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Province to demand university reform

by Archives September 16, 2008

Students and teachers’ groups are crying foul over proposed changes to the way Quebec’s universities are run, changes they say will only make a bad system worse.
While the changes, which will be officially proposed this fall, have not been officially released; according to a report in Le Devoir, Education Minister Michelle Courchesne is planning to require that at least two-thirds of the boards of directors at all Quebec universities be appointed from outside the schools.
But student groups say requiring universities to have a large percentage of these “external” members, who are usually corporate directors, on their boards is a step in the wrong direction.
“I think it’s really worrying that we’re kind of outsourcing the decision making of our public, post-secondary institutions to individuals who, although can certainly contribute something, aren’t directly involved in those communities,” said Noah Stewart, a student member of Concordia’s board of governors, and Quebec spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Students.
However, the changes’ full extent is still unknown. “We don’t know what it will be, there’s no way of knowing,” said Chris Mota, spokesperson for Concordia University.
“Almost two-thirds of our membership is external, so I don’t think that would change for us.”
But the changes could have a major effect at schools like the Université de Montreal, where the board is split almost down the middle, between “internal” members – teachers and students and “external” members.
“Most university boards do not look like Concordia’s or McGill’s, most university boards have a majority of internal members,” said Stewart.
The two-thirds requirement was first proposed in a report on university governance prepared for the education minister by the heads of Quebec’s universities. The report, released in 2006, raised concerns that board members from inside the university were more likely to, “trigger a conflict of interest.”
When the report drew widespread criticism for teachers. The Canadian Association of University Teachers said the proposals “ostensibly aimed at improving university governance would do the opposite.”
While there were fears the government would give itself the right to appoint members to university boards directly, it does not appear that this will be included in the upcoming legislation.
“Our indications, having spoken to members of the government – that’s not the direction it’s going to go in. I think that that’s defiantly a concern, but the bigger thing for us is who is making the decisions and the fact that they’re going to be made by people external to the university community who don’t have student interests necessarily in mind,” said Stewart.
Calls to the ministry of education were not returned by press time.

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