The mandate of the YUFA Subcommittee on Governance is to promote the collegial rights and interests of YUFA members and to inform them of issues relevant to the role and operation of our governance bodies, including the Senate, the Board of Governors and the University administration. We are looking more closely at how we can best carry out these functions.
Governance Committee information link on the YUFA website
Our first observation is that YUFA members are generally not sufficiently informed about governance issues. The Governance Committee has a link on the YUFA website where we can bring together essential information on governance issues at York and make it accessible to all YUFA members. Many of us are unaware of stipulations in the York Act pertaining to the role of Senate and the Board’s mandate. As a result, the administration is interpreting the Act for us, in more and more restrictive ways, establishing precedents of practice that will hinder our action in the future. Much of the information we need is available online, but not easily accessible. OCUFA, CAUT and university researchers are producing important research on university governance that we need to know about. The link to the YUFA Governance Committee on the People & Groups page will be an effective way to make this information available at a simple click.
Governance issues and financial and academic accountability
The collapse of Laurentian University has brought home the pressing need to know how financial decisions are made at the Board of Governors. The Board has taken out a hundred-million-dollar loan for the Markham campus, but we have little information about how this decision was made and what its financial implications are.
The York University Development Corporation (YUDC), York’s public face in the negotiations in the Markham campus deal, is listed on the York University website as a completely owned subsidiary of York University, but we have no information on how its employees are paid, if and how any ‘profits’ are channeled back into York University, or what its activities and structures of accountability are. Extensive overlapping connections among York University, the YUDC, and private real estate interests raise important questions of potential conflict of interest. We need to know to what degree decisions about Markham were made in the interest of York University as a public education institution and to what degree they were made for the benefit of private real estate interests. We also need to know how the for-profit operations of the YUDC support York University’s status as a non-profit educational institution. Are donations to York by real estate developers to support the Markham Campus, which may dovetail with their business interests, valid charitable donations?
We will be working with other YUFA Committees, such as the YUFA Finance Committee, to obtain answers to these questions. In this year’s round of collective bargaining (which begins in a few weeks) YUFA will be bringing forward proposals for greater transparency and participation in university financial governance.
Governance issues and Senate
Another important focus concerns the administration’s growing control over Senate. At the present, despite the academic powers vested in the Senate by the York University Act, Senate has little performative participation in many key academic decision-making processes. We need to find ways to ensure that the decision-making powers of the Senate are respected and collegial governance within Senate is reinforced so that it can effectively carry out its decision-making role as outlined by the York Act. YUFA is working on reviving and reinforcing a YUFA caucus within the Senate to provide a more developed faculty focused opposition to administrative control over a body that should not be controlled by the university’s senior administrators. Other structural improvements be made to reinforce collegiality and academic accountability in university decision-making. YUFA members interested in being part of this initiative can contact the Governance Committee. Our contact information is listed below.
Documenting hardships faced by members
Finally, given the broad-ranging impacts of governance issues at York, we believe it is essential to document the real, day-to-day impacts of Board-driven management decisions on our working conditions, our health, our academic programs, and on our ability to generate innovation, engage with students, and carry out our educational mandate. YUFA stewards have reported an unprecedented increase in grievances by our members. The present management-driven agenda has caused considerable suffering within our community much of which remains invisible.
In keeping with its communication mandate, and in the interest of transparency, the Committee will be publishing regular updates on its discussions and initiatives.
YUFA Governance Committee
Arthur Hilliker (ex officio)
Agnes Whitfield (Chair)