Seating and secrecy

The board chair began the meeting with an announcement that board members need to sign the newly revised Code of Conduct (here). Near the end of this blog post, I will have more to say about this revised document.

The boardroom blinds were all fully drawn so that nobody from outdoors could watch the open session.

The number of seats for the public to watch board open session were still limited and those few seats were only available upon advanced request to the university secretary. Although the board table had several vacant seats, some administrative underlings were relegated to the spectator seats, such as the university’s relatively new sexual assault support coordinator, who had to find a microphone to answer questions about the sexual violence policy. Another audience seat was reserved for Carleton’s director of graduate studies, but who was not in attendance. That left only four seats for the public, which seems like an intentional move to limit the number of genuine visitors to board open sessions.

The seating arrangement at the board table was different than before. This time, the board chair, university president, university secretary, general counsel, university vice presidents, and all other university administrators sat on one side of the table, while all board members other than the chair sat on the other side of the table. This is an “us versus them” arrangement, not something that reflects supposed collegiality in which all board members are treated as equal.


The first substantial portion of the open session was a pair of presentations for information. The assistant vice-president academic, Adrian Chan, described his work on accessibility. He gave a remarkably good presentation, although it is not obvious why the board needed to hear it. He had recently been awarded a $1.65 million NSERC grant for this work, for which he deserves kudos. This provided a stark contrast to the next presentation by the vice president of research, who spoke interminably about metrics in the newly signed second Strategic Mandate Agreement. One system-wide metric is the total number of grant dollars from tri-council (NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR), of which Carleton last year received $16.5 million. This is only ten times what Adrian Chan received in one grant, albeit I am not sure over how many years. This shows that tri-council grants are becoming less equitable, with fewer grants of larger size. This also shows that Carleton’s ability to obtain tri-council funding has been waning over the past several years. The amount of indirect costs associated with tri-council funding, which all gets put into Carleton’s “Research Support Fund”, is 29% of actual grant amounts. This was larger than I had thought and means that more administrative services should probably be provided to our faculty from this overhead, such as long-distance phone charges, toner cartridges, and new office computers and printers for faculty members every few years.

CRC Equity Plan

The board approved a CRC Equity Plan (CRC = Canada Research Chair), as mandated by the federal government. The plan is available in the consent agenda. One external (“at-large”) board member asked whether this plan conflicts with the CUASA collective agreement. The university president responded that it did not conflict insofar as the CRC equity plan was merely a reporting document.

Parking garage

Minutes of the 19 September 2017 Building Committee meeting, which were first made public on 10 February 2018, state:

A MOA is being considered with the City of Ottawa in regards to the tunnel connection between the light rail line and campus tunnel system. During the shutdown of the light rail line (April 2020 – September 2021) additional buses service to campus is being planned. The addition of three stories to the parking structure is also being considered during the light rail shutdown.

A tunnel connection to the O-Train station sounds great, which would be especially nice if the tunnels went to both northbound and southbound gates. A doubling in height of the existing 617 parking space parking garage over the O-Train, however, would be detrimental to Carleton. While Carleton has lost several dozen parking spaces due to construction of the new health and business buildings, it has not lost 617 parking spaces. While the administration undoubtedly has enough money in unrestricted reserve funds to afford $30-35 million for a parking garage addition, there is no need. Extra parking makes the university less environmentally friendly. Provincial demographic numbers show numbers of high school graduates continuing to decline through 2020 or 2021, with only meager increases over the subsequent few years. And the provincial government has imposed a corridor model of funding, which translates into a financial penalty if enrolments increase. So why add over 600 new parking spaces? The one obvious answer is for extra overflow parking for Lansdowne’s professional football and hockey games, both of which have game-day shuttles to and from Carleton’s O-Train parking garage. Carleton should not be subsidizing the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG).

The Dominion-Chalmers Rollercoaster

The university president stated that, “negotiations to purchase Dominion-Chalmers church are like a rollercoaster.” This made some external governors nervous insofar as the purchase and renovation of the church were supposedly going to be funded solely with external donations that had already been secured. If the deal falls through, what happens to the donated money? The university president said that, without the purchase, all donations would be returned. This has interesting tax implications if a donation and subsequent return occur in separate tax years. The university president said that several potential donors have waited on making a final commitment because of these tax implications. Carleton’s announcement on the purchase of Dominion-Chalmers church is scheduled for 2 March 2018, but this will only happen if the deal is close, much closer than it apparently is today. This may have an effect on Carleton’s overall fund-raising, which supposedly is around $30 million per year.

New buildings

Construction of the Advanced Research in Smart Environments (ARSE) building was supposedly well behind schedule, but this will not effect provincial funding because the final financial installment is supposed to be made in April 2018. This building is much taller than its predecessor, the old Life Science Building. Even just a few years ago, the university president stated to the board that the master plan had Carleton demolishing and not replacing Patterson Hall so that people in Dunton Tower and Tory Building would have nice views of the Rideau River. That view is now entirely obstructed by the big ARSE building. So much for master plans.

The chair of the building committee also mentioned potential future building projects. He said they would cost at total of $140 million, but he never said what those projects were and nobody questioned him.

Governance Committee

The chair of the board’s governance committee reported on their committee meeting of 1 February 2018, which contained a few surprising details. He stated that the terms of reference for the board’s executive committee should reflect bylaw 8.01 and that the minutes of the executive committee should reflect the “fulsome discussions at those executive committee meetings”. Having minutes reflect fulsome discussions is code for keeping those minutes secret. What the governance committee chair neglected to mention is that Appendix A of the bylaws requires that minutes of executive committee meetings are to be released as open session documents, as part of the boards (faux?) attempt at openness and transparency, a requirement that the board has blatantly flouted since the new bylaws came into effect on 1 July 2016. In relevant part, Appendix A of the bylaws states:

There is no ordinary right in the University to prevent public disclosure of University records simply by considering the matter and creating the record pursuant to a session of a meeting that the University has held in camera, whether at the Board or Committee level. The University may allow that a matter be considered in a closed session of a meeting for the sake of frank and open discussion, but any record generated as a result of that discussion is available to the public unless the record is otherwise exempt from disclosure.

