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Slow down, partner: Senate to ad hoc committee

by The Concordian September 13, 2011
Senate believes that Concordia’s Board of Governors needs reform, but it doesn’t want to rush into things.
Concordia’s academic body passed three consecutive motions Friday endorsing the spirit of the recommendations made by the external governance review committee in June. But it’s taken a slower approach in comparison to the two-year-old ad hoc committee on governance, which greeted the recommendations with enthusiasm.
In addition to endorsing the spirit of the report and recommending the ad hoc committee on governance table their proposed bylaw changes, Senate will invite the board to participate in a bicameral committee. Composed of both BoG and Senate members, the committee’s mandate will be to consider and make recommendations to a joint meeting in a timely manner by November, after the report was deemed by some senators to be ”polarizing” the relationship between the Senate and the Board of Governors.
Senate was less than enthused with the results of the June 15 report. Dubbed “the Shapiro Report” in discussions at Friday afternoon’s meeting after EGRC head Bernard Shapiro, senators expressed concern at how fast the process was advancing.
“I just feel rushed with all of this and I don’t see the urgency. The only urgency I see is to get the relationship [between board and senate] back on track,” said arts and science senator Maria Peluso.
Two weeks ago, the ad hoc committee pronounced its hearty agreement with the report and said it would present the bylaw amendments to the Board of Governors meeting on Sept. 28, with a few tweaks, for adoption.
Provost David Graham expressed a sense of discomfort with the imbalance between the two governing bodies at Concordia.  “It was a matter of some surprise to me when I came to Concordia to learn that Senate is so explicitly a creature of and so explicitly subservient of the Board of Governors,” Graham said.
However, he added, “I have come to accept that it is a politically very fraught and potentially quite dangerous process for Concordia to open the charter. And the reason for that is that the charter, which is the only document as I understand it which can enable the creation of a truly bicameral system at Concordia, is in fact a piece of legislation.”
“Once we reopen that, we turn over the control of the future of that piece of legislation to members of the government and the opposition who may or may not be in agreement with what we wish to achieve and who may or may not have agendas of their own and priorities of their own that they might wish to insert into a revised piece of legislation,” continued Graham.
The three motions were born from Graham’s suggestion to proceed only with the most urgent items (the renewal of the board and the amended policy for the search for the next president) and suspend action regarding the charter and bylaws until such time that a meeting between the two governing bodies could meet to discuss the entirety of the recommendations.
The Board of Governors derives its power from the university’s charter. As such, Senate, which is the senior academic body at the university, is subject to its authority.
An internal memorandum from Senate’s steering committee also raised concern about the proposed reduction in undergraduate student representation on the board from four students to one, under the proposed bylaw changes, but there was no mention of the concern at the meeting.

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