Senate motion on Senate authority

The following motion has been submitted by York University Senator Richard Welland to the Senate Executive Committee in advance of the next meeting of the Senate, scheduled for Thursday, March 22 (see here for agenda).


(submitted by Richard Wellen)

Senate hereby expresses its view that Senate, in conjunction with Senate Executive, has the authority to direct and determine that classes be suspended on the basis of academic integrity.


The above policy statement applies especially to the question of whether Senate, in conjunction with Senate Executive, has jurisdiction to suspend classes during a strike on grounds of academic integrity. It has always been understood (and pursued in practice) that Senate, in conjunction with Senate Executive, has responsibility for decisions to suspend classes during a labour dispute based on considerations of academic integrity and fairness to students. The advice of the administration and other bodies within the university has always been considered by Senate and Senate Executive, but the decision taken has always been understood as lying within the purview of Senate.

This policy is founded on the principle of Senate's authority over academic policy as enshrined in the York University Act, which is the governing legislation of the University, as well as the relevant policies on disruption and class cancellation. Indeed, the York Act is clear that Senate has responsibility for academic policy and the policy on cancellations (made pursuant to that Act) clearly specifies that Senate has authority to cancel classes. Moreover, the disruptions policy assigns a role to both Senate and Senate Executive, and not to the senior administration, in managing and implementing academic policy related to disruptions in the context of labour disputes.

The senior administration and/or the Board of Governors are the primary Employer-side labour relations protagonists when a union is on strike or may go on strike. Granting to these bodies authority or veto power over suspension decisions (or the exclusive right to call for such decisions) during a strike would raise doubts about whether such decisions are being guided primarily by the standards of academic integrity and fairness to students. Senate, on the other hand, is composed of multiple stakeholders (including members of the administration) and also has a responsibility to take a disinterested stance towards labour relations as well as procedures and practices to ensure that such disinterestedness or separation is enforced. Hence Senate is in the best position to assign the highest priority to issues of academic integrity and fairness to students in such circumstances.