The chair of the governance committee also announced that a consultant would be hired to review the workings of the board, including transparency of communications and size of the board. Not sure if this is a cover for keeping executive committee minutes secret or for altering the Code of Conduct. I am also curious how they will change the size of the board. The Carleton University Act specifies that the board will be composed of the chancellor, vice-chancellor, and 30 other members. This is why I tried altering the break-down of those 30 individuals to be 15 internal members and 15 external members (my motion was rejected after the board chair repeatedly badgered the seconder into withdrawing their second; see here). Members of the Carleton community will need to keep a close eye on these developments.

At the 8 February 2018 board open session, the public was first given the chance to see the minutes of the 11 October 2017 governance committee minutes. These minutes contained some fascinating revelations, such as that the university president would be consulting with students about changes to the Code of Conduct, but conspicuously not mentioning consultations with faculty or staff. These minutes document that the university would be (future tense) having a meeting with CAUT about those proposed changes, even though that meeting had actually occurred three weeks prior to the governance committee meeting (past tense). But my favourite part of those minutes was that someone recommended that members of the governance committee read Peter MacKinnon’s book “University leadership and public policy in the twenty-first century: a president’s perspective”. This is ironic insofar as MacKinnon’s next book was just published in January 2018, in which he stated that board members should be prohibited from blogging about open sessions of their university board, but that audience members should be allowed to freely blog about the exact same open sessions. MacKinnon never describes the difference between these two individuals nor what would happen if a board member drafted something that was subsequently posted by an observer who was not a board member. The real irony comes from Carleton’s board of governors expressly allowing its members to freely blog about open sessions according to the Code of Conduct that was revised on 9 January 2018 (here). Even the passing of this revised Code of Conduct was odd insofar as the board convened a closed session in order to implement changes ostensibly meant to foster openness and transparency!

Closing remarks

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 nor as a proxy for the official meeting summary that is drafted by the board’s executive before the open session actually occurs. As always, I welcome your feedback.


Dominion-Chalmers church

The board devoted over a half-hour of time in both open and closed session to Carleton’s potential purchase of Dominion-Chalmers church in downtown Ottawa. Carleton’s outgoing president proposed that the church would mostly be used as an event centre, but also partly used for teaching. During the daytime, the church will be used for various Carleton academic programs, mainly music, architecture, and Indigenous studies, the latter of which is ironic given that this is a church with ‘dominion’ in its name.

I wonder whether this is weak surrogate for the 1,200-seat state-of-the-art concert hall that our outgoing president has been proposing, but which never got built. Dominion-Chalmers church seats approximately 800 people and has previously hosted the likes of Jane Goodall and David Suzuki. There was talk at the board today about removing the church organ to create space for a symphony orchestra on stage.

The outgoing university president and chair of the board noted that the administration and several members of the board’s executive committee have been extensively discussing this church purchase for over one year. Such discussion must have been kept quite secret insofar as some members of the board mentioned today in open session that they were hearing about this purchase for the first time. That implies that this church purchase had not been broached in closed sessions of the full board before 29 June 2017 and that this purchase had not been mentioned in minutes of the board’s executive committee. This would be a huge and expensive purchase, with effectively very little oversight. So much for openness and transparency.

According to discussions in open session today, the owners of this church first approached Carleton’s administration in May or June of 2016 about this sale. Carleton’s administration, in conjunction with the secret subset of the board’s executive committee, then apparently conducted a price point analysis of this church. In March 2017, the province of Ontario committed some funds for Carleton’s purchase of the church, with that commitment expiring in March 2018. According to the outgoing university president, Carleton has apparently secured an additional donation of $2 million for this purchase, although that commitment expires in August 2017 unless Carleton goes through with the purchase. The university communications office mass e-mail that was sent the morning after the board meeting mentioned that Carleton needs to close this deal within 90 days (oddly, not the 60 days, of late August). At open session, the outgoing president also hinted at other (smaller?) donations, but was not explicit. Carleton has obtained letters of support from the city. The president also mentioned one letter of support from an individual, that of John Ruddy, who was a former member of Carleton’s board, current co-owner of the professional football team in town, and biggest financial athletic supporter of Carleton’s men’s-only football team. Regardless, Carleton’s full Board of Governors was pressured today into rendering a huge financial decision before the next board meeting could occur in October 2017, ostensibly because the full board had been kept in the dark for so long. But, reading between the lines from the aforementioned en masse e-mail from university communications, the Board neither approved nor rejected the church purchase in closed session today: “No final decision was made on the project at the meeting. The administration will do further due diligence, including engaging stakeholders, during the next 90 days.” Usually these university communiqués are issued within minutes of the end of board meetings, but this one was not issued until 17 hours later, a sign that full board balked at the pressure to buy a church. So much for openness and transparency.

A reporter from CBC audio recorded the entire open session board debate about purchasing this church, as well as taking many still photographs. The board’s executive allowed this recording. Ironically, board bylaws and code of conduct prohibit board members from making such audio recordings or taking photos. So much for openness and transparency.

Dominion-Chalmers church is apparently a heritage conservation site, which thus must be conserved and preserved. Would sale to Carleton be a way to offload those conservation and restoration costs onto the university?

