Subject: Notes on Governance Committee meeting of December 11, 1997

Marla Chodak (mchodak@yorku.ca)
Fri, 16 Jan 1998 14:07:47 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)


Notes on the committee's meeting with Professor Arthurs:

Governance Committee
Notes on Meeting with Professor H. Arthurs
December 11, 1997

Present: R. Drummond, A. Pilgrim, G. Monette, D. Bakan, L. Young, M.
Chodak
Guest: H. Arthurs

- Professor Arthurs indicated that he was speaking only on his own behalf
- he raised the general question "what is the problem to which governance
is the answer?" and remarked that it did not seem to him that governance
was the answer to the big problem facing York: serious retrenchment of
financial support from the state
- governance will not, for example, recruit more students, attract more
funds from donors, or maintain standards in research and teaching;
similarly it is not clear that governance will improve conditions of life
for faculty, staff, and students or affect wages and working conditions,
which are matters for collective bargaining, though governance may set an
environment for these

- Professor Drummond observed that one of the concerns which had led to
the motion to establish the committee had related to lack of trust and
lack of information on which YUFA could judge the extent of financial
problems; collegial governance implies a capacity to know information is
credible and agreed upon
- he found this concern puzzling since it was his experience that
information was accessible and that faculty could have a voice; however,
many felt that they had no power in their departments and the Faculty in
decisions which are critical for the university
- Professor Monette commented that the strike had been characterized by a
sense of "us vs. them" - a lack of shared values and a sense that
"management" was opposing rather than participating in the collective
enterprise; he would like to see the sense of collegiality restored
- Professor Pilgrim noted that the Council motion asked the committee to
make recommendations to make governance more democratic, accountable,
inclusive, and collegial, with the focus primarily on accountability
- other concerns were noted re. the nominating and elections process,
issues relating to contract faculty (not easily addressed as governance
issues but with governance elements, such as participation rights in
departments and Council)

- Professor Arthurs observed that collective bargaining assumes an arms
length, adverserial relationship between employers and employees; the
Labour Relations Act was not drafted with universities in mind and the
possibility of the union participating in governance was not envisioned;
it is therefore difficult to reconcile the tradition of collegial
governance with collective bargaining
- he offered examples to illustrate this point:
- first, this tension has played itself out in many years of discussions
about how tenure and promotion relate to Senate and the collective
bargaining process, with little progress towards what should be a
resolvable issue
- second, following a short faculty strike in 1985 efforts were made to
establish a planning process at York, leading to APAY (Academic Planning
at York); the agreement involved sharing of information and thinking about
how academic priorities evolved in a way which would affect allocation of
resources; APAY was adopted by the three parties and mandated the budget
committee to invite bodies, one of which was YUFA, to meet with it to
receive information and proffer views; YUFA was reluctant to be involved
because, he suggested, to participate would compromise its ability to
stand back and take an adversarial view
- he observed that rigid compliance with the York Act would mean the
administration would be accountable to the Board of Governors for
everything except academic policy; matters of budget would not be within
the mandate of the collegium
- the difficulty of divorcing academic and financial matters was noted

- Professor Bakan suggested that the major question facing the university
is the processes whereby decisions are made for the allocation of funds
(which he suggested had remained constant at about $400M over a number of
years, a figure which was disputed by Professor Arthurs); this is the
fundamental issue from which everything else derives
- Professor Arthurs stated the budget is prepared when the government
tells universities how much money they will receive; a definitive budget
discussion in advance of this announcement is not possible - even after
the announcement, there is a very small margin of movement since 81% of
the budget is spent on employees; therefore most decisions are made
through collective bargaining; much of what remains is allocated to fixed
expenses (heat, light, etc.)
- in response to a suggestion that money had been taken from the operating
budget and put into capital and ancillary budgets, he stated that in the
budget years with which he was familiar, at no time had money been
withdrawn from operating funds to feed ancillary areas except as a result
of unexpected losses and with the expectation that the losses would be
replaced

- Professor Pilgrim observed that 1991 had been a "watershed" year in
which the VP had begun to ask for annual budget cuts; the decision-making
process for those cuts was not clear and there had been insufficient
acknowledgement of the cumulative effects of the cuts on the people who
had felt the consequences
- Professor Arthurs noted that this is recognized - the University has
been under severe financial pressure as a result of government cutbacks;
not only were there cuts in aggregate funding but money was targeted for
particular purposes, reducing flexibility

- Professor Drummond suggested it appears that money is moved around in
ways which are not always transparent; he wondered whether decisions might
be made in ways which would allow faculty more opportunities to express
views about how money should be spent
- Professor Arthurs noted that APAY provides a framework within which the
administration is under an obligation to honour academic priorities and to
report back on how this has been done
- the Chairs of Senate and APPC are members of BPC to provide a window to
Senate re. determination of spending priorities; the intent is to ensure
accountability as part of the process; it is important for people charged
with financial responsibility to have as much interaction as possible with
people in the Faculties and for there to be opportunities outside formal
processes for discussion

