Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Carleton Plays Dodgeball

There has been some controversy at Carleton University about how the Board of Governors operates, as there are two profs on the board and one has been most critical and has blogged about it.  The storm arose when there was an attempt to get a lifetime confidentiality agreement imposed upon this prof and the rest.  The new stance was sent out today:

To all Members of the Carleton Community,
 Please see the statement released by the Board today below.

 Ottawa, January 26, 2016 - Anthony Tattersfield, chair of the Board of Governors of Carleton University, issued the following statement today:

The Board of Governors has ratified a Code of Conduct for Governors that reaffirms the importance of open Board Meetings, brings greater transparency to how the Board operates and clarifies what is expected of Governors in Board communications.

The Code of Conduct – which had been proposed by the Governance Committee under the chairmanship of Michael Wernick, and adopted by the Executive - makes it clear that:

             Most Board business is conducted transparently in open session and an obligation of confidentiality is not relevant to open session. Confidentiality is relevant to information provided for discussions at closed sessions. Closed sessions are the exception and typically involve potential tendering of contracts, personnel cases, performance reviews, legal advice and labour relations. 

             All Governors are required to act in the best interest of the university. While perspectives may differ, debate and discussion are encouraged at the Board as the manner to resolve them and it is inconsistent with this role of a Governor to reopen and criticize Board decisions after they have been taken or to criticize, question the integrity of, or intimidate fellow Governors and university officials.

             While individual Governors are free to discuss matters from the open session, in the end the chair, or his or her designate, is the spokesperson for the Board, and the minutes which are adopted are the record of discussion and decision.
This does not seem too bad at first glance, but the clause in red bothers me.  What does it mean that it is inconsistent to reopen/criticize board decisions?  Does that mean no blogging?  Because that ain't gonna fly.  Then it gets worse: was there really an attempt to intimidate?  It would seem to me that being on the board means one has to be responsible, but part of that responsibility might be to be transparent--to criticize decisions.

If they just want the profs to be on the board as silent partners, then, well, they don't understand profs.  I don't think this decision is going to play well even if they do away with excessively restrictive confidentiality agreements.

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