The outgoing university president said that Carleton has secured sufficient funds to both purchase and renovate this church in full. Nonetheless, the board chair reserved all discussions of finances to the closed session, so it is not altogether obvious how much of the purchase price will be coming from things like Carleton’s unrestricted reserve funds. It was also not obvious how much renovations will cost. It was not obvious how much projected revenue Carleton plans on making by renting out this church. The outgoing president stated that she expects that the church would be used for events 159 nights per year, i.e. on average, about three nights per week (and yes, she reported this number with three significant digits). That seems to imply an unrealistic revenue stream.

Strategic Mandate Agreements

The outgoing university president reported that Carleton has completed negotiations with the province on the latest round of Strategic Mandate Agreements. She said that all that remains are dotting ‘i’s and crossing ‘t’s, which should be finalized in the next two to four weeks. She reported that the Strategic Mandate Agreement (SMA) was drafted by a committee of deans and associate vice-presidents. The outgoing president then said, “The SMA does not require senate or board approval.” I quoted this verbatim. However, at an open meeting of Senate on 28 March 2016, this same president promised to do better by letting Senate ratify this round of Strategic Mandate Agreements before drafts were sent to the province in 2017. Clearly that never happened, but was an empty promise to assuage criticism and stifle debate at Senate.

I wrote the following just four days before the 29 June 2017 board meeting:

For years, I complained that Carleton’s Senate is foreclosed by the president’s office from having any meaningful role in drafting Strategic Mandate Agreements with the province of Ontario (e.g. see here). Instead, in 2014, the university president only provided Senate with the final approved version of the Strategic Mandate Agreement, without Senate consultation. Then, insidiously, the president proposed a motion that Senate acknowledge receipt of this document. At the Senate meeting of 28 March 2016, the university president promised to do better by letting Senate ratify the next round of Strategic Mandate Agreements before drafts were sent to the province in 2017. Yet the president and provost reneged on that promise in early 2017, at which time they completely avoided consultation with Senate.

 Strategic Mandate Agreements are the most important academic documents that exist for universities in Ontario. They stipulate how much existing academic programs will be allowed to grow and stipulate which new academic programs can be created. Strategic Mandate Agreements are much more important than strategic plans, which some have argued are just line items on CVs of provosts to help them gain employment elsewhere. Senate is supposed to be the ultimate body for deciding all academic matters at Carleton. So why does Carleton’s Senate only get to approve receipt of Strategic Mandate Agreement documents once sent to the province? Does circumvention of Senate in drafting Strategic Mandate Agreements contravene the Carleton University Act?

 Unfortunately, the aforementioned problems are not unique to Carleton. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations, OCUFA, recently reported that Strategic Mandate Agreements at many provincial universities are drafted by upper administration fiat, without any meaningful consultation with Senates or with Faculty Associations. OCUFA’s recommendation is that the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development require that faculty be meaningfully consulted in drafting of Strategic Mandate Agreements.

Presidential search

Carleton is hoping to appoint a new president, starting on 1 July 2018. A search committee has been established, which has two oddities. First, the committee membership lists Nik Nanos as Board vice-chair. Nik Nanos is replacing Michael Wernick as vice-chair, half-way into Michael Wernick’s two-year term. Second, the committee membership lists three Senate representatives, who were supposedly chosen by a Senate election. The problem is that two of those three Senate representatives are outside of the faculty union, one because they are an associate dean and the other because they were elected by the Senate to a three-year Board of Governors seat hence are automatically out of the bargaining unit. It seems like regulatory capture having members of the management team hire a president, a president who could then turn around and fire those managers that had served on the search committee.

The Board’s executive committee has put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a headhunter to lead the presidential search. Regardless, the board chair said that he expects thirty (30) bids on this RFP, which seems like a lofty expectation. He also stated that the position of president at Carleton should be a plum because of Carleton’s superb financial position, running large surpluses for many consecutive years.

Executive compensation

The board chair was lamenting how the provincial government has frozen executive compensation, which made it difficult recruiting new university presidents. The provincial cap is being removed soon, albeit in a gradual fashion. Executive committees of university boards of governors are required to a submit proposal on executive compensation to the government of Ontario by 27 September 2017. However, it is not obvious when the province will approve or otherwise vet these proposals. Final versions of approved executive compensation plans will be publicly posted.

For years, maybe even decades, Carleton’s Board of Governors delegated executive compensation to a subcommittee of the executive committee, namely the “executive compensation sub-committee”, which in recent years merely has meant approval of the president’s annual 12% bonus. Today, the full board in open session revised the terms of reference of this subcommittee, which is now known as the “executive HR/compensation sub-committee”. This subcommittee of five select members has an important new task, namely “to review and recommend the mandates for collective bargaining in respect of labour”.

Decibel levels from new co-generation plant

Carleton is replacing its old electric power and heat generation plants with a single unified co-generation plant that will be located adjacent to the light-rail O-Train and the pedestrian underpass by the train station. This underpass is a major thoroughfare, connecting the gym and northbound train platform with residences and most academic parts of campus. A board member asked how much noise this new co-generation plant would typically generate. Will the many pedestrians who walk past there be exposed to dangerous sound levels? Amazingly, nobody knew the answer nor offered to find out.

Closing remarks

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. As always, I welcome your feedback.



CAUT censure of Carleton University

The chair of the board declined an explicit request from a governor to allow any discussion of CAUT censure during the open session, instead shunting all discussion of censure to the closed session. Ironically, CAUT is considering censure because of lack of openness and transparency on the part of Carleton’s Board of Governors.

Special constables

Since April 2015, i.e. for two years, special constables had been guarding the Board of Governors boardroom at and immediately before meeting times, only allowing entry to those officially approved by the university secretary. These special constables had not only set-up checkpoints at the boardroom door, but also at each floor of the elevator and stairwell near the boardroom. That was all missing today, where I did not see any special constables by the boardroom. That is a fantastic policy change.

