Sexual Violence Policy
The Board of Governors approved a new sexual violence policy on 1 December 2016. The version of this policy that was passed (here or see the meeting materials posted online for 1 December 2016) was essentially identical to the draft released by the administration on 6 October 2016, a version that many stakeholders on campus were highly critical of. Provincial law mandated that a sexual violence policy be fully implemented no later than 1 January 2017.
Discussion of the sexual violence policy at the open session of the Board started with the former chair of the Board moving that the Board pass the proposed policy without amendment. Things were then handed-off to the vice-president for students and enrolment, who did little more then hand-off matters to her director of student affairs. This director, who is usually very good, proceeded to drone on for 35-minutes with a monologue that either lacked content or contained content in a Trump-like fashion. One way to suppress discussion is to monopolize all allotted time with a soliloquy.
When discussion of the policy finally did begin amongst all Board members, the Board’s executive was adversarial, as noted in the Ottawa Citizen. The former chair of the Board said that he simply wanted this matter to go away: “I’m interested in getting a policy over and done with.” A student governor asked that interested and knowledgeable stakeholders – the ones that were critical of the 6 October 2016 draft policy – be allowed to express their concerns to the Board, something that had not and was not allowed. The vice-chair of the Board then browbeat that governor so much that the student governor had to leave the room (see here). The vice-chair forcefully said to him, “I have a governance point: If you don’t feel you can speak for graduate students, then why are you here?”
There are two profound ironies to the above quote by the current vice-chair that were directed at the student governor [other than that these two individuals having a history, with the vice-chair previously and unapologetically accusing this student of using “the tactics of Brownshirts and Maosists”]. First, the vice-chair was previously responsible for ruling that internal board members are NOT allowed to represent their constituencies, but instead have to uphold the higher interests of the entire university as part of their fiduciary duties. As former chair of the Board’s Governance Committee, the current vice-chair of the entire Board memorialized the following rule into the Board’s new code of conduct, § II.2, “Act and vote always in the best interest of the University as a whole and not as a representative of any group, stakeholder or particular interest.” Furthermore, on 1 December 2016, another governor protested this exact point – that governors are no longer allowed to represent constituencies – but the current vice-chair’s post-truth about a graduate student governor representing other graduate students was seemingly accepted by all other external governors.
The second profound irony in the vice-chair rejecting the call for stakeholders to address their concerns to the Board was that consultation between stakeholders and those approving the sexual violence policy is required by Ontario Bill 132, the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act. The Board of Governors – not the administration – approved the sexual violence policy and did so without consultation. At least five campus groups formally asked to address the Board on 1 December 2016, and did so in writing long in advance of the 1 December 2016 Board meeting, but all those requests were denied. The Board also did not adequately consult with the university’s own administration. The primary Carleton administrative expertise on sexual violence are individuals in the Equity Services office, especially their Sexual Assault Support Services, and in Health and Counseling Services, but none of those individuals were in the boardroom nor allowed to address the Board on 1 December 2016. Both the consultant on development of Carleton’s sexual violence policy, Joan Riggs, and the university’s equity officer, Karen Green, resigned or were dismissed in spring/summer 2016 because of their involvement in developing this new policy. The only supposed consultation regarding development of the new sexual violence policy was a sham, with two members of the Board of Governors tasked to monitor the proceedings. These two governors were appointed in September 2016, which was too late to monitor most procedural problems. One of these two appointed governors is a University Senate representative on the Board of Governors, so, per collective agreement, is outside of the bargaining unit, giving her very little independence. Her only statement on 1 December was that the comments from the various stakeholders on the 6 October 2016 version of the draft policy were sometimes conflicting. Well, of course they were sometimes conflicting insofar as students sometimes have different interests from staff, who sometimes have different interests from faculty. But these stakeholders still found much common ground. The other appointed governor for this task was the current chair of the Board’s Governance Committee, whose only comments at the 1 December open session – other than what is described in the next paragraph – were that he “was impressed with the degree of consultation and openness of Suzanne [Blanchard’s] staff”, which he managed to say without a hint of sarcasm, and that “the new policy was very well balanced”. What makes his appointment to supposedly independently oversee drafting of the sexual violence policy particularly striking is that the Board’s Governance Committee, which he chairs, absolutely should have had cognizance over approving a new sexual violence policy. But the Governance Committee never seems to have considered the policy. Instead, the Board’s Executive Committee referred the final draft and possibly earlier drafts of the sexual violence policy to its Community Relations Committee, thereby telegraphing that the Board considers sexual violence policy to be a public relations matter, rather than a governance matter.
