To: Members of the Carleton University Board of Governors

We write to you, on behalf of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) and the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), to express our opposition to proposed Board Bylaw changes which would exclude certain students, including employees of a student association, or members of the executive of a student association, from being eligible to hold office as a Governor.

According to the Agenda for the Open Session of the 591st Meeting of the Board of Governors, to be held on Thursday, June 25th, 2015, the Governance Committee of the Board has recommended changes to the Board Bylaws which would make the following persons ineligible from holding office as a Governor:

  • 2.6.(d) “a person who is a student of the University and who is either an employee, officer or member of the executive of a student association, or the executive or officer of a union representing the University’s employees.”

Undergraduate and graduate students at Carleton have a long history of electing their CUSA and GSA Presidents as their representatives to the Board. This move to restrict them from representing students at the highest decision-making body of the university is unprecedented, unnecessary, and flawed.

First, there is no discernable logic behind these changes. The Board’s Governance Committee alleges that student association executives have a “conflict of interest,” on the grounds that they represent the interests of the constituents who voted for them. However, the minutes of the Governance Committee from March 10, 2015 seem to suggest that legal opinion sought by the Board disagreed, finding that “no conflict of interest” exists. Unfortunately we have no access to the legal opinion, and no other explanation from the Committee for these proposed changes.

In fact, the executives of CUSA and the GSA are the legitimate and democratic representatives of their respective organizations. They are accountable to their constituencies, and have the resources and knowledge to effectively represent students at the Board level. Furthermore, student executives understand and continually fulfill their role in both capacities as a student leader and a Board member. They are in the best position to view the needs of students within the context of Carleton as a whole.

Second, these proposed Bylaw changes also exclude all students who are employed by student associations, including the approximate 200 undergraduate and 25 graduate students employed by CUSA and the GSA respectively. By seeking part-time employment on campus, these students are somehow deemed unsuitable to represent students on the Board.

Third, these proposed restrictions are unprecedented. Out of a survey of Board of Governors Bylaws and University Acts from 13 universities across Ontario, only Queen’s University restricts student association executives from sitting on the Board of Trustees.

In comparison, the Board Bylaws of Ryerson University, the University of Western Ontario, the University of Guelph, the University of Waterloo, McMaster University, Brock University, Trent University, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Windsor, the University of Toronto, and York University do not include clauses that restrict the eligibility of students to serve on the Board beyond being over 18 years of age, enrolled in one or more classes at the university, and, in some cases, being in good academic standing.

Further, there are a number of other proposed changes to the Bylaws which are highly questionable, including but not limited to:

  • imposing similar restrictions upon the executives and officers of unions representing faculty and staff of the university, who would also be deemed ineligible to sit on the Board;
  • removing the right of CUSA and the GSA to nominate their representatives to the Board, giving the university the right to control all elections;
  • restricting access to the Board by banning all members of the Carleton community from observing Open Meetings without explicit invitation from the Secretary.

These proposed Bylaw changes, addressing a problem that doesn’t exist, actually serve to undermine the ability of our student associations to effectively represent and serve our members in the affairs of the university. These changes also place restrictions upon student representation that far surpass any other comparable university in Ontario, and which restrict the ability to students to determine their own representatives.

In an effort to foster greater cooperation within the Carleton community, we strongly urge you to reject the revisions to the Bylaws as recommended by the Governance Committee.

Sincerely,

Fahd Alhattab
President
Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA)
613 520 668 x 1603

Michael Bueckert
President
Graduate Students’ Association (GSA)