USask faculty members criticize university governance

Letter to Advanced Education Minister calls for changes to Board of Governors
Faculty members at the University of Saskatchewan have called the university’s governance into question in a letter sent to Advanced Eduction Minister Rob Norris, reported the StarPhoenix.

This follows controversy surrounding the appointments of the dean of law and head of the school of environment and sustainability, after the recommendations of volunteer search committees for the positions were overlooked by the Board of Governors.

The professors are asking for several changes to the University of Saskatchewan Act, including making all Board of Governors meetings open to the public and requiring board members to have public service experience as well as university teaching or administrative experience.

One of the professors who signed the letter explained the faculty members were motivated by what they felt was a lack of transparency from senior university officials on major decisions affecting the university.

“So much of the decisions, in fact all of the decisions, simply go on behind closed doors. We request more transparency,” engineering professor Todd Pugsley told the StarPhoenix.

The letter was also signed by professors Robert Gander, Len Findlay, Howard Woodhouse, Linda McMullen as well as the chair of university council, which oversees all academic affairs at the U of S, Claire Card.

U of S president Peter MacKinnon said the authors of the letter had “no understanding” of university governance, and that limiting board members to those with public sector or university experience would mean the board would lose out on many qualified people.

“Even worse, the writers of the letter want a board of insiders. . . . On what basis do they claim that only insiders should serve on the board? On what basis do they claim that only insiders should pass judgment on the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars, some of them on themselves?,” MacKinnon told the StarPhoenix.

Norris said that the demand for legislative changes was “a bit of an unusual request”, since these matters are usually dealt with internally.

“But that being said, we are referring it to ministry officials and I’m asking them to follow-up with university stakeholders,” Norris said.