Monthly Archives: February 2015

On 17 February 2015, Katherine Graham, the former special advisor to the provost and former dean of public affairs at Carleton University, published a thought-provoking piece on leadership in the Ottawa Citizen (link) that compels us to ask what constitutes leadership. Does leadership mean economic growth, spatial and temporal ordering, a hierarchical structure, willingness to take risks, being a member of an old boy’s club, or something else? I briefly explore definitions of leadership and how Carleton University has done or should do with each.

The most obvious definition of a leader uses spatial and temporal ordering. Whoever goes first is a leader; whoever follows them is not. In such a scheme, a leader is only defined by their followers. We should therefore not only have leadership programs, but also followership programs, such as boot camp. While this militaristic approach may be how many people perceive leadership, this is not consistent with the goals of universities, which strive for critical thought, innovation, originality, independence, and reflection.

Many governments see leadership as a stratum, divorced and above rank-and-file, much like Stephen Harper’s and Richard Nixon’s governments. There is little or no connection between leaders and backbenchers, let alone a connection with voters and students. This definition of leadership does not seem appropriate for universities, although is probably utilized.

Leadership often adheres to the orthodox economic model that growth is good. Whenever Carleton’s current provost talks of sustainability, he exclusively means economic sustainability, completely co-opting this lovely ecological term. As an example of embracing growth as a proxy for leadership, in its strategic mandate agreement (for which Katherine Graham was the nominal lead author), Carleton antithetically chose to focus growth on one of its true weaknesses, namely health science. Carleton does not have programs in human medicine, nursing, veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, epidemiology, nor even kinesiology. Until two years ago, Carleton’s health science department consisted of one plant (not animal) biochemist, who is currently the chair of that weak department. Sure that constitutes growth, at least of enrolments, but not sure how cultivating weaknesses constitutes leadership.

Leadership, especially with respect to hedge funds and real estate speculation, has often meant nothing more than risky gambling with other people’s money. Carleton chose to gamble $45 million dollars of its own monies for a new building for their unproven health science program.

Leadership has often meant being a member of an old boy’s club. Carleton’s leadership program certainly fits that bill. Although extolled by Katherine Graham as collaborative, equitable, and a way to bring together people across hierarchies, Carleton’s leadership program is the exact opposite. Carleton’s leader 1, 2, and 3 programs have been rigidly segregated. The first two are open to any employee. The third program is only open to people nominated by upper management and seems to be meant as an executive training program [see my earlier postings on this subject from 25 and 27 June 2014 here and here]. Furthermore, my guess is that Carleton spends ten to a hundred times more funds on leader 3 (executive training) than on leader 1 or 2 training.

I believe that leadership can and should be by example. As a university, does Carleton lead by example? Although aiming to be a research-intensive university, half of Carleton’s vice presidents do not have doctoral degrees [although, the two vice presidents without doctoral degrees are probably the best of our four vice presidents]. In fact, Katherine Graham, who was formerly an academic dean, does not have a doctoral degree. My dean has neither taught nor conducted research in many years, which hardly constitutes leadership by example, although he is probably very good at managing his four assistant and associate deans. Carleton’s academic deans, especially in science and engineering, hire a disproportionally small number of female faculty members, although they make up for that by hiring lots of female staff members and contract instructors, the latter of which don’t receive benefits. Decide for yourself whether that constitutes leadership by example.

One thing that definitely flies in the face of leadership is naked aggrandizement. But that is exactly what Katherine Graham provided in her 17 February 2015 Ottawa Citizen infomercial, in describing Carleton’s leadership program that she designed and implemented.

There is, however, brilliant leadership at Carleton University. Carleton’s current university president leads by example and seems to eschew old boys clubs. Emilie Cameron, Stacy Douglas, Danielle DiNovelli-Lang, and Ummni Khan have organized an amazingly dynamic informal interdisciplinary series in the social science and humanities. Chris Burn, who isn’t even a biologist, organized Darwin week to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species. There is a huge amount of grass roots leadership at Carleton, albeit mostly completely divorced from management. Maybe leadership at universities should mean structured anarchy sensu Peter Kropotkin. If universities really want to cultivate leadership, they need to cultivate freedom and stop cultivating conformity, propaganda, and pablum.

