Faculties at NB universities pass no confidence motions in their administrations

Written by Nicole Saulnier on April 9, 2014

unboldartbuildingDuring the past month, faculties at the University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University have passed no confidence motions in their administrations.

Five of the largest faculties at UNB Fredericton (Arts, Science, Engineering, Business and Education) have passed no confidence motions in the upper-management committee comprised of the President and Vice Presidents. These motions come after a three week labour disruption at Mount Allison and UNB that raised concerns about the priorities of the administrations. During the past few years, faculties at UNB have been subject to funding cuts, which has reduced staff, programs and resources at the university.

The motions passed by secret ballot in Arts Faculty Council at UNB:

MOTION 1: The Arts Faculty has no confidence in the ability and intentions of the UNB University Management Committee to administer the core mission of UNB: teaching and research.

Moved by J. Andrews, Seconded by K. Mitra.

MOTION CARRIED: (43 in favour, 14 against, & 2 abstentions)

MOTION 2: We instruct our Dean and our Senate representatives to present this motion and the results of this vote, and request that the Board of Governors’ representatives present this motion and the results of this vote, to the bodies where they are charged with representing faculty interests.

Moved by J. Andrews, Seconded by K. Mitra.

MOTION CARRIED: (45 in favour, 12 against, & 2 abstentions)

There were 59 eligible voters present at the meeting: 54 full-time faculty members representing departments, 2 deans with faculty appointments, and 3 student representatives.

The New Brunswick Media Co-op interviewed Dr. Jennifer Andrews, chair of the English department and author of the motion, to discuss the priorities and ramifications of the motion.

NBMC: What is the substance and purpose of this motion? What changes are you hoping this message will achieve in the university structure?

JA: The no-confidence motions that have been put forward and overwhelmingly supported by the Faculty of Arts (by 43 and 45 of 59 eligible voters present at our March 20, 2014 Arts Council meeting) express a lack of confidence in the decisions being made by the current members of the University Management Committee (UMC), which includes the President and Vice-Presidents of UNB. This is a very serious set of motions—steps that we have taken as a faculty—to articulate our desire for change and a fundamental shift to focusing once again on the core mission of the university: teaching and research.

In order to deliver quality programs to students, we need adequate resources and most importantly, a strategic plan that ensures that the faculty numbers remain stable so that programs can continue to serve the students appropriately. Right now, many academic programs are in jeopardy of loosing professional accreditation (Engineering programs and Clinical Psychology are among them) and our faculty numbers have been so decreased that inevitably programs are struggling to offer basic requirements.

We have looked at UNB’s audited financial statements and while President Campbell claims that expenses exceed revenues, in actual fact, UNB is turning a profit but relegating money to “restricted” funds and special projects, many of which do not benefit the university’s core mission. So the motion is also a demand for better communication, accountability, and transparency on the part of the UMC because the numbers tell a different story than the one they are relaying.

NBMC: Are these no confidence motions a result of the labour disruption in January and the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers’ (AUNBT) perspective of the administration after the strike/lockout?

JA: The frustration with the UMC has been growing for years, and was exacerbated by the strike/lockout, but is not the cause of these motions by any means.

The behaviour of the UMC post-lockout reinforced their refusal to be transparent and accountable. For instance, post-lockout we learned that $500,000 was given to the Fredericton faculties by the VP Academic as a “one-time non-salary” payment on January 13, 2014, the first day of the strike, but within six weeks we were informed that there would be yet another $1.25 million cut in the Academic budget. Around the same time, a proposal was put forth by the administration for a Director of Experiential Learning, and a substantial administrative budget was attached to this post, yet the faculty involved in this proposal firmly objected to the creation of the office given that the money can and should be used for more pressing academic matters.

We have been getting contradictory messages from UNB’s Administration even after the lockout, which raises serious questions about what the priorities of the UMC are—sustaining a university known for its comprehensive quality programs or starving academic units until the university collapses.

And at the end of the day, it is the students who suffer—which strikes me as extremely unfair because they deserve to get an excellent education.

NBMC: With the passing of five non-confidence motions in recent weeks, do you feel the administration has been more willing to meet and discuss with faculties?

JA: I would hope that this would be the case but the President and various Vice Presidents have hesitated to meet with large groups of people, insisting that small group meetings, Senate or Board of Governors’ meetings are the only appropriate venues. While I can see why they would wish to limit such encounters, it also suggests an unwillingness to engage in a genuine dialogue or to answer questions in a place where all faculty members are welcome to be present and participate in the interactions.

NBMC: Do you see this motion moving forward in the university hierarchy beyond individual faculty councils?

JA: I would hope that the Senate and ultimately the Board of Governors would pay close attention to these motions.

The Board of Governors is responsible for the health of the university as a functioning entity, and they have the power to demand change.

While motions of no-confidence are largely symbolic, I would hope that knowing that multiple large faculties which constitute the bulk of the university (Arts, Science, Engineering, Business, and Education) have passed no-confidence motions might suggest that this is not a reflection of a few disgruntled folks post-lockout but actually a genuine desire to see the path of UNB shift so that we can all get back to the work that we loved to do—delivering our programs effectively and educating our future leaders with the teaching and research excellence that UNB has been known for.

UNB has existed in various forms since 1785 and this is the first time that no-confidence motions have been passed in large numbers—it is a wake-up call and a demand for leadership that will return UNB to its core mission—teaching and research—and reject administrative bloat.

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