Part 1. Fable of open sessions (25 June 2015)

The 25 June 2015 open session of the Board of Governors was epic insofar as the board’s executive and an outside advisor to the Board seemed to excoriate due process. There was so much apparent wrongdoing for me to describe and analyze at that meeting that I shall stretch this out over several blog postings. This first post regarding the Board’s 25 June 2015 meeting continues from my previous post by discussing the fiction of calling these open sessions.

In the past, Carleton University’s Board of Governors would hold bona fide open sessions in the Senate Room, which had seating for the entire Board, administrative underlings, and at least three-dozen members of the public. Three years ago, when the Board moved to the River Building, seating for only a half-dozen members of the public were set aside. As of the 30 April and 25 June 2015 meetings of the Board of Governors, zero members of the public were allowed to attend open sessions. This is why the phrase “open session” is an Orwellian misnomer.

Ten minutes before the start of the 25 June 2015 open session of the Board, I tried bringing a reporter from the school newspaper, the Charlatan, into the meeting as my guest. The reporter never made it past the four special constables guarding the boardroom door as though it were Fort Knox. The police blocked his passage, but were professional enough to relay my message to those inside the boardroom requesting permission for a Charlatan reporter to enter the meeting as my guest. After about a three-minute delay, the special constables still forbade passage of the reporter. As usual the special constables were amazingly professional.

Forbidding the press from attending and reporting on open sessions of the Board of Governors has been a consistent line of attack by the university president and Board’s executive. I had previously reported (here) on how people at the head of the Board table asked that the Charlatan obtain prior permission before recording open sessions back in October 2013. But now the Board simply forbids the press from attending. This is an extreme example of lack of openness and lack of transparency.

Not allowing a journalist into an open session is hypocritical insofar as other guests are routinely allowed into board meetings, including closed sessions, such as members of Carleton’s management team. Even more extreme, an external guest was welcome at both the open and closed session of the board on 28 April 2015.

The past two Board meetings have only been open to the public via live-streaming to a remote location at the opposite end of campus, in Southam Hall. Incidentally, this remote site in Southam Hall was also guarded by special constables during the live-streaming, although I cannot imagine why Carleton’s administration is urinating away monies by assigning such police duties. As one internal member of the Board highlighted, the only remaining option for the public and press, that of watching remote live-streaming, is like saying that watching Parliament or a concert via video link is equivalent to seeing them live. Open should mean open.

Given that so-called open sessions are live-streamed to the public, why are these vodcasts not permanently archived and made available to the public as internet links on the Board’s website? Why maintain minutes of meetings when they are electronically recorded? I would love a recording of all the things that Carleton’s Board and its advisors uttered on 25 June 2015.

The first matter for possible discussion at the 25 June 2015 Board meeting was approval of the open session agenda. I objected to it being called an “open session” agenda, arguing that it should instead be titled something like the “closed, but not confidential session” agenda. Immediately thereafter, I complained that if this were an open session, then the reporter from the Charlatan should have been allowed to observe the meeting from the boardroom. An advisor to Carleton’s Board replied that guests were only allowed into the open session on 25 June 2015 if they had first made a written request and then obtained written permission from the Board’s executive to attend. If this is true, I would like to see the written requests and permissions for attendance by members of Carleton’s management team. I am pretty sure that FIPPA requests would not yield any written requests to admit these internal managers to the 25 June 2015 Board meeting. At the Board meeting, I responded to the aforementioned advisor to the Board, asking where in the Board’s bylaws is it stipulated that anybody needs to make written requests and obtain written permission to attend an open session. The advisor to the Board replied that the there is no such direction in the bylaws nor Board procedures, but that the chair of the Board has discretion to close any Board meeting. Therefore the advisor to the Board admitted that open sessions of the Board are really nothing more than closed sessions. Wow.

The watermark for the open session agenda states that Carleton is located on traditional Algonquin lands. The irony of closing open sessions is that the long-time stewards of these lands would not even be allowed to attend an open session on their traditional territory.

Supposedly, by 30 June 2015, an electronic vote that contravenes the Board’s bylaws and contravenes Robert’s Rules of Order will occur to change the Board’s bylaws to memorialize that open sessions be closed, i.e. live-streamed. I will have more to say on the topic of that and other upcoming questionable elections in part 2 of this series of postings detailing the events of 25 June 2015.

This blog posting only reflects my opinions and observations from the so-called ‘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 so-called closed session nor from any material from confidential sources. As always, I truly welcome your comments.

Note added 14 August 2015: I would like to retract the statements that appeared in my blog post on 25 June 2015 regarding Carleton University’s general counsel, Steven Levitt. The statements were not made with any malicious intent to lie or defame Steven Levitt or any other member of the Board of Governors. I completely retract the false information and apologize for the mistake.

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