The YUFA Subcommittee on Governance is concerned that the administration appears to be continuing to reinforce its control over Senate and undermine Senate powers. In our view, the administration is progressively putting in place a form of governance that will pave the way for unilateral administrative control of academic decisions about what we teach, when, where and how. Three recent examples are particularly troubling:
- The decision to make a full return to on-campus teaching in January 2022 was made by Senate executive, without a broad consultation of stakeholders, although this decision creates major health and safety issues for faculty, staff and students.
- Determinations of the academic direction of the university are being moved from collegial to administrative responsibility. For the Markham campus, for instance, a Deputy-Provost has been appointed, but no collegial governance structure has been put in place.
- The same right-wing Australian firm NOUS responsible for recommending draconian program cuts at the University of Alberta and Laurentian has been hired by the York administration to provide academic scenarios for Glendon, without consultation. For information on NOUS’s implication at the University of Alberta see the CAUT article here.
Administration Interpretations of Governance Structures at York University
The university administration continues to aggressively seek to control the interpretation of the York University Act in order to falsely legitimize takeover by the Board of Governors and the President’s Office of responsibilities rightly held by the Senate.
- The position of Governance Coordinator has been created at the University Secretariat to provide and implement pro-administration interpretations of the York University Act.
- Information provided by the administration on the York University website and to Senators inaccurately affirms the Board’s exclusive control of the university and fails to acknowledge the key role of the Senate with respect to the academic purpose of the University.
- Basically, the administration is reinterpreting the York University Act to align the University governance with a top-down corporate model.
Administrative Attack on Democracy at Senate
As part of this continued agenda to have the Board and the President’s Office usurp Senate powers the administration is fashioning a mode of functioning at Senate that to all intents and purposes eliminates meaningful faculty input into academic decision-making processes:
- The role of Senators is limited to passive receipt of reports provided by the administration. Discussion is unduly limited by the Chair.
- Senate Executive is increasingly making decisions, such as the return to on-campus teaching in January, that, given their importance for the academic purpose of the University and the entire University community, should be made by Senate as a whole.
- Senate Executive meetings are now confidential, further undermining the transparency of its decision-making process.
- Senate meetings are now to all intents and purposes closed to non-Senators. Faculty, staff or students who are not Senators can attend through live streaming but cannot participate.
- There is a concerted effort to undermine the Senate's legislative authority over academic policy, which requires Senate to take the lead on academic policy and curriculum, as well as to protect academic governance and to provide oversight of the academic life of the university.
YUFA Senate Caucus
The YUFA Governance Subcommittee is determined to fully support democracy at Senate and the respect of Senate powers under the York University Act.To this effect, it is working to revive the YUFA Senate Caucus which gives collegial members of Senate an opportunity to meet prior to Senate meetings and develop a common position on issues that are on the Senate agenda or to work on new items for the Senate agenda.
- The Caucus can support raising important questions at Senate or help with preparing motions. The hortatory motion passed at the September meeting of Senate requiring Senate approval of Strategic Mandate Agreements is an example of how faculty can move to reassert respect of Senate’s academic powers.
- The Caucus includes all YUFA Senators and all members of Senate from across campus, including CUPE, staff and student members.
- The Caucus meets directly before Senate meetings to discuss issues of concern and develop strategy. A google group, YUFA Senate Caucus, has been set up to facilitate communication: [email protected].
- Other unions in the cross-campus alliance have been contacted to plan and publicize initiatives to raise awareness about governance, and to provide information for Senators on practical questions: how Senate works; how to present motions; how to challenge the Chair's decision foreclosing debate, how to make your voice heard.
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 on leave)
Agnes Whitfield (Chair)