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Shared governance

For decades, shared governance has been at the heart of how universities run.

In fact, university boards are typically mandated by law to include relevant stakeholders (academic staff, administrators, students and members of the public) in their decision-making process.

But shared governance is under attack.

University and college boards are increasingly controlled by corporate appointees with little understanding of important academic matters. Decision-making powers are concentrated in the hands of a few – who act behind closed doors – while the voices of academic staff and other key stakeholders are being weakened or silenced.

It shouldn’t be this way. Academic staff, speak up and be heard!

Where do we go
from here?

Open up Board meetings

Public educational institutions that hold closed Board meetings are blatantly disregarding their duty of transparency.

Abolish non-disclosure policies

Non-disclosure policies keep members from commenting on Board decisions – a violation of academic freedom.

Eliminate codes of conduct

Strict codes of conduct are intended to muzzle dissent by holding Board members to prejudicial standards of behaviour.

The state of shared governance

Most appropriate governance structures
Unique within Francophone universities
Poor governance structures
  • University of Saskatchewan

    • Saskatchewan and Regina tend to have small Boards with paid members that adopt a language of forced civility and require some form of Board solidarity
    • Saskatchewan prohibits student and staff Board representatives from participating in protests, demonstrations and labour disruptions. The academic freedom of the Board’s only academic staff member is severely limited
  • University of Regina

    • Saskatchewan and Regina tend to have small Boards with paid members that adopt a language of forced civility and require some form of Board solidarity.
  • University of Waterloo

    • Located in central Canada, with high research output
    • Faculty representation is proportionate to Board size (~20%)
    • Language preserves internal members’ right to discuss/vote on tuition, labour relations, funding
    • Internal Board members are explicitly guaranteed academic freedom, or language supports constituent representation and communication
  • University of Toronto

    • Located in central Canada, with high research output
    • Faculty representation is proportionate to Board size (~20%)
    • Language preserves internal members’ right to discuss/vote on tuition, labour relations, funding
    • Internal Board members are explicitly guaranteed academic freedom, or language supports constituent representation and communication
  • McGill University

    • Located in central Canada, with high research output
    • Faculty representation is proportionate to Board size (~20%)
    • Language preserves internal members’ right to discuss/vote on tuition, labour relations, funding
    • Internal Board members are explicitly guaranteed academic freedom, or language supports constituent representation and communication
  • Université de Montréal

    • While Francophone universities tend to hold closed door meetings, Board members representing university constituencies at the Université de Montréal are exempt from its confidentiality policy, ensuring they can consult with, and report to, their constituents
  • Université Laval

    • Francophone universities favour in-camera sessions, infringing on accountability and transparency
  • Université de Sherbrooke

    • Francophone universities favour in-camera sessions, infringing on accountability and transparency
  • Bishop's University

    • Located in central Canada, with high research output
    • Faculty representation is proportionate to Board size (~20%)
    • Language preserves internal members’ right to discuss/vote on tuition, labour relations, funding
    • Internal Board members are explicitly guaranteed academic freedom, or language supports constituent representation and communication
  • Memorial University

    • Memorial is the only university in Canada whose Board does not include a faculty representative – a key component of collegial governance

The state of shared governance

Most appropriate governance structures

University of Toronto, Bishop's University, McGill University and University of Waterloo

  • Located in central Canada, with high research output
  • Faculty representation is proportionate to Board size (~20%)
  • Language preserves internal members’ right to discuss/vote on tuition, labour relations, funding
  • Internal Board members are explicitly guaranteed academic freedom, or language supports constituent representation and communication

Poor governance structures

Memorial University

  • Memorial is the only university in Canada whose Board does not include a faculty representative – a key component of collegial governance

University of Saskatchewan and University of Regina

  • Saskatchewan and Regina tend to have small Boards with paid members that adopt a language of forced civility and require some form of Board solidarity
  • Saskatchewan prohibits student and staff Board representatives from participating in protests, demonstrations and labour disruptions. The academic freedom of the Board’s only academic staff member is severely limited

Université de Sherbrooke and Université Laval

  • Francophone universities favour in-camera sessions, infringing on accountability and transparency.

Unique within Francophone universities

Université de Montréal

  • While Francophone universities tend to hold closed door meetings, Board members representing university constituencies at the Université de Montréal are exempt from its confidentiality policy, ensuring they can consult with, and report to, their constituents

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