The recently announced third-party review of Memorial University’s Board of Regents omits key issues, said MUNFA. The very structure of MUN’s top governing body is fundamentally out of step with other Canadian universities and with basic democratic principles. In particular, the complete exclusion of academic staff members is sharply at odds with norms across the country, and is not in the best interests of students or the academic mission of a public university.
Last week, the MUNFA Executive called on the University and the Province to address both operational and membership issues raised by the resignation of MUN Students’ Union (MUNSU) representative Brittany Lennox from the Board of Regents.
In terms of membership, the Memorial University Act explicitly forbids academic staff and other MUN employees from sitting as Regents. In contrast, most Canadian Universities reserve spots for academic employees on their governing boards. Some also designate seats for representatives of non-academic staff.
“We say it again: it is bizarre and counterproductive to exclude faculty members from serving on the University’s top decision-making body,” said MUNFA President Dr. Basil Kavanagh. “More than anyone, MUN’s academics understand what is needed to deliver high quality teaching and research. These are the core services that the public wants and expects from the University.”
In light of Ms. Lennox’s description of harassment, bullying and intimidation during her time as a Regent, MUNFA also wrote to MUN President Gary Kachanoski directly, urging him to initiate a Respectful Workplace Investigation of the Board of Regents.
To date, President Kachanoski has not acknowledged or responded to that request.
The Board of Regents’ press release states that their “culture, policies, procedures and practices” will be reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with “best practices among Canadian universities.” While these sound like basic conditions of good governance, MUNFA is concerned that “best practices” are a vague measurement. The “best practices” in question must only be measured in terms of public education for the public good.
The Faculty Association reiterates that the Board’s confidentiality rules are unacceptable and welcomes the Regents’ recognition that these need to be reviewed. An open, transparent and accountable decision-making process is essential for sound governance and public confidence in Newfoundland and Labrador’s flagship educational institution.
Dr. Kavanagh urged President Kachanoski to join MUNFA in calling on the provincial government to amend the MUN Act and reserve spots on the Board of Regents for academic staff members and other campus employees. “All constituencies with a stake in the priorities and working of the University should be able to help set its direction.”