In the 5 February 2015 edition of the Charlatan (link here), Kathleen Saylors wrote, “The Ontario minister for training, colleges, and universities visited Carleton on Feb. 3 to tour new research facilities and learn more about the university. Minister Reza Moridi … also said the university has done an excellent job of specializing itself, making it a leader in the sciences and engineering.” As mentioned in my previous posting, overall Carleton has far fewer female faculty members than do other Canadian universities, and Carleton’s percentage of female faculty members in science and engineering is far lower than our overall 35% female faculty members across all faculties (science, engineering, business, public affairs, and arts & social science, the latter two of which do well with gender equity). Is the minister saying that we are a leader in science and engineering because of our deplorable gender bias? If Carleton really is a provincial leader in science and engineering, then maybe we should welcome a greater diversity of faculty members, especially women in science and engineering. That would constitute genuine leadership.

In response to my 2 February 2015 blog posting, a colleague asked about possible policies for increasing gender diversity (in addition to my earlier suggestion of double-member ridings). The above paragraph suggests another policy option. As part of the differentiation framework, the province imposes various metrics by which to gauge performance of universities. Carleton would get its act together quickly if the ministry made hiring diversity one of those metrics. Measuring gender diversity is trivial, at least if individuals are willing to self-identify gender. For more sophisticated measures of hiring diversity that incorporate Aboriginal status, race, and even people that self-identify as multiple races and/or multiple genders see the following link. Furthermore, not only is this a policy option for the province, but also for Carleton University insofar as each university was given the opportunity by the province to suggest institutional metrics that only apply to themselves. Yes, this would be bitter medicine, but nonetheless, in the long-term, very effective medicine. I encourage readers of this blog to suggest other policy ideas.

On 26 September 2014 in my Senate blog (here, but you will have scroll down), I commented on gender inequities in hiring of faculty member at Carleton. Recent events have convinced me that it is time to reprise that analysis, especially in light of the Board of Governors seemingly having a gender bias in its open discussion of sexual violence (see this blog for 29 January 2015). Seemingly male board members mostly cared about the university’s reputation, while seemingly female board members mostly cared about education, counseling, and the victims of sexual violence [I say ‘seemingly’ because of not knowing what gender board members self-identify as, for which I apologize].

Equity Services at Carleton presents the data embedded below (source) (click on the image for a magnified version).
Carleton has far fewer women in faculty and managerial posts than do other universities across Canada. However, Carleton has a greater than expected proportion of female employees in other staff jobs, i.e. non-faculty, non-managerial. And this does not even touch on gender inequities in salary, which I am sure exists at Carleton, but have not yet seen definitive statistics to back-up this claim.

A 29 January 2015 article (here) titled “Where are the women professors in Canada’s math and science departments?” by Michael Kuzmin, Arik Motskin, and Zack Gallinger stated:

Most would agree that a floor of 10% representation of women should be possible without much difficulty, even despite the so-called ‘pipeline problem’ that may result in relatively fewer candidates. Yet so many of our universities fail to meet even this distressingly low bar. Carleton University in Ottawa stands out in this regard. Of the 29 regular faculty in its computer science department, there is only a single woman professor. In its Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, there are only 2 women out of 51 regular faculty. By any measure, these are stark and disturbing figures for Canada’s self-described ‘Capital University’.

There should be huge outrage over these words, and not just because Carleton is at the bottom of the proverbial barrel. The 10% floor for female faculty hires, which Carleton does not even meet in computer science, computer engineering, or electrical engineering, is too low of a floor. Let’s instead invoke the 40/40 rule, which states that the floor for both female and male employees should be 40% in order to achieve some modicum of gender equity. Have we forgotten the Lortie Commission’s [Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing] discussion of the 40/40 rule for nominated and elected officials, which was promulgated two dozen years ago?

Gender inequities at Carleton are not just limited to engineering and computer science. Look at the dearth of female faculty members in chemistry and biology. As I documented herein on 26 September 2014, less than one-quarter of the faculty members in biology are female, even though over half of the PhDs in biology are female. And the fraction of female faculty members in biology at Carleton has been decreasing for the past decade.

What can we do to increase representation of female faculty members in science and engineering, as well as in the rest of the university? Mary Ann Mason gives a few good ideas in her 3 March 2014 article in Chronicles of Higher Education (here). One of her major recommendations was to provide better child-care. Unfortunately, Carleton’s master plan shows a new building displacing the existing child-care centre. This seems like a step backwards in terms of recruiting and retaining female faculty members.

I want to highlight one intriguing idea for improving gender diversity of faculty, an idea that was mentioned by former prime minister Kim Campbell, who admitted to stumbling upon this idea after first being elected as an MLA in a double-member riding in Vancouver Centre. Admittedly, she was not talking about gender equity in academic appointments, but rather the House of Commons. But the same approach is applicable. Kim Campbell’s proposal was to hire a pair of tenure-track people with each search. Interview double the usual number of people and then hire the best candidate that self-identifies as female and the best candidate that self-identifies as male from that search. This means that searches would happen half as often, but that really is not a problem insofar as deans can juggle hires amongst their many units. For Kim Campbell, this translated into two-member ridings, sometimes called double member ridings, with the proviso that the two elected members must be of different genders.