Too bad there were only three chairs in the boardroom today other than at the board table, i.e. at most three chairs for those not specially designated for board members and advisors to the board. And one of those three chairs was occupied by the director of facilities management and planning, who was mute for the entire open session, leaving only two chairs for guests. Two chairs is too few.

Recording of open session

Yet again, the board heard that open sessions were live streamed, but not recorded. Yet again, the board heard that open sessions were audio taped, but that the tape would be destroyed once minutes were drafted. This not only violates Appendix A of board’s bylaws, but demonstrates lack of openness and lack of transparency by destroying what should be archived public records.


Something very good but very strange happened with the board’s annual approval of the university operating budget this year. The good news was that board explicitly decided what to do with the annual surplus. In the past, these monies were simply squirreled away in unrestricted reserve funds. The strange news was that the board first approved what to do with the $38 million surplus and then subsequently approved the (remaining) ‘balanced operating budget’. I know nothing about accounting, but that seems completely backwards. Naively, I would first approve a budget that included a surplus and only after that decide how to allocate the surplus.

The board first was told about the sources of the surplus. That too is peculiar. Surpluses can be due to any extra revenues or any reduced costs, with it seeming illogical to circumscribe precisely which ones caused the surplus. Nonetheless, the board heard that revenues increased by $14.7 million due to higher than expected enrollments, resulting in a larger than expected grant from the province (but oddly not due to increased tuition from these additional students). Revenues also increased by $5.8 million because a year ago the university moved $100 million from a capital fund into equities…and the stock market did better than anticipated. The board heard that the university had $23.5 million in reduced costs due to stage-three pension solvency relief from the province.

The board approved the $38 million surplus go to four uses. The largest use of the surplus is stashing $12.2 million in the pension solvency reserve fund. This is one that I do not understand. If the province keeps granting pension relief, if the Joint Special Pension Plan (JSPP) is foisted on universities, or if bond rates increase, then there is no need for a pension solvency reserve. To me, this looks like a public relations ploy to hide unrestricted monies that will eventually be used elsewhere. Possibly for that reason, a student governor suggested that this $12.2 million instead be used for student aid, a suggestion that went absolutely nowhere, although I think it was a great idea. For those counting, after the December 2016 pension valuation, Carleton’s pension solvency concern stands at $223 million. Furthermore, Carleton just did or is about to make a $35 million special payment to the province for pension solvency, even though only $10 million was required by province. Second, from the $38 million surplus, an extra $10 million will be used for student aid endowments, contingent on matching funds from private donors. The board never said what would happen to any balance that was not matched, which seems like a peculiar omission. Third, $10 million will be used for five new endowed chairs. But then the board chair noted that each endowed chair costs $4 million, at which point the university president announced that $6 million has already been matched by private donors for endowed chairs in science, public affairs, and arts. That still leaves $4 million that has not been raised. i.e. there may be one fewer endowed chair. Fourth, from the surplus, $6 million will be shunted to the Investment Income Equalization fund. This smooths through poor years for the university’s investments, should they occur, especially as more is invested in higher-risk financial instruments. If the investments do as well as expected this year, can we assume that this amount will be carried forward or will this $6 million instead by moved to unrestricted reserve funds?

The vice president finance said he does not expect any budget shortfalls until at least 2022/2023, if not later. Lack of austerity bodes well for unions in collective bargaining and should bode well for students asking for things like tuition freezes or tuition waivers for graduate students.

Once the board approved what to do with the surplus, then they considered and approved the so-called balanced operating budget. The slides from the vice-president finance even explicitly stated that the goal was to balance the budget. While I think this vice-president is superb, that assertion stretches credulity.


The remainder of this blog post contains various tidbits, mostly gleaned from the vice-president finance’s excellent and informative presentation on the operating budget.

Carleton filed its draft Strategic Mandate Agreement with the province on 17 April 2017. This means that the university senate never approved nor was asked to approve the draft. How can the most crucial academic document in the university be so devoid of senate oversight?

One debacle with the Strategic Mandate Agreement is that Carleton will not be allowed to grow any programs, at least for the next two years while the province keeps post-secondary education budgets flat while they try to sort out a funding framework and differentiation. The problem is that Carleton has recently introduced a plethora of boutique new programs. Is there any way for the university to reconcile these contradictory forces? Can the province be persuaded to cut us some slack on this? Stay tuned for wishful thinking. The university president stated that she does not even think that University of Toronto will be allowed to get away with their massive proposed cuts to undergraduate enrollment (in exchange for a larger provincial to reward all their research activities), so it is not obvious how much leverage Carleton can have at Queen’s Park.

Another problem with the Strategic Mandate Agreement is that the university president blatantly refuses to tell the board what is being proposed in our draft. She refused to tell board members who asked what our boutique metrics will be, with the rationale that she does not want University of Ottawa to get wind of this, so that they don’t emulate Carleton. I could understand moving such discussions to closed session, but to simply refuse to tell board members what you are doing seems wrong. In a similar vein, when the university president mentioned that Carleton was only one of two provincial universities that are balanced between research and teaching and the vice-chair of the board asked who was the other such university, the university president responded that this was too sensitive to answer. So much for openness and transparency.

The vice-president finance showed a slide demonstrating that number of students is increasing at a higher rate than the number of faculty is increasing and that both numbers are increasing at roughly constant rates. There’s one key performance indicator, student-faculty ratio, down the toilet for Carleton. Not too surprisingly, that slide was NOT in the slide deck provided to the public.

