Over the past year, the GSA has been working with other campus organizations to push for a more open and democratic university. As part of these efforts, in December six campus organizations submitted a joint proposal to the Carleton University Board of Governors, which has been conducting a review of its Bylaws. In that proposal, we outlined 12 recommendations that would make the Board more accountable and representative of the university community.
On March 14, the Board revealed the new Bylaws that will be put to a vote at the upcoming Board meeting on Monday, March 21. Unfortunately, 10 of our 12 proposals were flatly rejected, and some of the Board’s most troublesome proposals remain, including the gag order on Board members.
Shutting Up, Closing Down
The proposed Bylaws further solidify changes that are anti-democratic and that make the Board more insular and disconnected from the Carleton community. The Bylaws re-affirm that members of the public are not “entitled” to attend so-called Open Meetings of the Board, but may attend only by invitation of the University Secretary. The Board has also rejected our proposals to find a larger room for more space for observers, and to post Board members’ contact information online, among other suggestions.
Most importantly, the Bylaws cement the regressive Code of Conduct, which prevents elected representatives from meaningfully engaging with the campus community about what happens at the Board. The current status of Dr. Root Gorelick, who faces removal from the Board over blogging about Open Meetings, is unknown, but it is clear that the Code will be enforced in the future to prevent representatives from communicating with their constituents.
Representation: Good News and Bad News
We are pleased to see that the Board has backed off from its previous attempts to exclude the executives of labour and student unions from being eligible to serve on the Board, as we had requested. The proposed Bylaws preserve the right of students and workers to freely elect their own representatives to the Board.
We are also pleased that Contract Instructors (CIs) can now be nominated by Senate to serve on the Board, whereas they used to be ineligible. However, this representation is extremely limited: there are only two CIs on Senate who are eligible, and they are elected by Senators rather than by CIs. This is an extremely modest improvement, to say the least.
Unfortunately, other issues of representation have not been addressed. Under the proposed Bylaws, appointed “community” members vastly outnumber the elected internal stakeholders (students, faculty, and staff). This lack of balance means that decisions are not made by those who actually work and study at Carleton. Other stakeholders, including postdoctoral scholars, have no representation at all.
Taking Elections Away from Students
Under the proposed Bylaws, the university will no longer allow the undergraduate students’ association, CUSA, and the GSA to elect Board representatives under their own processes and procedures, but will assume full control and oversight over student elections. Currently we have a mixed system, with some elections run by student unions, and other elections run by the university.
Under university-run elections, the university has full authority over determining eligibility, campaigning guidelines, voting procedures, and disqualifications, and students are not given the ability to appeal any decision.
The GSA believes that these elections should be held by the student unions that represent students, without any interference from the university. This ensures that elections are fair, transparent, and subject to the bylaws established by students themselves. Students will only have equitable representation if their own democratic processes are respected. This is how the GSA runs elections for student representatives to other bodies, including Senate and Graduate Faculty Board, and there is no reason that Board elections should be run differently.
The Bylaw changes as proposed by the Board are unacceptable. Instead of opening the Board to be more inclusive and engaged in the campus community, the Bylaws further entrench its closed, narrow, and regressive tendencies. We hope that the Board will choose to reject these proposals, and instead adopt procedures that are consistent with the principles and values of the Carleton community.
Contact: Michael Bueckert, GSA President firstname.lastname@example.org (cell) 613-315-7947