Senates and Sensibility

Concordia’s Highest Academic Body Discusses Governance

As expected, when the Concordia Senate held its first meeting of the academic year last Friday, the hot topic was the major report on governance reform issued this past June.

The Senate moved to endorse the spirit and recommendations of the report in their entirety, and to create a joint committee with the Board of Governors to study how implementing the changes can be done.

“I am very curious to see how the Board will respond to what Senate did Friday,” said Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill, referring to the fact that the Board has authority over the Senate and does not have to listen to their recommendations.

“I want to see whether [the Board of Governors] will pass the changes that they proposed through the ad hoc governance review committee […] despite the fact that Senate has [now] made it clear they’d like to move forward on a different pace in the spirit of shared governance and shared responsibility,” she said.

“If you look back at the report from the [Senate’s] external government review process, they refer to governance as a collective challenge. And so a unilateral attempt from the ad hoc committee [on governance] of the Board to move forward on these proposed changes appears to many people as to be business as usual,” she said.

Gill added that student representatives on the Board are continuing the discussion on how to ensure that students remain accurately represented. “We’re doing our best,” she said “but that being said, right now there’s a sense we’re hitting our heads against a brick wall.”

While the report recommends that no changes be made to the composition of the Senate other than the addition of two seats for administrative and support staff, changes to the Board would be much more drastic.

Bram Freedman, Concordia’s VP Institutional Relations and Secretary-General said last week that the Board is likely to be reduced from 40 voting members to 25, with undergraduate students seeing their representation dropped from four members to one voting member and one non-voting “alternate” member.

In other Senate news, the academic body passed a motion endorsing the signing of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. The motion is non-binding, as the only person who can sign on to the declaration is the president of Concordia, Frederick Lowy.

“Open access, as we all know, is an academic issue,” said Gerald Beasley, Concordia’s head librarian. “It makes the resultsof publicly funded academic research and creative workaccessible to everyone via the Internet.”

He pointed out that authors often find they have more rights when they submit their work to open access because they don’t have to give them away to publishers. He also responded to fears that others could profit off of someone else’s work, once submitted, saying, “There is no possible route by which financial benefit could be taken other than illegal ones.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 32, Issue 03, published September 13, 2011.