The university is investing monies into at least three new buildings. The ARSE (Advanced Research in Smart Environments) building is still budgeted to cost $29.5 million, half of which Carleton is paying out of our own pockets. The new health building’s cost is now estimated to be $52 million, up by about $3 million since last reported at a board open session. An additional $8 million of Carleton funds are going towards design of the new business building. The business building design is to be completed this August, with go ahead for final construction to be decided by the board in early fall 2017.

The vice-president finance said two things about salaries. First, in response to a question from an external board member, he said that Carleton “salaries are in the fair range” and “not in the high range” and that “we are NOT overpaying our people”. Second, in a discussion of pension projections, he said that our pension estimates are based on 4.7% annual salary increases. The university president quickly chirped in that we are not giving any employees those levels of salary increases. But at least this gives bargaining units a decent goal (or ceiling?) for what to bargain for.

The vice-president research proposed a motion to reallocate $9.8 million from a reserve fund designated for the matching portion of a Canada First – Research Excellence Fund (CF-REF) grant in aerospace engineering, an expenditure that was approved by the board last year. The problem was that Carleton was not awarded the external grant, so cannot spend the previously appropriated $9.8 million matching portion. The vice-president research basically suggested that this almost ten million dollars be re-allocated to many smaller projects, with the proviso that his office will have discretion how to spend these funds to promote other research grants. He suggested that these could possibly be used for NSERC Strategic Partnership Development grants and Canada Excellence in Research Chairs, both of which (I believe) tend to make Canadian research funding less equitable. There was a fair amount of contention regarding this motion. One external governor said that “this re-allocation does not smell right.” One internal governor asked that some of these funds also go to fund infrastructure. But, in the end, as invariably happens with motions proposed by the administration, this motion passed without amendment.

Closing remarks

This blog posting reflects my opinions and reporting of events at the open session of the Carleton University Board of Governors. This posting is not meant as a proxy for the official minutes of the meeting. As always, I welcome your feedback.

[This is a re-posting of the announcement of an upcoming protest on 2 March 2017]

On Thursday 16 February 2017 three students on behalf of the Not Our Policy campaign were intimidated and threatened with arrest by two special constables from campus security while setting up a banner in front of the Carleton University sign. Throughout the month of February, students have been placing banners on the Carleton sign stating “Stop Sexual Violence, Not Our Policy” as part of a larger campaign to bring awareness to the need to reform Carleton’s sexual violence policy. This campaign includes an open letter and petition with recommendations to reform Carleton’s policy (

The two special constables interrupted the three students while they were putting up the banner and then split them up to question them, taking down information including names, phone numbers, student numbers and home addresses. They tried to pressure the students into providing the names of other individuals who have been involved in the campaign. They informed the students that they had been tracking their social media pages, specifically naming the “Not Our Policy” facebook page. They threatened these students with criminal charges of vandalism and mischief stating that if they continued to do banner drops they would be “in a lot of trouble”. These special constables went on to tell the three students to pass along the message to others involved in the banner drops that if this activism continued they would all be criminally charged. When the students began asking questions about their legal rights, they were told to be quiet, to put their phones away and to cooperate. The special constables did not detain these students.

First, we reject the claim that property was being vandalized at Carleton University. The banners are messages painted onto paper and tied around the Carleton sign with string, causing no damage to the property in any way. The threat of charges under vandalism have no merit and, we argue, are thinly veiled threats to intimidate all those involved in the campaign to reform Carleton’s sexual violence policy. We maintain that the purpose of the special constables’ interruption on Thursday was not to protect Carleton’s property, but rather to protect Carleton’s reputation.

Second, the response from security is an extension of the Carleton administration’s pattern of silencing dissent on campus. Rather than reaching out to stakeholders involved in the campaign to reform Carleton’s sexual violence policy, they have actively sought to exclude us from the process. We were barred from the Board of Governors meeting when they discussed and passed the sexual violence policy. Our calls for further reform to the policy once the final draft was sent out have been dismissed. Instead of reaching out to us to begin a dialogue over the continued shortcomings of the current sexual violence policy the administration continues to state they will not revisit the policy for three years, and now has members of campus security threatening to arrest students for dissenting through public awareness campaigns.

It is disturbing that Carleton University would threaten to arrest these three students, and everyone involved in the campaign, for putting up paper posters and banners. This is on top of being ignored by the administration, excluded from the Board of Governors meetings, and dismissed as “noisy people” by our university president in an e-mail to the Carleton community. We are concerned with the culture of fear and silence that is being created on our campus. It is evident that the Carleton administration is more concerned about protecting their public image than taking meaningful steps to support survivors of sexual violence.

As a campaign, we have decided not to allow these intimidation tactics by the Carleton administration stop our work to pursue reforms to our sexual violence policy. We have decided to organize a rally against threats to the Not Our Policy campaign at the Carleton sign on Thursday 2 March 2017 at 4:00 pm. More information can be found at this link: We invite all members of the university community to join us to tell the Carleton administration we will not be silenced and that we will continue our work until Carleton reforms their sexual violence policy to be truly survivor-centric.

In solidarity,

The Not Our Policy campaign



On 1 January 2017, Carleton instituted one of the most counterproductive policies of all time: moving the daily e-mail newsletter of events, Today@Carleton, to an intranet. Until 31 December 2016, anybody could subscribe to this newsletter, a newsletter that contained a plethora of information-rich announcements of public events on campus, such as public lectures, public workshops, and sporting events. These five-times a week e-mails also contained links to full versions of announcements of each event. This was an incredibly valuable service that really made Carleton seem like an open and giving member of the community.