The current chair of the Governance Committee, acting as one of the two pseudo-independent overseers of the sexual violence policy development process, also made one other statement, a statement that surprised me: He explicitly thanked the three authors of the sexual violence policy by name, Suzanne Blanchard, Jen Sugar, and Steve Levitt. It is good to know exactly who the authors were of this unsigned sexual violence policy. How many stakeholders consulted with all three of these authors and vice versa? What sort of expertise on sexual violence policy do these three authors have? This latter question is especially poignant given the relative lack of consultation and the almost complete lack of change between the 6 October and 1 December drafts of the policy.
The vice-president for students and enrolment even admitted in open session on 1 December that consultation was woefully curtailed by the administration. She voluntarily and proudly declared that “October was feedback month” for the sexual violence policy. Why was only October feedback month? Why did the administration not seek feedback before that, despite the unfortunate losses, without replacement, of Joan Riggs and Karen Green from the process? Why did the administration take no action on the sexual violence policy between when the administration unilaterally cancelled three consecutive meetings on the sexual violence policy in April 2016 until trying a divide-and-conquer pseudo-consultation process in September 2016? Why did the 6 October draft not change in any substantial way from the final approved draft, despite a month of feedback? And, most importantly, why did the Board of Governors never seek feedback or consultation, other than from the three authors of the policy, especially when none of the Board’s governors are experts on sexual violence?
Sexual violence and sex, in general, are largely matters of what constitutes consent. Therefore, we should ask whether the current Board of Governors actually understands consent. The answer appears to be ‘no’. At their 1 December 2016 meeting, the Board of Governors approved a form titled, “Consent to Act as Governor” that is required for every governor to sign, which states, in part, “that I will be deemed to have immediately resigned in any of the following circumstances, [including] if I fail to sign the Code of Conduct annually”. This does not constitute meaningful consent, but is akin to ‘consenting’ to sex with your boss while he is threatening you with loss of your job if you deny his unwanted sexual advances.
Many Carleton students were sufficiently concerned with the lack of consultation, lack of transparency, and particular problems with the draft of the sexual violence policy that they staged a peaceful protest outside of the boardroom on 1 December, a protest that was also attended by a few faculty members. There was also a rally with an overflow crowd two days earlier. The protestors’ chants on 1 December were very much audible from inside the boardroom, but the protestors were not visible because, per recent practice, the board completely draws all the blinds on the boardroom windows, which is on the second floor. Protestors are not allowed in the boardroom nor allowed outside the boardroom door, per instructions of the university president. There were Special Constables (peace officers) stationed at the boardroom door and at each floor by the southernmost stairway and elevator in the River Building. Supposedly the public is allowed in the remainder of that building. But it turns out that was not the case on 1 December. The protestors eventually attempted to enter the building, heading west down the hallway towards Tim Horton’s, which supposedly is public space. Yet, upon entering the building, but still one floor below the boardroom, the director of Carleton’s Department of University Safety physically grabbed at least two of the protestors and shoved them back towards the outdoors. Thus, when the vice-chair of the Board was verbally badgering the concerned student governor in the boardroom, the chief of Carleton’s law enforcement division was physically badgering concerned students one floor below.
