There is not much to report from the 30 March 2015 Board of Governors open session other than the student protest over tuition, which disrupted the majority of the meeting. In fact, as best I can discern, the Board meeting is still in recess, never having been officially adjourned. Before reporting briefly on the protest, there are a few other items of note.
Initially on the agenda for this Board meeting was a motion changing the bylaws to preclude union officers from serving as Board members. Just before the meeting, this item was removed from the agenda. When I asked for the reason for this removal from the agenda, the answer was that necessary documents had not been disseminated to Board members. Technically, that is true: neither the motion itself nor any supporting documentation had been disseminated. The Board was then told that this proposed bylaw change would come before the entire Board on 28 April 2015. This is starting to sound like republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives continually voting on repeals of Obamacare. And, like our conservative colleagues south of the border, I expect this bylaw precluding union officers from serving on the Board will ultimately not be decided by a legislative body, but rather by a judicial body. The previous proposed bylaw changes that I saw precluding union officers from serving all seemed to infringe upon Charter Rights and violate the Ontario Labour Relations Act.
The university announced its priority list for deferred maintenance. At the top of that list was the MacOdrum Library. Inexplicably Carleton did not include deferred maintenance in the recent $25 million renovation of our library.
The Board’s open consent agenda contained summaries of recent meetings of Carleton’s Senate that were drafted by the Clerk of Senate. What is peculiar is that these cannot be construed as minutes of the Senate meetings because these summaries had not yet been approved by the full Senate.
At this juncture, I have very little to say about the protest that ‘successfully’ disrupted the Board meeting. After the Board chair brought up the report from the “Task Force on the Affordability of the Tuition Fee Framework” and immediately after the Vice President Finance started to make his presentation, seven students who were in the audience as observers stood. They took turns providing short statements using a megaphone. This was first time I had heard a megaphone since listening to Tom Waits in concert singing through one. Twice the Board chair tried unsuccessfully to regain the floor in the face of the ongoing protest. The Board of Governors never had an opportunity to debate the Task Force Report nor even hear the presentation and report from the chair of the Task Force. The chair of the Board called a recess, which eventually extended indefinitely as Board members gradually departed the meeting permanently. The meeting never resumed, but was also never officially adjourned.
The seven or eight student protesters in the boardroom seemed incredibly diverse, especially in contrast with the seemingly homogenous members of the Board. The Board’s nominating committee needs to be cognizant of such contrasts. Diversity makes decision-making far more fair and robust. Maybe students and the Board would be more amenable to dialogue if Board member diversity better reflected diversity of our community at-large.
With one exception, a snowball thrown at the boardroom window from outside (i.e. not a Jim Inhofe snowball stunt), this was a remarkably peaceful protest, a beautiful example of free speech and peaceful civil disobedience. The Board’s executive and university’s administration also showed remarkable restraint in not trying to remove or silence protesters, except for the chair twice raising his voice. University police, at least those that I saw, were consummate calm professionals. Other than the snowball and one or two due process gaffes by the Board’s chair and other members of the Board’s executive committee – I will defer blogging about these due process gaffes – all parties should be commended for how respectfully they handled this disagreement.