As unions representing students and workers at Carleton University, we are incredibly discouraged that revisions to the Carleton University Board of Governors bylaws were passed without amendment at the Board’s March 21st meeting. Despite reassurances that the input received from the community would be taken into consideration, the Board has continued to blatantly ignore and silence the community they are bound to serve. This renders any claims that they have consulted with the Carleton community meaningless.
Openness, accountability, and transparency on the Board will now to be nearly impossible to achieve. As the main financial decision-making body for Carleton University, it is imperative that the Board be accessible and accountable to the community it serves. Instead, these bylaws are an insult to the Carleton community. They tell students, faculty, and staff that they are not worthy of being meaningfully included in decision-making, or even of knowing the details surrounding important decisions which will affect them.
Stifling Dissent and Eroding Accountability
The egregious Code of Conduct has been further entrenched into the functioning of the Board. – Its reach now extends to the Board’s electoral process as well. Candidates for positions on the Board will now be required to acknowledge in writing that they will abide by the Code of Conduct if elected.
This is an unnecessary, retaliatory measure aimed directly at a certain governor in response to his attempt to encourage good governance. Forcing candidates to agree to sign the Code of Conduct is a hostile measure designed to stifle dissent and to discourage anyone with an opinion which may differ from the Executive Committee to run for election. Dissent is essential in a democratic organization. It ensures that those in power are held accountable for their decisions. Instead of fostering an environment of collegial debate worthy of a world-class university, the Code of Conduct forces governors to publicly support Board decisions which they disagree with.
Members of the Board of Governors are required to make decisions which are in the best interests of Carleton University – not the best interests of the President or the Executive Committee. Governors must be free to communicate with the Carleton community. Without even this basic level of transparency, the Carleton community cannot be confident in the Board’s ability to govern this university. This unprecedented level of censorship only allows the Board to further operate in secret. Combined with new regulations providing for all committees to operate in camera, we are left with a Board that is more closed and unaccountable than ever.
Given the response of the Board to calls for increased accountability, how can the Carleton community have any trust in its decisions? How can we trust that in camera sessions of the Board and of committees will not be abused? What does this Board have to hide?
Continued Attacks on Unions
The Board – while it has dropped its attempt to exclude union officers – has not stopped its attacks on workers on our campus.
The new bylaws expand the University President’s power to dismiss employees. There is no appeal process and no mention of an employee’s rights under their collective agreement. Each of our members is entitled to these protections – something conveniently ignored by the new bylaws. This is unacceptable.
The new bylaws also lay the groundwork for future attacks against our bargaining certificates. Right now, union members are entitled to serve on the Board. If the Board has its way, members will have to give up their rights under our collective agreements and be excluded from our unions while they serve on the Board. After all, why fight to exclude union officers from the Board when you can just exclude union members from the Board entirely?
Centralization of Power
The most recent round of bylaw revisions only furthers the centralization of power in the hands of an elite few at the Board.
Instead of embracing fundamental democratic principles, the Board has given even more power to an already powerful Executive Committee. The Board has gone so far as to divest itself from any authority to negotiate and/or approve settlements with campus unions – instead leaving it entirely in the hands of its executive. It has also given the Chair of the Board unprecedented new powers. In the event of a tie, the Chair will now be able to vote a second time.
These changes allow the Board to insulate itself further from the will of the students, staff and faculty of Carleton University. It is our community that will feel the impact of the decisions made by the Board and, as such, it is incumbent on the Board to be as open and transparent to the community as possible.
The Government of Ontario has stated that it wants to be the most open and accountable government in the country. As an institution which is funded by the province, it is imperative that Carleton University is also open and accountable to its community and to taxpayers.
We will continue to work with our provincial and national partners to closely monitor the situation at Carleton. We will not hesitate to take any actions necessary to ensure that our members are protected and that the Board is held accountable for its actions.
Frisken van Veldhoven
Carleton University Academic Staff Association
Graduate Students’ Association
Carleton University Postdoctoral Association