The Mount Allison Faculty Association has some grave concerns about the governance of our university that we would like to bring to your attention. The Board of Regents’ lack of accountability to the Mount Allison university community and the tax payers of New Brunswick has long been a source of concern but recent events have made the need for action even more pressing.
Some relevant facts:
- Mount Allison employs over 450 Staff and Faculty, the majority of whom reside in your riding.
- Over 2500 students are enrolled at Mount Allison ( 41% of Canadian students at Mount Allison are New Brunswick residents).
- Mount Allison’s operating budget is over 30 million dollars, half of which comes from government grants.
- There are no government-appointed representatives on the University’s Board of Regents.
As you will know, Mount Allison President, A. Wayne MacKay, recently resigned and the university community is extremely concerned about the causes and consequences of this event. The resignation letter sent to the university community betrays great frustration with impediments to future accomplishments. The fact that this took place just as next year’s budget is being prepared, and the academic sector is under great pressure to provide funding for faculty and librarian positions in order to maintain competitive working conditions and a competitive learning environment, suggests a refusal on the part of the Board of Regents to make available urgently needed resources.
Clearly, the fault does not lie with the President, an accomplished professional widely respected in academic circles, in the community, and nationally. The facts, as known to us, point to the unwillingness of the Board of Regents to commit to improving the ability of the academic sector to offer students the education which our rhetoric promises: reasonable professor-student ratios, sufficient academic resources, attractive conditions to entice new faculty to choose Mount Allison in a fiercely competitive academic job market.
As it has been the case for decades, the Board’s actions betray a governing body which continues to be painfully unaware of, and uninterested in, the effective functioning of the institution in those sectors which are its raison d’être: learning, teaching, research. If anything, the events leading to President MacKay’s resignation threaten to compromise Mount Allison’s reputation and integrity, and bode ill for the learning and working climate in the immediate future of the institution.
While the students, faculty, librarians and support staff are enthusiastically dedicated to the experience of learning, Mount Allison’s Board of Regents in the past has been demonstrating, and now continues to demonstrate, its inability or unwillingness to learn, and thus its inability to govern an academic institution. It is high time that Mount Allison’s governing structure be reviewed in public, and be changed to allow public accountability and open processes. We have included MAFA’s proposal on a revised structure for the Board of Regents for your consideration. We hope that you will give our recommendations your most serious attention and we hope to hear back from you soon.
- Bernard Lord, Premier of New Brunswick
- Madeleine Dubé, Education Minister
- Claude Dionne, President of the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations
- Board of Regents, Mount Allison University
- Mount Allison Students’ Administrative Council
- Bill Evans, President, Mount Allison Staff Association
Structure and Accountability: Mount Allison Board of Regents
Mount Allison Faculty Association Proposals for Reform
MAFA recommends the following changes to Board membership:
- increase Alumni representation to 5;
- increase elected Faculty representation to 3;
- increase elected Student representation to 3;
- increase United Church representation to 3;
- add the Presidents of SAC, MAFA, MASA and CUPE Local 2338;
- add a representative of the Town of Sackville;
- add two representatives of the Government of New Brunswick;
- reduce to 2 from 12 the appointments directly by the Board;
- maintain the 2 current ex-officio members (the President and Chancellor of Mount Allison).
This proposal would increase the current Board of Regents membership by one, for a total of 25 members, and at the same time achieve representation and accountability.
MAFA also recommends that the Executive and Nominating Committees be restructured. In order to reflect the Mount Allison community. Both of these bodies should include a representative of the Alumni, Faculty, Students and United Church.
A realignment as recommended above might begin to return some accountability to both membership and actions of the Board of Mount Allison.
In 1994 changes in the Mount Allison Act effected a major restructuring of the Mount Allison Board of Regents. The membership was reduced from 60 to 24 and the Executive Committee from 18 to 8. MAFA considers these reductions in size a positive step. A new committee structure was also instituted.
Regrettably, the restructuring also included what amounted to a coup by some members of the Board against representation from many of the constituents of the Mount Allison Community. The Alumni, Faculty, Students and the United Church all saw their representation drastically reduced:
- Alumni representation dropped from 20 to 4;
- Faculty representation dropped from 6 to 2;
- Student representation dropped from 6 to 2;
- United Church representation dropped from 20 to 2.
At the same time, appointments to the Board made directly by the Board itself tripled from 4 to 12, fully half the membership of the newly structured Board, thus removing even the appearance of accountability and representation. Even more devastating for constituent representation is the fact that, in the new structure, the Executive Committee and the Nominating Committee have no mandated member from any of the groups whose representation was reduced in 1994. This coup was forcefully opposed by the United Church and by the Mount Allison Faculty Association but in 1994 the New Brunswick Legislature chose to ignore these concerns.
The restructured Board has been much less representative of the university’s constituencies, the province, and region. The restructuring away from representation and accountability to constituencies has been accompanied by a deteriorating climate at Mount Allison.
- A president was nearly reappointed in secret and after the plan was revealed he was nevertheless reappointed against the clearly expressed opinion of students and employees;
- Academic programs of long standing, excellent reputation and moderate cost in Education, Engineering and Geology were eliminated; this had negative effects on Alumni giving, on the options for students of Mount Allison and on the diversity of the student body;
- Three Vice-Presidents (Academic) have left the position in only seven years; recent holders of the position are not complimentary about the environment in Senior Administration at Mount Allison;
- In 1999 the Faculty of Mount Allison struck for a second time this decade. In total there have been three strikes of academic and support staff in this decade; a third Faculty strike was narrowly averted in 1995.
- A report on the situation at Mount Allison commissioned by CAUT (the ‘Wilson report’) concluded that ‘…when the call constantly is for universities to be more accountable to the communities they serve, there has been a real cost in …[the lack of] accountability’.
Rationale for Recommendations
MAFA believes that these events are related to a lack of accountability of the Board which oversaw them. MAFA also believes that Mount Allison and New Brunswick would benefit from a return of the constituent groups to some approximation of their historic role in the university’s governance. MAFA believes that the current structure of the Board is responsible for much harm to the environment for study and scholarship at Mount Allison.
It should be pointed out that over half the funding of Mount Allison’s operating budget comes from the New Brunswick Government and from taxpayers, yet there are only a portion of residents of New Brunswick on the current Board. As it stands, there is currently no requirement for any New Brunswick representation at all.
A structure similar to the one proposed above would guarantee that this province and region will be well-represented. Some members of the current Board may regret the possible reduction in members from the corporate and legal sectors. In fact there is nothing in the new structure which would prevent the presence of at least 10 members of the Board being appointed from such groups.
It is not in the Canadian tradition to have the government funding contribution balanced by direct government control, but MAFA feels that it would be reasonable that the Mount Allison Board of Regents include a representative or two from the New Brunswick government.
In conclusion, MAFA feels that adopting its recommendations for a reformed Board of Regents membership and appointment structure, would go a long way in restoring accountability and representativeness, and thereby a healthy learning and teaching environment.