Concordia’s Board of Governors is in agreement with one representative’s call for increased transparency at their meetingsâ€”they just can’t agree on how to do it.
The board is rethinking the way it holds its meetings after graduate representative Erik Chevrier proposed to much debate last Thursday a series of motions formulated to open up the Board’s activities to a wider audience.
After rejecting one motion, the board decided to send two discussion points to the executive committee for further review.
Chevrier said that the motions were presented in the hopes of getting the board to take “a proactive stance” against controversy.
“Concordia picked up quite a big deal of bad press when Judith Woodsworth was let go,” said Chevrier, referring to the dismissal of Concordia’s former president last December, asking that the board take steps to avoid future conflicts by adopting some sort of transparency agreement.
The defeated motion called for the location of the board meetings to be able to have no less than 50 seats for those who wish to attend in the same room.
Changes were also proposed to the way board meetings are run, calling for all open session board meetings to be video recorded and broadcast, and to establish a 20-minute period in which the public at large can ask questions or comment.
The board’s executive committee will study these two ideas, then present their recommendations to the full board. No specific deadline was given for the report.
Each motion was presented individually, resulting in nearly an hour of heated discussion between board members.
One board member, Robert Barnes, representing the alumni for the Sir George Williams Alumni Association, warned the student representatives to “be mindful of the time other people are giving and in the way that you are trying to get your point forward.”
“I’ve heard probably seven times this morning the underlying reason for something in one of your motions is about your representation on the board. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over,” said Barnes, referring to the decision made in September to lessen the number of undergraduate student reps from four to one.
“If you come in attack mode you’re going to continually see every one of your motions shot down in flames and that’s what’s been happening over the last few meetings. You have not gained one motion because you’re ticking people off,” Barnes said.
During this discourse, chair Peter Kruyt told undergraduate student governor and Concordia Student Union president Lex Gill to “please don’t interrupt” after she asked for a point of privilege.
Undergrad representative Laura Beach spoke out in support of the motion, which she referred to as “a tool that we can use as a board to demonstrate that what we do is in the best interest of the Concordia community.”
“The media is at best your friend and worst your enemy,” said Beach. “We can’t and we shouldn’t rely on the media to represent what goes on at this board in an impartial manner.”
However, opinions varied on how this goal of transparency could be best achieved. With regards to the idea of broadcasting board meetings, several board members conveyed their worries that this would make people feel less inclined to speak openly, resulting in lengthier meetings that have more closed session discussions.
”I certainly don’t want to feel that our board is portrayed as closed so that people in our larger university community feel excluded, but at the same time our board has to operate efficiently,” said Concordia president and vice-chancellor Frederick Lowy.
Concerns were also expressed that a 20-minute question period would not be productive, fearing that the open forum would degenerate into rants as members of the general public lack access to all of the board’s documents and may not be informed enough to make effective cases on issues.
New boardroom, less room
The discussion at last week’s meeting surrounding the motion to increase public seating at Board of Governors meetings to a minimum of 50 seats was stymied by the completion of a brand new boardroom whose capacity was unknown to members at the time.
Located on the fourth floor of the GM building, the new boardroom can seat approximately 45 people.
According to university spokesperson Chris Mota, the new boardroom may not be available for use until 2012.
“The room has been completed but is not yet available as a result of the major renovation project that is ongoing in the GM building,” Mota wrote in an email, adding that the “room was configured in anticipation of a smaller board.”
Chair Peter Kruyt said at the meeting that the current board had no say in the specifications of the room and that plans were done by previous management.
“We have what we have,” said Kruyt.
Board of Governors meetings currently take place in a modified classroom on the 2nd floor of the EV building.