Back to the BoG
The Board of Governors—Concordia’s highest body, which has final authority on all university affairs—will meet this week, and while motions from the Graduate Students’ Association have been added to the agenda, the undergraduates’ motions have not.
Undergraduates Cut Out Again
In two motions sent to the BoG’s Executive Committee on Oct. 18, the Concordia Student Union BoG reps—who are ambassadors for the over 35,000 undergraduate students on campus—expressed their wish to revisit their recent proportional reduction after a vote was passed to cut their representation.
The motions resolved to amend the BoG bylaws to include two internal undergraduate members instead of one, as well as to request the Ad Hoc Governance Review Committee “issue a report outlining the motivations behind targeting student representation on the board for the most drastic proportional decrease of any faction.”
Undergraduate representation was cut on Sept. 28, when the BoG voted to adopt recommendations put forth in a report written over the summer to reform governance at the university.
The report, written by a committee chaired by former McGill principal Bernard Shapiro, had recommended reducing the size of the Board from 40 voting members to 25.
Undergraduate students are to go from their current four members to one, plus one non-voting “alternate” governor, while the graduate students maintain the sole governor they currently have.
The undergrad reps received word on Nov. 10 that their motions were not added to the Board agenda, which was set at a meeting of the Executive Committee on Nov. 8.
“Members of the Executive Committee were unanimous in pointing out that at the September Board meeting, the concerns of the undergraduate students regarding their representation on the Board were fully conveyed, heard and acknowledged,” said BoG secretary Danielle Tessier in an email to the undergrad governors.
“The Executive Committee has determined that this matter has been duly deliberated, debated and voted upon, and that the Board as a whole would not wish to revisit its decision arrived at this meeting.”
“It’s boiled down to one of those things where they’ve never given us any adequate justification so we at least know why it is we’re looking at a 36 per cent decrease proportionally,” said undergraduate BoG rep Laura Beach.
“The single, unresolved issue that remains is [that] of representation, and there was in no way a unanimity on a decision on this decrease at that meeting. The reason that we’re still talking about it is because it is still an unresolved issue.”
While Beach said the undergraduate reps do have a “backup-backup plan” in the works, they were mum on the details.“As far as actually amending the bylaws, the fact that the Executive Committee has not even allowed those motions to be put on the agenda demonstrates how closed the board is to reconsidering this issue,” Beach said.
“It’s sad, it’s frustrating, but it’s also painfully clear that no one cares about student representation on the board except for students. […] Within the parameters that we’re working in, we’ve done what we can.”
After the cancellation of the October meeting, Thursday will be the first time that the BoG will meet since voting to cut undergrads from the board table at a contentious meeting on Sept. 28.
Beach encouraged students who are concerned that the Board is “disempowering students without giving any justification for it” to come to the meeting at 8:00 a.m. on Nov. 17 in the EV Building, room EV-2.260.
Motion for Transparency
The last point to make it onto the Board agenda, however, are the Graduate Students’ Association’s three motions for “audience accommodation at Board meetings.”Approved by the GSA earlier this year, the clauses on the motions come straight out of the External Governance Review Committee report.
The report, often dubbed “The Shapiro Report,” was issued after last year’s controversy surrounding the Board’s unexplained dismissal of former president Judith Woodsworth.
The motions cite a passage in the EGRC stating that Concordia suffered “a substantial degree of misunderstanding, blatant deficient internal communications and a lot of distrust, often bordering on mutual contempt between the various communities of the Universities.
“The problems arose [from] a lack of transparency [due to] the BoG’s misunderstanding of the special nature of a university and its roles and responsibilities within it.”
The three motions from the GSA resolve that BoG meetings be recorded and made available to the general public, and broadcast by the Concordia University Broadcasting Corporation.
“The Board seems to have the intention to want to adopt the Review Committee guidelines—at least that’s what they were saying when they cut student representation and told us they were just applying the [EGRC] review,” said Erik Chevrier, the GSA rep and internal Board member.
“So now we’re saying [transparency] was also in the review, and if you’re going to take it seriously, this is what we’re asking.”
The motions also propose that since there are only a limited number of seats available at the BoG meetings, they “accommodate no less than 50 seats for members of the community who wish to attend in the same room that the meetings take place.”
The motion goes on to also open up a 20-minute question period where members of the university and community at large may ask questions or make comments.
“I think that’s reasonable,” said Chevrier. “Senate has this, Montreal Borough council meetings have them, and they’re very common—especially in political arenas.”
Arguing that these motions are reasonable approaches to answering the transparency issues that have historically emerged on the BoG, Chevrier is hopeful that the resolutions will be taken seriously.
“The main message is that, if you’re going to apply the Shapiro Report, apply it,” he said. “Here it is.”
Chevrier also encouraged students to come out to the meeting on Thursday.