At the start of 2017, this five-day week e-mail feed was replaced with another five-day a week e-mail feed, Carleton Top 5, but only people with a Carleton computer ID and password can subscribe to it. And even then, this new e-mail feed contains much less information per event, usually only the first line from what previously was an entire paragraph, and many fewer events per day (5) than the old daily newsletter (varied, but usually 10-20). As a Carleton employee, I still get the same number of e-mails per week, five from both the old and new service, but have to expend far more effort to obtain any useful information. The links for each event now can only be accessed by logging into Carleton’s new intranet. Why the extreme secrecy and lack of transparency, especially for public events? Was this an over-reaction to protests over Carleton sponsoring a meeting on how to prosecute indigenous and environmental protestors as terrorists by invoking Bill C-51? Was this an over-reaction to protests over the Board of Governors lack of consultation on important matters, such as a sexual violence policy and tuition increases? How can we attract the public that used to rely on the old e-mail subscription to attend important events, such as hearing Nobel laureates give talks, the annual discovery lecture, and various weekly departmental seminars?

I am including this matter in my Board of Governors blog in the hopes that the board’s community relations committee takes action to return a modicum of transparency to Carleton by moving the daily e-mail newsletter back to an open source instrument for anybody in the public to subscribe to and without password-protected links.

The following is my report from the 2 February 2017 open session of Carleton University’s board of governors. The first two sections highlight major due process problems, with the board seeming – at least to a naïve observer like me – to be violating provincial laws and the board’s own bylaws.

Sealing and destruction of open records

The board chair began by saying that the open session was being audio recorded, that the recording would not be made available but was only be used to insure accuracy of the minutes, and that the audio recording would be destroyed once minutes were drafted. This is an open meeting. Why keep the recording secret? If someone were to file a Freedom of Information and Personal Privacy Act (FIPPA) request for these recordings, what would be the board’s reply? Does section 10.1 of FIPPA preclude such willful destruction of public records? In terms of FIPPA, how do these audio recordings differ from e-mails to and from the university president? If the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ (CAUT) censure of Carleton is mostly about lack of transparency, then destruction of records of open meetings is truly an indictment.

Not only does the board appear to be violating FIPPA by destroying audio recordings of open session, the board also appears to be violating its own bylaws. The relevant part of Appendix A to the board’s bylaws state:

The ordinary requirement emerging from the various statutes and legal rules is that all records created by the University are available to the public pursuant to the right to information established by those statutes and rules, except to the extent that a particular record is exempt from disclosure pursuant to those statutes or rules. There is no ordinary right in the University to prevent public disclosure of University records simply by considering the matter and creating the record pursuant to a session of a meeting that the University has held in camera, whether at the Board or Committee level. The University may allow that a matter be considered in a closed session of a meeting for the sake of frank and open discussion, but any record generated as a result of that discussion is available to the public unless the record is otherwise exempt from disclosure.

By destroying audio recordings, the board is therefore violating its own bylaws. Likewise the board continues to violate the above paragraph by refusing to release any minutes from its executive committee.

Archiving of the audio recording is even more important because recently approved minutes are so poorly proofread. For example, in the minutes of the open session of 1 December 2016, ‘opposed’ is spelled ‘apposed’, ‘CUPE 2424’ is listed as ‘SUPE 2424’, and there are many grammatical errors (e.g. “Mr. Evans and Dr. Sloan followed the followed the policy development…”).

Approving a new governor

A year ago, the primary excuse given for needing and approving new board bylaws was compliance with the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA), which mandated separate members and governors meetings. Governors meetings are for regular business, while members meetings are for special things like election of new governors and reviewing financial statements. This is enshrined in board bylaw 3.02. The problem is that, contrary to ONCA and contrary to the new bylaws, a new governor was approved at a governors meeting on 2 February 2017, as agenda item 5.1, rather than at a separate members meeting. Furthermore, according to the minutes of the board’s governance committee from 15 October 2015 (which is an open session document), “The General Counsel indicated that he has retained Karen Cooper, an external counsel with expertise in writing Bylaws and Procedures for Universities, who is also well versed in the intricacies of the new Not-For-Profit Legislation.” Those minutes then state that, “General Counsel indicated that a significant change that has been integrated is the need to distinguish between Members of the Board and Governors. It is a requirement, by statute, that the Board hold an Annual General Meeting to approve new members and receive annual audit and financial statements. Currently, this business is conducted, along with other business, at a regular Board meeting.” I have absolutely no idea why the board is now willing to ignore those fundamental policies and procedures, especially with the two principle authors of and advocates for the new bylaws – the current vice-chair of the board and the advisor to the board – both in attendance on 2 February 2017.

I have nothing against the new governor. My problem is solely with the board’s executive once again ignoring its own bylaws. All that had to occur was for the meeting on 2 February 2017 to be bifurcated into a short members meeting followed by a longer governors meeting. That said, at least this time around, the full board actually voted on a new governor, which has not always been the case. I should also point out that the election of the new governor was considered a fait accompli, with the new governor being reserved a seat with a name placard, and with the new governor sitting in an adjacent waiting room until approved. Finally, this new governor voted on several motions, despite not being improperly approved.

Police presence

There was still a large police presence (special constables) surrounding the boardroom. I was still forced to request a first-come first-served audience seat well in advance of the meeting and then wait until less than four hours before the open session before the university secretary informed me that I had an audience seat. I then had to go through two security checkpoints, where special constables checked my name and made sure that I matched the photo on their papers, in order to be allowed into the boardroom of a supposedly “open session”.

Of the eight “audience seats” in the boardroom, three of those seats were again reserved for members of upper management, this time for the vice-president research, dean of science, and chief information officer. Why these people, especially the vice-president research, were not seated at the boardroom table is a mystery to me…unless it is to limit the number of real audience members.

At this board meeting, the director of university safety was stationed immediately outside the boardroom door. He was therefore separated from students and protestors by one or two layers of special constables. There was, thus, little chance that the director would grab and shove student protestors like he did one floor below the previous board meeting.

