By Espoir Manirambona
Dale Craig. Linda Ann Daly. Ron Jackson.
These are individuals many Carleton students are not familiar with, yet their decisions have a major impact on daily life at Carleton. These three people, along with 29 others, compose the Board of Governors (BoG), Carleton’s highest decision-making body.
While some members of the BoG are elected by students and employees, 18 of these positions are not. The unelected community members are mainly drawn from the business sector, “unbiased” members of the Ottawa elite with the task of upholding public interest.
Contrary to representing the public interest, however, members have been known to make decisions that corporatize the university for profit. The ties that some of these representatives have to Carleton are tenuous at best yet these Board members are responsible for the allocation of resources, tuition, bargaining, etc.
In past years, the BoG had managed to stay in the dark and keep a low profile. It has now been thrust into the spotlight due to a series of missteps and sharpening contradictions with the Carleton community.
The saga began when the unelected members of the BoG tried to prevent student union executives from sitting on the Board. They argued the latter had conflicts of interest because they represented specific members of the Carleton community. They believed that these affiliations would bias decisions towards personal interests as opposed to the general benefit of Carleton.
Ironically, this clarified the conflict between the interests of the unelected members and those of students, employees and faculty. Campus United, the alliance of unions on campus, responded with an open letter calling for more transparency and democratic accountability. The letter echoed a longstanding demand that all positions on the BoG be elected by students and workers on campus: in other words, by the ones who have to live with the decisions.
The unelected contingent of the Board reacted by trying to withdraw from public view even further by taking draconian steps to make the Board even less transparent and democratic via a revised Code of Conduct. This revision would forbid board members from voicing dissenting opinions to the public and keep them from discussing the BoG’s ostensibly “open” sessions.
Many students and workers at Carleton are very disappointed in the Board’s reaction. “We are currently at a high point of consciousness about this due to the bold attempts the senior administration made at tightening their grasp around how the school is governed, who is able to speak and who gets acknowledged,” Wesley Petite, a PhD student and union activist, told the Leveller.
“I would like to see an effort to support real discussion on serious issues. The options framing tuition increase, for example, are presented as fixed by the outgoing Financial VP Duncan Watt and this definitely discourages debate and puts reps with more open and progressive ideas on uneven footing in this debate.”
The Rally to Remind the BoG that Students are Watching! has been announced for Jan. 26 to remind the Board that students are aware of what is going on and that they demand all power be given to students and workers. The rally will be gathering at the G-Spot at 3:30 p.m., before moving to the Gandhi statue outside of the River Building, 1125 Colonel By Drive.
This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol.8 No. 4 (Jan/Feb 2016).