Would allow universty boards to eject elected members with 2/3 majority
// Arshy Mann

VANCOUVER (CUP) – Bill 18, which had brought the provincial government into conflict with faculty, staff and student associations, will not become law – at least for now.

The bill, which sought to amend numerous acts related to post-secondary education in BC, was pulled before second reading by the Liberal government, and won't be back until the spring legislative session.

However, it was only a handful of the 57 proposed amendments that stirred controversy. Five of these, which would affect the province's University Act and the College and Institutes Act, would allow the boards of governors of post-secondary institutions to expel elected faculty, student, or staff representatives if they had a two-thirds majority.

They would also bar elected members from serving as chair on these boards and prohibit faculty or staff representatives from sitting on the executives of organizations engaged in collective bargaining or dispute resolution with the institution.

"Nobody seems to quite know where this has come from," said Michelle Mungall, the BC NDP's critic for advanced education. "I think it's just unreal that they have included these sections that are inherently anti-democratic [and] completely inappropriate, and destabilize a century of tradition."

Organizations representing faculty and staff at post-secondary institutions, such as the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE), the BC Government and Service Employee Union (BCGSE) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), have strongly opposed the amendments. They've encouraged their membership to send letters to the ministry, which has received over 1,000 of these in the past two weeks.

FPSE president Cindy Oliver stated in a press release that they would be willing to fight the bill all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"If this legislation passes, [BC Premier] Christy Clark will effectively be dictating to our members who they can and can't elect as their representative on the Board of Governors," she wrote. "It is more than just an affront to our democratic rights; it's a full-on attack of our freedom of association rights that are spelled out in the Charter."

Naomi Yamamoto, the minister for advanced education, believes that the opposition to the bill is a result of miscommunication and that the bill itself would in no way dilute the rights of elected board members.

"Bill 18 absolutely values, and [the] government values, the participation of students and staff and faculty on the boards," she said. "We are only preventing or making it ineligible for an elected member to serve on the board if that person is involved in negotiating terms of their contract or the terms of their service on behalf of their association.

“Right now, there's no way of removing an elected member if the person is in a conflict of interest or their conduct is not considered professional.”

Yamamoto said that the amendments weren't a result of any specific incidents, but did note that "there have been some circumstances that have caused us concerns, especially when that board member has shown really poor judgment in a criminal matter and there was no way for the board to remove that member."

She also stressed that nothing in this bill gives the provincial government the right to remove elected members, unless two-thirds of a board recommended it.

However, provincial appointees make up the majority of many university boards. And when their votes are combined with those of a university's president and chancellor, they often have the two-thirds majority required to eject an elected member — with UBC being a notable exception.

Mungall believes that this would give the province an unprecedented say in who can represent students, faculty, and staff at postsecondary institutions.

"The only people who should be able to remove somebody who is elected are those who elected them," said she said. "And students should be very concerned about that. Do they think government appointees ought to have the right to remove their representative?"

Yamamoto said delaying the bill will "give me an opportunity to further discuss [the bill] with some of these organizations that are concerned," and added that she already met with CAUT last week.

"I just want to say that I have been on a college board and served as board chair, and that was Capilano College at the time. And I can tell you that the participation of the education council or the faculty and the staff or students is absolutely valued [and] I am in no way trying to diminish that."

Mungall believes that the Liberal government should drop the controversial amendments and move forward with the rest of the bill.

"This is just another frustrating point about this bill … there are sections in this bill that are desperately needed right now. And to put in something controversial with something that the rest of the house agrees with is just bad governance."

// Arshy Mann, CUP Western Bureau Chief
// Photograph by Katie So

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