At the January 26 meeting of the Carleton University Board of Governors, there was no announcement nor discussion about the status of the Board’s threats against Dr. Root Gorelick, a faculty representative on the Board. Dr. Gorelick faces removal from the Board over his refusal to sign a “gag order” that would prevent him from blogging about non-confidential matters of the Board. For the time being, it appears that his seat is safe.
The Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) believes that the Carleton community deserves to hear from the Board its decision regarding Dr. Gorelick, and their plans going forward. We support Dr. Gorelick’s efforts to make Board business more open and transparent, as do students across Ontario and faculty across Canada.
At the meeting, the Board also ratified several “clarifications” to the confidentiality statement (“gag order”) that Governors are required to sign, now referred to as the Code of Conduct. These amendments were proposed by the Governance Committee of the Board of Governors, chaired by Michael Wernick. On the surface, the amendments appear to be a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, these changes are largely cosmetic, without modifying the essentially restrictive nature of the Code. What remains in place is the general principle that Governors are not allowed to meaningfully engage with the campus community about what happens at the Board. In part, this is because the Code maintains that Governors cannot publicly disagree with Board decisions once they have been made. As one external Board Member argued, “if you want to be a critic of what happens, you should step outside the Board.”
The Code effectively gags representatives on the Board from speaking freely about the decisions made by the Board, and how those decisions might impact their constituents. The implication is that Governors, including student representatives, cannot effectively represent, nor are they accountable to, the people that elected them.
The GSA strongly opposes these continued restrictions on the speech of Governors. We call on the Board to make further changes to the Code so that it affirms the ability of Governors to speak freely with the people who elected them.
President, Graduate Students’ Association