At a minimum, what the students both inside and outside the boardroom and other protestors wanted was for the university to incorporate the following details into the sexual violence policy (here). First, for those filing complaints about sexual violence, provide amnesty from prosecution regarding illegal alcohol or drug consumption. Is it more important to prevent sexual assault or underage drinking, only one of which is consensual? Second, the concerned protestors wanted the blanket gag order removed from the policy that prevented survivors from speaking about their experience. Such conversations are often important for metamorphosing from a victim into a survivor. Third, there was a desire to clarify the extent to which the sexual violence policy could be applied to off-campus events. Fourth, the protestors wanted the policy to preclude the complainant and respondent from being required to appear face-to-face as part of the complaint process. Fifth, the protestors want the policy to be reviewed continually once passed, rather than have to wait three years for review. As one student governor put it, three years is most of a student’s tenure at a university. These all seem like reasonable requests and will soon be considered standard practices at many Ontario universities, but not at Carleton.
The reasons given by the director of student affairs for refusing to concede on the aforementioned five demands seemed specious. For example, in justifying the over-reach of the sexual violence policy to events off-campus, she said that otherwise Carleton could not meet its legal obligations. This echoed the reason given by the vice-president of students and enrolment at senate the previous week, who said that without such off-campus reach of the policy that Carleton could not honour cease-and-desist orders issued by courts for events that occurred off-campus. Does the administration really believe that Carleton must ignore judicial orders unless we have specific policies that say we will honour them? Curiously, one of the faculty governors asked whether Carleton ever asked for or received a legal opinion about the draft sexual violence policy, to which an advisor to the board danced but refused to answer. For another example, the director of student affairs said that removing the gag order prohibiting complainants from speaking, “would cause structural problems that would destroy procedural fairness” of the policy, but would not further elaborate. As a final example, regarding the recommendation to immediately begin reviewing the sexual violence policy, the director of student affairs said that everyone can give feedback, even though she also reiterated her boss’s claim that “October was feedback month”. The director of student affairs and the vice-president of students and enrolment both said that we need to first see how the policy fails before trying to fix it. So much for prevention when it comes to sexual violence. As Harry Blackmun once concluded, “But the signs are evident and very ominous, and a chill wind blows.”
Neuroscience and ARSE building
As documented in my 25 November 2016 senate blog, the department of neuroscience is being evicted from its current research and office space so that this building can be resurrected for the faculty of engineering as the Advanced Research in Smart Environments (ARSE) building [innovation is synonymous with research, therefore, to avoid needless redundancy, I removed ‘innovation’ from the name of this building]. Neuroscience is supposed to move into the severely under-funded under-construction health building, which will not be ready for occupancy for at least another year. When I was still on the Board, the cost of the new health building had grown to $54 million, which I thought was still too little for such a high tech building. At the 1 December 2016 Board meeting, the university president stated that the new estimate for completion of the health building will only be $45 million. This financial reallocation, aka downsizing, may make sense because the university is also self-funding the new business school building (~$45 million), self-funding half of the ARSE building (half of $26 million), and has grand plans for a self-funded 1,200-seat concert hall.
In my senate blog, I incorrectly assumed that the emergency meeting of the Board’s Building Committee on 25 November 2016 was to solve this neuroscience eviction debacle. Instead, at the 1 December open session of the Board, we learned that this emergency meeting was instead called because the Building Committee did not like the aesthetics of the architectural plans of the ARSE building. Glad to see the Board has their priorities in order.
On 11 November 2016, the university put out a call for pre-qualification of general contractors for the ARSE building. Bids were due by 1 December 2016.
A governor proposed an emergency motion to either delay construction of the ARSE building until final and satisfactory plans were made for neuroscience or at least meaningfully consult with the stakeholders. This motion was rejected. The university president said that she extensively consulted with her vice-presidents over how best to proceed with neuroscience and the ARSE building and then followed their advice. This implies she did not consult with her deans, department chairs, faculty members, nor students. She seems to have no clue about how disruptive these moving events are for science experiments. The university president also said that the timing was fortuitous, probably referring to the University of Ottawa Hospital’s Smyth Road campus having extra space. One of the neuroscience faculty members in the audience almost lost it when she said mentioned how fortuitous this timing was. However, this was probably topped by the vice-president finance’s principle justification for the ARSE building being that the current Life Science Building that exclusively houses the neuroscience department is “under-utilized” (see the letter from vice-president finance to Board’s Building Committee dated 9 November 2016 in the open session binder for this totally specious justification).
The only reasonable things said about neuroscience were by the dean of science, who discussed the ongoing consultations and negotiations. This coming week he is taking neuroscience faculty to see the University of Ottawa temporary facilities on Smyth Road. After that, he is meeting with neuroscience graduate students. The dean candidly discussed ongoing concerns with the University of Ottawa arrangement, such as possible distance between animal care facilities and wet labs, including necessary lab equipment therein. It may turn out that the temporary animal care facilities at the University of Ottawa Hospital are kilometers apart from neuroscience wet lab facilities. According to the dean, there are a lot of logistical details still to be worked out. An external governor then asked if there was a plan B if the University of Ottawa plan falls through or fails. The vice-president finance said that there is no plan B. Wow.
On a final note related to new buildings, especially in an era when Carleton finances these construction projects by itself, possibly from huge reserve funds, the Board should ask why are we putting so much money into bricks-and-mortar and so little money into people? I am not suggesting that we double the number of people hired, but that maybe we be more creative in who we hire. In the past decade, the number of Instructors (permanent, but who often do no research, at least not in a traditional sense) and Contingent Instructors (non-permanent, but sometimes indefinitely so) has ballooned. Instead, why not hire more tenure-track researchers. Furthermore, virtually all the tenure-track researchers that Carleton hires are at the assistant professor level. Why not hire more senior faculty members, at the associate and full professor levels? This will cost money, but maybe that is possibly better than erecting building with inadequate space that quickly crumble into disrepair, such as the Nesbitt and Loeb Buildings, and now probably the new health building. The only exceptions Carleton regularly makes in hiring senior faculty members is in hiring deans and vice-presidents, who usually don’t end up doing any research.
New “Consent to Act as Governor” form
The newly approved “Consent to Act as Governor” form is perverse in many ways, not just because it shows that external members of the board do not understand consent. First of all, acting like a governor should not include intimidation of student governors, which is becoming a recurring problem with Carleton’s Board, making us look more and more like the board at Memorial University. Second and very strangely, on 1 December, members of the Board’s Executive Committee could not agree why this form was created. One governor said it was primarily to allow for electronic communication. Another governor said it was primarily to remove internal governors from the Board if they left the university. Another governor said it was primarily to use photos of governors in public relations. Another governor said the primary purpose was to insure vigourous debate at board meeting (laughable, but I will let that slide). Another governor wondered why even have this consent form because it seems redundant. Again, these comment were all from members of the Executive Committee, yet the form was approved by the full Board.
Even more insidious, the advisor to the Board, who admitted to drafting the form, stated that this new consent form must be signed after a governor is nominated but before the governor starts serving. Yet nothing that was passed specifies that signing this consent form is mandatory. It seems that the advisor to the board unilaterally made this a requirement. Furthermore, such a requirement would have to be made via a change in the bylaws. But this was not done. Yet again, it looks like the executive of Carleton’s Board of Governors is making up and changing rules as it goes along, dangerously conflating the “rule of law” with “rule by law” (here and here).
Executive Committee minutes
In early 2016, the Board passed Appendix A to its new (and improperly passed) bylaws. Appendix A provides a presumption that all Board documents will be public and open, unless specific reasons are provided to render them confidential or closed documents. This should apply to all Executive Committee minutes, which provide the most important decisions of the Carleton Board of Governors. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the Board continues to violate its own rules by refusing to release even portions of the minutes of their Executive Committee minutes. Once again, the binder of open documents does not include Executive Committee minutes, but the closed session agenda does.
Recording of open sessions
At the start of the meeting, for the second consecutive meeting, the chair announced that the meeting was being recorded, not just live streamed, but that this was just for verification purposes. Per Appendix A of the bylaws, such a recording is an open public document and should be released to the public and properly archived. But instead the Board keeps such recordings secret.
This blog posting reflects my opinions and reporting of events at the open session of the Carleton Board of Governors. This posting is not meant as a proxy for the official minutes of the meeting. Please note that I did not attend the entire open session on 1 December, needing to excuse myself twice for short durations, so may have missed items. But I did attend the Board’s entire discussion of the sexual violence policy. As always, I welcome your feedback.