Draft of query letter

David Bakan (dbakan@yorku.ca)
Sun, 9 Nov 1997 15:23:29 -0500 (EST)


Here is a draft of the query letter. P:lease comment.:David

On June 12, 1997 the Council of the Faculty of Arts passed a motion
indicating that the Council had "lost confidence in the ability of the
administration of the Faculty of Arts to manage the affairs of the Faculty
within the present structures of the Faculty" and recommended that an ad hoc
Committee on the Governance of the Faculty of Arts be formed to
'recommend...how...best [to] establish a more democratic, inclusive,
accountable and collegial governance of the Faculty."

The Committee now consists of four members of the faculty, two student
representatives, and one representative of the contract faculty.

This motion came in the wake of the Strike of 1997 at York University of
the faculty association. There are different explanations of the reasons
for the strike. Among them is that there are great deficiencies in the
governance at York University.

Two formal evidences with respect to the latter explanation are the motion
itself, and the resolution of May 13, 1997 that was passed by YUFA 79.6% YES
(570 votes) and 18.0% NO (126 votes) (716 votes ballots cast; 2 spoiled, 18
blank). That resolution read:

"I express my lack of confidence in the current York University
Administration, AND I FULLY ENDORSE YUFA'S CAMPAIGN TO CREATE A
DEMOCRATICALLY GOVERNED UNIVERSITY." [our emphasis]

There is evidently clear dissonance between the conditions that exist, and
the judgment of what should be the case in the minds of a large number of
the faculty.

There is also a question as to whether the conditions that exist are in
consonance with the spirit and /or the letter of the York University Act.
The York University Act of 1965 is the essential "constitution" of York
University, setting out a pattern of governance. It provides for and gives
certain powers to a Faculty Senate, a Board of Governors, a President and
Vice Presidents, Deans, Chairpersons of Faculty Departments and Divisions,
and a Chancellor.

It holds the Senate responsible for the academic policy of the University,
including the power to make recommendations with respect to the Chancellor
and the President.

It holds the President responsible for the supervision and direction of the
implementation of the policies of the University, including the power of
recommending to the Board the appointment and removal of persons employed by
the University.

It holds the Board of Governors responsible for matters not assigned to the
Senate, including powers with respect to property, revenues, expenditure,
business and affairs necessary or convenient to achieve the objects and
purposes of the University.

The York Act specifies four objects and purposes of the University. The
first is the advancement of learning. The second is the dissemination of
knowledge. The third is the intellectual, spiritual, social, moral and
physical development of its members. And the fourth is the betterment of
society.

In our discussions in the Committee we have decided that it would be useful,
as a beginning point, to try to identify those features of the governance
procedures and practices that have given rise to the discontent that exists.

Towards that end the Committee invites input about grievances about actual
powers, decisions and decision procedures variously to be found in the
University.

We propose four major decision areas in which persons may or may not have
appropriate "say" in the decisons.

First, there are all the decisions that are made in the assignment of duties
and responsibilities. This includes the way in which things are decided
within departments, within faculties, and within the university at large.
It includes all the procedures associated with committees, their
responsibilities and their powers. It includes all of the activities of the
Senate, and representation in the Senate. It includes the division of
powers, the hierarchy of approvals, the power of initiation, and other
decisions.

Second, there are all the decisions that are made in connection with the
disposition of funds. To what extent is there appropriate inquiry and
advice seeking with respect to how money is used?

Third, there are all the decisions in connection with appointments and
changes in status in the university. This includes hiring and not-hiring,
including hiring from the outside. It includes all the decisions about
promotion, tenure, membership on the Graduate Faculty, post-retirement
appointments and honorific appointments.

Fourth, there are all the decisions involved in connection with the
dissemination of information relative to decision making. Decisions
need to be informed by appropriate information and advice. Is the
information and advice which is shared in decision making appropriate and
adequate? Is there appropriate appropriate freedom of information in the
University?

Are the decision making procedures in these areas such that they serve the
objectives and purposes of the University effectively and efficiently?

We solicit your advice.