- Professor Bakan invited Professor Arthurs' advice on a number of issues
including York's reputation, students' wish for faculty to pay attention
to them, decline in numbers of people involved in teaching, worsening
student/faculty ratios - he asked how the budget could be looked at in
ways which would see money go to the support of students, i.e., teachers
of distinction with reasonable-sized classes where students are given
attention
- Professor Arthurs observed that we moved off the standard Professor
Bakan described when the decision was made to keep growing even though we
would not get paid for growing; this decision may have been made for good
reasons, but York continued to grow for ten years without being
compensated, crippling us to the point where we were receiving "79 cent
dollars"
- asked how the money was allocated, he reiterated that the biggest
financial decisions were taken in periodic negotiations with unions;
attempts to cut the size of any group are met with fierce resistance from
all groups; beyond this there is little remaining and the amount is
diminishing for several reasons: 1) modest inflation drives up costs over
which we have little control; 2) we are encumbered by regulatory
requirements to spend money with no resonance in the educational equation;
3) claims by faculty, staff and students (e.g., equity claims) are
expensive; 4) need for investment in institutional research, to attract
donations, and for recruitment of good students
- Professor Bakan suggested that the Board had approved construction of a
science complex; $10M would come from the province while York would have
to contribute $10M plus maintenance costs; he asked whether the money
would not be better spent hiring faculty
- Professor Arthurs pointed out that construction is financed by
government grants and revenue generated by development not from operating
funds; only maintenance costs come from operating funds
- he noted that this space was required to accommodate students as a
result of Senate approval of expansion of science and Environmental
Studies programmes which would attract good new students, i.e., academic
decisions in which faculty had been
- it was suggested that there is considerable unused space on campus
- Professor Arthurs questioned this statement, and asked how, if it were
true that space was unassigned, this could be addressed as part of
governance -- what constructive action could be taken in this area to
improve the life of the university? how would one ensure that the facts
were gathered? how would the matter be brought to the attention of
decision-makers? what kind of decisions would be made and by whom? if it
were concluded that space utilization should be altered, by what process
would changes in behaviour be effected in order to change faculty members'
teaching patterns and students' class selections in order to move them
into periods of low space utilization? who mandates changes in behaviour?
- he observed that governance is a matter of process rather than outcome
- it was suggested there should be a forum where this kind of discussion
could take place
- it was pointed out that decisions to maintain or expand in terms of
curriculum have implications for other activities
- Professor Bakan suggested that York should pursue what it can be good at
- he cited as an example of a decision whose generation and reason was
unclear the development of Seneca at York; he added that York employs a
large number of people and suggested that the question should be asked:
what are they doing towards the advancement of learning, the purpose of
the university?
- Professor Arthurs argued in response that administrators and support
staff work to create an environment for learning in the University

- concern was expressed by several members of the committee about
reductions in CUPE appointments in order to meet budget cuts and failure
to replace retiring faculty, despite agreement of the administration that
the tenure stream complement should be maintained; it was noted that funds
for conversion of CUPE members were underused despite the fact that many
CUPE members had been at York for many years, held PhDs and publish - it
was suggested that there has been a change in the approach to such
appointments in that departments which want to make conversion
appointments must then forego "regular" appointments; again, it is not
clear where and how decisions about a variety of appointment issues are
made
- it was suggested that there is a need for common understanding of terms
and assumptions

- the question of faculty as administrators was raised
- in response, Professor Arthurs asked how, if it is true that they are
fundamentally the same people, they come to be seen as immoral and making
improvident decisions; he suggested several hypotheses:
- the assumption that they are the same people is wrong, or for the
duration of the time they are administrators they cease to be the same
people with the same values
- people holding administrative office for a limited period have a range
of pressures and an array of information to which they must respond which
does not require response from people who do not hold administrative
positions; the context changes but the values do not change; conclusions
may not be comprehensible to others because they do not have the same
information and pressures
- over time there is a change not in values but in objective circumstances
- asked about the role of the Board, he commented that in actual fact the
Board is not a player in making budget decisions, but approves
recommendations brought by the President

- Professor Arthurs proposed in conclusion that a governance committee
might address the issues of who does what and the nature of
decision-making, which he suggested involves a mix of expertise,
consultation, democratic input, and follow-through; he suggested that the
kinds of decisions most appropriate for democratic input are policy
decisions, e.g., how the university's academic programmes are organized,
the academic criteria by which we operate
- the development and analysis of information can only be done by experts;
these are, therefore, executive functions, though at some level of
aggregation this information should be put out for discussion because it
provides important parameters for academic decision-making; attempts at
detailed analysis by non-experts can lead to erroneous conclusions
- connections to the world outside the university must also be taken into
account in decision-making and these are often more important in changing
behaviour than our own decisions; what is perceived as "administrative"
decision-making is often a direct result of the need for advocacy,
response to regulatory requirements, and budget constraints imposed by
government
- administrators develop a high degree of facility to analyze information
based on experience and interaction with the community and a range of
processes as a result of their positions; this does not mean they are
better or wiser people
- York is characterized by extensive, convoluted processes to a greater
extent than any other Canadian university

- members of the committee thanked Professor Arthurs for his comments
and counsel

Marla Chodak
Office of the Vice-President (Academic Affairs)
Room S935 Ross Building
York University
Phone: 416-736-2100; ext. 44505; FAX: 416-736-5876
E-mail: mchodak@yorku.ca