While Kim Campbell’s idea is interesting, it has pitfalls. First, what do you do about candidates that do not self-identify gender (as I refuse to do) or self-identify outside the gender binary, such as trans, queer, and intersex individuals? Clearly we should not require job applicants to self-identify gender. Second, even if there would magically (dystopian magic) be a gender dichotomy, this would not solve problems with other forms of hiring inequity, such as racial inequities, where so-called ‘at-large’ ridings are often created to water-down minority votes. Note the above data from Equity Services show these other inequities are real at Carleton. Even if not perfect, would hiring pairs of people help correct our seemingly obvious gender bias in faculty members, especially in science and engineering? Would the benefits outweigh the costs? What can or should be done for other disadvantaged groups? This is a sufficiently large policy issue that Carleton’s Board of Governors should weigh in on possible policy solutions. Not only is Carleton’s reputation at stake, but so are the careers of many amazing potential faculty members.

Roughly once a year, Carleton’s Board of Governor’s opens its doors to any campus group or individual that wishes to make a short presentation. Attendance by members of the Carleton University Board of Governors at the Open Forum was excellent this year, despite a snow storm. This year, we only heard six presentations. See the separate post for the Open SESSION earlier that day.

Trans policies

The evening started with a truly brilliant and relevant presentation by Theo Hug and Andi Finlay on how the university can welcome trans students and employees. Given Carleton’s current poor track-record even with women’s equity issues, you can imagine how badly we do with trans and intersex issues. Nonetheless, this presentation (available here) put together by the Challenge Transmisogyny and Heteronormativity Campaign Committee gorgeously laid out the problems and recommendations for inexpensive solutions.

First, Carleton needs more gender-neutral washrooms and needs to map out where they are. The presenters had to conduct their own audit to find gender neutral washrooms, only finding 25 across campus. Equity Service has promised to build a map of these 25 and post it on their website. Many single-stall washrooms across campus are still labeled as gendered, but could easily be re-labeled as gender-neutral. I am especially appalled by lack of gender-neutral washrooms in new buildings, such as the River Building and Canal Building. Carleton is in the middle of refurbishing washrooms across campus and, in so doing, really needs to consider making more of them gender-neutral.

Second, Carleton has an antiquated name policy. Students are only allowed to be listed by their legal names, making transitioning more difficult than it needs to be. This is especially appalling because our primary learning software, cuLearn, allows all students in a class to see the names of all their peers in the class, but only the legal names. [I still wonder why this sharing/broadcasting of student names does not violate FIPPA, but am growing weary of continually fighting that battle]. Students and employees at Carleton should be able to have electronic aliases with their preferred name and preferred gender pronouns. This is virtually costless, yet could make a huge difference for any member of the Carleton community that identifies as trans or queer.


The evening ended with an infomercial about Carleton’s aerospace program given by one of our associate deans, Langis Roy. When I asked him why he was presenting to the Board and what the Board could do for him, he said that he did not know, which is embarrassing. The good news was that – unbeknownst to me at the time – Langis Roy was asked to present this by the Board. My problem is that the open forum could become an endless suite of infomercials about every academic program at Carleton.

Remaining presentations

For the second year in a row, the Board was told about a capstone experience in mechanical and aerospace engineering (yes, the same aerospace program mentioned above) from some of its students. This annual project is to build a racing car, which is a ‘sport’ for only the wealthiest people, where participants and even spectators occasionally meet fiery deaths. The annual budget for this capstone project is $40,000, for which the students were asking the Board for half of the funds. For that amount, the fourth-year engineering students could instead do something socially responsible. Not being an engineer, I do not have great specific alternatives, but some might include building better pumps for drinking water or 3-D printers for educational centers. Building racing cars seems to be the antithesis of the university’s goals of promoting health, sustainability, and the environment. Auto racing also has a sexist stigma. Furthermore, the Board is not the body for dealing with $20,000 funding requests, usually only dealing with matters over $1 million. I hope these auto racers do not again waste the Board’s time next year. What Carleton really needs to do is spend more money to bring in more female students and female faculty members into engineering, in general. Now that would be worthy of the Board’s attention.

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) presented on the trials and tribulations of the community garden, Kitiganensag, which was uprooted by the university after less than a year. GSA also presented about the ongoing legal dispute between itself and the Carleton Undergraduate Student Association (CUSA), which has involved disputes with Carleton’s vice president of finance.

The Board heard about Carleton’s “Study Abroad” program from one of its students.