The police presence seemed restrained at this meeting, at least as far as I could ascertain. During the board’s discussion and voting on tuition increases, the boardroom windows were pelted with snowballs. As best I could discern from inside the boardroom – the back of my head was inches from where snowballs hit the glass – nobody seemed to be stopping protestors from throwing snowballs. I do not condone the throwing of snowballs as a means of protest, but I also understand the students’ frustration. The board does not allow any representation of students in board deliberations. The board no longer conducts an annual forum where the community can present their concerns. The board’s website now contains “procedures governing petitions to the board”, but I do not ever recall these procedures being approved and they cite a non-existent “Board of Governors Bylaw 30” as their references (both the old and new bylaws are only numbered up to 12). Even the student members of the board of governors are now supposedly precluded from representing students as part of their fiduciary duty, something egregiously memorialized in the new bylaws and code of conduct.

Board nominating policy

The board passed a new nominating policy today. In the recent past, the university secretary unilaterally declared candidates ineligible for board of governors seats, despite the board bylaws and procedures giving that individual no such authority. The new policy now vests the university secretary with those unilateral powers. Surprisingly, this was passed without discussion and without dissent. The new board nominating policy does, however, give candidates a modicum of a way to appeal the university secretary’s decision. All appeals go to the nominating committee, whose decision is final. The finality is unusual, as virtually all other board decisions are appealable to the full board of governors.

Neuroscience eviction

Governors asked questions about timing and preparations for relocation of the department of neuroscience, in order to make way for engineering’s new ARSE [Advanced Research in Smart Environments] Building. The minutes of the board’s building committee indicate that there is adequate time and resources for the neuroscience eviction. The vice-president finance said that the 1 March 2017 eviction date was still reasonable, but that neither he nor the board’s building committee actually asked neuroscience if they concurred with this assessment.

The provost said that all neuroscience undergraduate students slated to graduate this June will graduate on time. But the provost then admitted that he had no idea about timeliness of graduation for graduate students. A governor asked what impact the recently announced departure of the dean of science will have on the neuroscience eviction and temporary relocation. The provost said this will have no impact because the dean of science (who incidentally seems to have done all the heavy lifting for the administration on this debacle) will not be leaving Carleton until 30 June 2017 and because the acting dean will be so great. The chair of the board then chimed in to the contrary, that departure of the dean of science will have an impact, but he did not say how. I appreciated the board chair’s candour, especially in comparison with the provost who diminished and downplayed the vital roles played by one of his deans.

The provost’s face turned red when someone asked about the neuroscience eviction and relocation delaying research. The provost basically said that people needed to get over it when the administration imposes renovations and relocations of space, which are simply a regular and unpredictable aspect of academic life. My quickly scribbled notes indicate that the provost said the following, which is probably not an exact quote (hence the need for the board to release the audio recording), “People need to move on when any renovations are scheduled”. Not only does this show disregard and lack of empathy for researchers, but the bigger problem was that provost’s portfolio is teaching, not research. The vice-president research sat behind the provost at this open session, but never uttered a word! At least on paper at Carleton, the vice-president research does not report to the provost, but you would never know that from this altercation and the vice-president research being assigned a seat away from the board table.

The chair of the board’s building committee said that the new health building will be completed in August and that faculty and students will be moved into the new building in September 2017. He also stated that the new ARSE building has an “extremely ambitious completion date”.

Administrative appointments

The agenda posted on the board’s public website listed agenda item 13.1 regarding a presidential appointment, but discussion was reserved for closed session. I have not seen any notice of a presidential re-appointment or search committee being formed, as per board rules, so am curious to know what transpired in closed session regarding a presidential appointment. The board only has specific rules (“appointment guidelines”) for hiring nine people: the president, four vice-presidents, chancellor, university secretary, general counsel, director of internal audit, and possibly ad hoc “appointments by the president of senior academic administrators”. See the open session documents from the 584th board open session for the guidelines, which have not been updated for presidential appointments. So any omission and deviation from procedures here would be quite suspect.

The university president mentioned that searches are ongoing or will be started soon for a new vice president research, head of equity services, chancellor, and four of five line deans (science, business, engineering, and arts & social science). Carleton’s assistant vice-president academic is also departing soon. Those are a lot of big shoes to fill at once, especially for a university that may soon be censured by CAUT.

Ransom-ware and cyber-attack

Carleton’s chief information officer gave the board the same dog-and-pony show about the hack of our computer systems late in 2016 that he gave senate the previous week. He used the same slides, which are still labeled ‘confidential’ although posted on the board’s open website. He read verbatim from the same printed script. He still scapegoated academic freedom (“Open scholarly communication – often coupled with decentralized systems, structures and decision-making authority that are seen as supportive of academic freedom – can make universities easier to attack and exploit than other entities.”). In the end, though, he added a few disturbing new platitudes, such as, “Computer security is all about the journey, not the destination.”

A governor asked whether Carleton business contingency insurance covered cyber-attacks. Before the chief information officer had a chance to reply, the board chair said that yes, it does, and that Carleton had filed a claim against that insurance due to the recent cyber attack. All further discussion was then deferred to closed session. I will, however, note that several faculty, staff, and students incurred financial losses due to the computer hack, but were never informed of this business contingency insurance. Can those individuals be reimbursed form this insurance for financial damage from the cyber-attack? I encourage those affected to file such claims with the chief information officer and vice-president finance.

