somewhere in mainland Siberia and the foolish motto “Progress to the future”. Stephen Harper has made a huge deal about Canada’s territorial claim to the north pole, which is definitely somewhere in the middle of the Arctic Ocean and nowhere near the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Greenland, Alaska, or Russia. The equator is also misplaced on that globe, but at least that is consistent. In ordinary English, progress usually refers to the future, not the past. That said, at least our fund raisers are not from the Francis Galton school of statistics and eugenics, writing “Regress to the mean”.
The Board congratulated its new secretary, Anne Bauer, who I think is truly remarkable. Furthermore, for the past two-thirds of a year, Anne has been doing the job of Board Secretary without the aid of University Counsel, which is not easy, especially because the Board only has one lawyer as an at-large member.
While the open session of the Board was short this time, it was lively and productive. While I may have some problems with some Board actions, it is an honour to serve on such an august and thoughtful body. This blog posting only reflects my opinions and observations from the open session of the Board. For a more official story, please see the official minutes of the meeting once they are approved. This posting does not include any material from the closed session nor from the Open Forum (the latter of which will be the subject of a separate posting). As always, I truly welcome your comments.