Created 29 March 2012 09:03
VANCOUVER — Legislative changes described by the provincial government as “good governance” have been slammed by the province’s university professors as undermining democratic principles and stifling dissent.
“It doesn’t matter how many times Advanced Education Minister Yamamoto says Bill 18 is about good governance, it doesn’t make it true,” said Robert Clift, Executive Director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC (CUFA BC). “Bill 18 is squarely aimed at bullying and intimidating the professors, students and staff members who serve on university and college boards of governors.”
The professors’ organization has been critical of Bill 18 since it was introduced last November. However, it attempted to work with the Ministry of Advanced Education to find ways to accomplish government’s goals while preserving democratic principles and the tradition of shared university governance.
“We identified the weaknesses in the legislation and offered the government ‘win-win’ solutions,” Clift explained. “But the government has instead chosen confrontation by proposing token amendments that are plainly insulting.”
Bill 18 gives university and colleges boards of governors the ability to recommend the removal of a member of the board. The procedure is open to abuse since it effectively gives the power to the government appointees to oust elected students, professors and staff who don’t toe the official line of the university or college.
“Bullying of students, professors and staff on boards of governors is nothing new,” Clift said. “But it has been held in check by the fact that the elected board members were accountable to their constituents, not the government appointees.”
“Bill 18 changes the rules of the game by giving the power to the government appointees to define what is in the best interests of the institution,” Clift continued. “Under Bill 18, any elected board member who dissents from this party line can be given the boot without being given a fair hearing and with no right of appeal.”
Government claims that it is proactively trying to prevent conflicts of interest. That explanation doesn’t hold water according to the professors’ group.
“Bill 18 focuses on potential conflicts of interest of professors and staff who, at most, comprise 20% of governing boards,” Clift said. “The legislation does nothing to prevent conflicts of interest for the other 80% of board members.”
“Moreover, it still remains possible for a senior university manager to get elected to a university board of governors as a faculty or staff representative, but then simply parrot the views of the president and vice presidents,” Clift added. “If that’s not a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.”
The professors’ organization vows to keep fighting Bill 18 even if it becomes law.
“Were not going to let government bully elected student, professor and staff representatives on boards of governors,” Clift said. “We will support them and we will assemble dossiers on the government appointees in order to start rooting out their potential conflicts of interest.”
“There is still time for government to defuse this situation,” Clift added. “We hope that they will do so and revisit the ‘win-win’ solutions we proposed.”
CUFA BC represents 4,600 university professors, instructors, academic librarians and other academic staff at UBC (Vancouver and Kelowna campuses), SFU (Burnaby, Vancouver and Surrey campuses), UVic, UNBC (Prince George, Terrace, Fort St. John and Quesnel campuses) and Royal Roads University.
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For further information, please contact Robert Clift, CUFA BC Executive Director, at 604-817-1649 (cell) or [email protected]