Tuition Increase

The chair of the board’s finance committee and the university vice-president finance each read aloud pre-written scripts justifying a roughly 3% tuition increase for each of the next two years. Students are asking for a tuition freeze, which would cost roughly $10 million. The vice-president finance presented a pair of options for making up this $10 million in lost revenues. The first option was to increase enrollments by 14% without increasing number of faculty and staff. The second option was to cut 140 staff or 75 faculty members while leaving enrollments fixed. No other options were presented. A governor asked why not take the $10 million out of surpluses, to which the vice-president finance replied that virtually all surpluses in Carleton’s budget are directed to student aid. This assertion regarding surpluses pretty much ended the discussions, even though this assertion seems to be blatantly false. As best I can discern, in order to balance its budget every year, Carleton has been placing surpluses into various reserve funds that can be intermingled and used completely at the discretion of the university president. Thus, when the federal government gave Carleton $13 million for the ARSE Building contingent on matching funds from the university, Carleton could instantly pull $13 million out of reserve funds. Reserve funds, which exceed $100 million, are also how Carleton made a recent $30 million payment towards pension solvency.

There were other glaring problems with the tuition increase. Usually when the board increases tuition, it is a simple pass along of any increases allowed by the province. But the new university funding framework has not yet been announced by the province. The sensible thing to do would be wait for the framework to be announced, which should occur any day now. But the board voted down a motion for such a delay. The former vice-president finance was also fond of making the argument that university expenditures are locked in by collective agreements, necessitating increases in revenues. But when a governor asked how much of salaries and benefits are controlled by collective agreements, the current vice-president finance said that almost none were because most Carleton employees’ collective agreements are being negotiated this spring. Given that the tuition increase was approved, this should give each of the unions much more leverage to negotiate increases in salaries and benefits.

I am sure that student groups will have far more to say about the tuition increase.

Strategic Mandate Agreements

On 1 February 2017, the provincial government sent universities more instructions on strategic mandate agreements, including details about enrollment corridors and which of five broad areas each university wants to focus on.

Each university will get to negotiate enrollment corridors for each academic program. This seems like a noisy process insofar as corridors will be created for many small programs. I had expected corridors to be aggregated across programs, which thereby smoothes through noise and uncertainty. Because of this noise, I hope penalties are not very onerous for having enrollments larger or smaller than specified in the corridors.

The five major areas that universities get to focus on are (1) student experience, (2) teaching and learning (3) research, (4) economic development and innovation, and (5) equity/access. Each university will get to say how much emphasis they wish to put into each category, which could possibly be either zero or a hundred percent. The category of equity/access sounded interesting insofar as it focuses on women in science and engineering, Indigenous access, and people with disabilities. Carleton’s president said that we will emphasize all five. However, it seems that any university would raise deep suspicions with the ministry if they did not place sizeable emphasis on all five categories.

The university president made drafting a Strategic Mandate Agreement sound more like a report on what we do, rather than who we want to be. I cannot tell, though, whether this is a way to marginalize the role of senate.

Trump’s Muslim ban

The university president refused to condemn Mr Trump’s executive order barring people from seven majority Muslim countries from entering the United States. She said it would be bad practice condemning political decisions. A governor then asked if she would instead do something positive, such as offer domestic tuition for international students from those seven countries. The president’s reply was negative, saying that she thought other universities who were taking this tack were being opportunistic, trying to recruit new international students for the university’s own financial gains

Infrastructure renewal

The chair of the board’s building committee mentioned a 5-year infrastructure renewal plan, with $14 million to be spent per year. He did not share what projects were to be completed and when.

Executive compensation

The provincial cap on public compensation for university presidents and vice-presidents has been removed. Universities need to have a plan in place by 5 September 2017 for how much to increase those executive compensations. Carleton’s board of governors will be looking at how to set these by examining comparators, although it is not obvious who those would be. I will advocate for the president’s and provost’s compensation packages to be tied to how well they do at hiring diverse employees, possibly having their compensation packages tied to the provincial priorities of increasing numbers of women in science and engineering, more Indigenous faculty, and more disabled faculty.

Closing remarks

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. The board’s website no longer contains many supporting documents, including some mentioned herein, even though they were open session documents. If you would like copies, please contact the university secretary, the university archives, or me. And, as always, I welcome your feedback.

[The following is a re-posting of the announcement of an upcoming protest]

On January 12, 2017, Carleton’s President Roseann Runte sent a letter to students, staff, and faculty complaining about protesters on campus, who she called “noisy persons” that are “contravening the basic principle of a civil society” by “the din” of “what they consider to be their right to freedom of speech.” After a peaceful protest in 2015, the Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors said students’ protest “has no place in a lawful democratic society.” Join with other “noisy persons” to protest a closed-door meeting of the University Board of Governors (BOG) on February 2, 2017 to make sure the voices of students and workers at Carleton are heard.

Sexual Violence Policy
On December 1, 2016, the BOG voted in a draft of the sexual violence policy that did not adequately meet the needs of the student body. Furthermore, workers and TAs were denied the opportunity to speak to the BOG on the policy. Join us on the 2nd of February to let the Board know that more work must be done to ensure the Sexual Violence Policy meets the needs of students and workers. The campaign page is

Infrastructure Resilience Research Group (IRRG)
Oppose the university’s sponsorship of the Infrastructure Resilience Research Group (IRRG), an on-campus group working with industry and law enforcement to criminalize protest against huge energy and resource development projects. Carleton and the IRRG held a Symposium November 14-15, 2016 under the theme “The Challenges of Dealing with Natural Resource Development Projects and Activism” which brought together “prosecutors, lawyers, regulators, law enforcement, industry and industry association representatives” to coordinate the use of police powers and anti-terrorism legislation against protestors and Indigenous peoples such as in the brutal attacks at Standing Rock, North Dakota against those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline on Indigenous land.

The on-campus closing event of the Symposium on November 15, 2016 was shut down by students, and campus organizations are calling on Carleton University to shut down the IRRG and end its support for criminalizing dissent. Make sure our voices in support of rights are heard at the Board of Governors meeting on February 2, 2017! For more information see: