Statement Regarding Bill 18

Created 29 March 2012 09:03

Statement by the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC
Regarding Bill 18 – Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, 2011
Robert F. Clift, Executive Director, CUFA BC
March 29, 2012

BC’s university professors are profoundly disappointed that the Minister of Advanced Education has decided to move forward with Bill 18 –Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act, 2011 – without making necessary, substantive amendments.

The governance provisions of Bill 18 are motivated by isolated incidents at a couple of institutions and not by any reasonable analysis of what is in the best interests of all of the province’s public colleges, institutes and universities.

The government’s contention that Bill 18 is meant to implement “good governance” practices doesn’t stand up under scrutiny.

  • The legislation is contrary to the traditions of collegial governance that have served our public post-secondary educational institutions and our students well for over 40 years.
  • The legislation is poorly written and will result in litigation over ambiguities in wording.
  • The legislation makes no guarantees that the principles of natural justice will be employed in the ousting of members of boards of governors.
  • The legislation does nothing to address potential conflicts of interest for 80% of the members of boards of governors.
  • The legislation does nothing to prevent senior university managers from being elected to boards of governors under the guise of faculty or staff representatives.

At the end of December, we provided the Minster of Advanced Education with draft wording that would have addressed all of these shortcomings.

Rather than dealing with the myriad of substantive issues we and others have raised, the Minister has instead proposed amendments to Bill 18 that can only be viewed as token in nature.

We have little choice but to conclude on the basis of the evidence available to us that the governance provisions of Bill 18 are primarily intended to undermine the role of students, staff and faculty members on boards of governors.

Bill 18 provides the government appointees on the boards with the tools to bully and intimidate the elected members of boards who stand up for high-quality education in the face of administrative and fiscal expediency.

Despite the government’s assertions, Bill 18 has little to do with conflict of interest and good governance and everything do with stifling dissent. In this respect it is an affront to everything universities stand for.

When this legislation was first introduced last November, not one single president of a public university, college or institute publicly indicated a need for these amendments. We have not heard a single student association, staff union or faculty association indicate their support for these provisions.

It may well be that some appointed members of boards of governors have privately indicated their support for the Minister’s proposals, but to the best of our knowledge, none have done so publicly.

So, the Minister has chosen a sledgehammer to kill a fruit fly. The Minister has made proposals that have no public support from the public post-secondary education sector. The Minister has made proposals whose only public support is from her caucus colleagues. There is still an opportunity for the Minister to make substantive amendments to the legislation or to withdraw the offending portions entirely.

If, however, this Act passes as currently proposed by the Minister, CUFA BC will work with other post-secondary education organizations to monitor the appointed members of boards of governors – the other 80% of board members – for the purpose of determining if they are in real or potential conflicts of interest due to their business, professional, volunteer or personal activities.

We will also work to support individual members of boards of governors against bullying and censorship. We will support those board members who are working in the best interests of the students and of the community of scholars in the face of administrative and governmental intimidation.

This issue will not go away. It strikes at the heart of the universities and cannot be tolerated.