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Concordia afraid of gov’t intervention

by Archives February 12, 2008

A report that evoked concern in Concordia’s Senate last month has received a similar reaction from the University’s Board of Governors. The University’s two highest decision making bodies are concerned that the “Report of the working group on university governance” will lead to legislation that would take power away from the university and put it in the hands of the provincial government.
The report, drafted by the heads of several Quebec universities, including Concordia, has been passed to all university boards in the province by the government for comment. “We understand that there’s the possibility of legislation as early as this June,” said Concordia’s interim President Michael Di Grappa. He believes the legislation will cover the appointment of “independent” board members – or members from outside the university.
Senator Maria Peluso agreed, “The next document we see from the minister will be legislation. The Ministry of Education is taking a direct role in being able to determine governance at universities and institutions of higher learning in this province.”
New members of Concordia’s Board of Governors are appointed by the board and nominated by a board committee within the University.
While McGill shares this system, most of Quebec’s French language universities do not have boards, and at least some of the members are appointed directly by the province. Peluso thinks the government wants greater control in the wake of the situation at UQAM, where poor financial management has put that university on the edge of bankrupcy.
But Peluso doesn’t think that more government oversight is the answer. “More and more what the government is telling us to do with our money is not very successful, after all who is responsible for UQAM,” she asked.
Peluso said that “UQAM already had members from the ministry on their board of governors.”
Concordia Vice-President External Relations and Secretary-General Bram Freedman said while he’s seen, “indications” that the Education Minister is looking at legislation he believes it will only cover the number of “independent members versus internal members.”
While some Senators did raise concerns that the ratio of “independent” will increase, according to Freedman the number of independent members on Concordia’s Board is already inline with the recommendations in the report.
Freedman also dismissed Senators’ have worries of expanded provincial control. “There’s no concern, there’s nothing in the report that talks about the government naming members of the board,” he said.
While the Senate and Board of Governors have frequently been at odds in recent months, according to sources the two bodies have taken similar outlooks to the report. While the Senate meet last Friday, the Board met in a closed session earlier in the day. According to CSU President Angelica Novoa, who sits on both the Senate and the Board described the feelings expressed at both meetings, “very similar.there’s consensus.” Freedman agreed, “the discussion at the senate is very interesting because a virtually identical discussion took place at the board meeting.there’s an interesting almost consensus that has emerged.”
Both Novoa and Freedman said the Board is happy with the current governance structure at Concordia. “We’d never put it this way,” Freedman said that he’s sees a “consensus to maintain the status quo.”
According to Novoa this agreement is helping to end the divisions between the Senate and the Board. “The tensions that we had during the year are probably going to be worked out.” While the Senate and the Board have recently established a Joint Committee on University Governance to work out some of the divisions, some senators are still bitter over moves taken by the board last semester.
While the report provides 12 “principles” for good university governance, the Senate chose not to comment but rather provide three “principles” of their own as their advice to the government on any future legislation regarding university governance.
“Avoid making any alterations.that would have the effect of concentrating power in the hands of the few. Maintain.representation from the internal community; internal constituencies most directly getting the largest stake in the university. And the need to be transparent.” said David Graham, Dean of arts and sciences, who came up with the principles. The Board of governors has until February 28 to make their response and submit it to the provincial government.

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