OpEd to be submitted to Edmonton Journal: Criteria for Selection of New Chair of the Board of Governors

The material below is the text of an OpEd to be submitted to the Edmonton Journal in a few days’ time. If you would like to add your name to this piece, please either use the “comment” function to indicate your desire to do so or email either Carolyn Sale (sale@ualberta.ca) or Laurie Adkin at boardchairalberta@gmail.comThe OpEd will be sent on the morning of November 16th with all signatures that have come in by then. Note: Please, if you wish, specify your institutional affiliation to go alongside your name.

As the Government of Alberta searches for a new Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta, members of the university are hopeful that the government’s choice will signal a shift in political vision for post-secondary education.

Our decades-long struggle against the incremental privatization of higher education and research has been waged not only to resist deteriorating conditions for teaching, learning, and research, but also to defend the public interests served by the work of teachers and scholars. Tomorrow’s generations will be grappling with complex problems that are global in scale but call for local responses. Universities are critical to providing the knowledge, creativity, imagination, and skills that our societies will need to solve these problems.

In past decades, the province’s Conservative governments have reduced the qualifications needed for far-sighted governance to the skills of financial management. This is unfortunate, as university Presidents, Chancellors, Provosts, and Boards of Governors must have a deep understanding of the university as a public institution whose mandate is to serve the public good.

Given this understanding of the university’s raison d’être, individuals with experience in the non-profit sector or community organizations should be viewed as equally qualified to hold university governance posts as an accountant, business manager, or lawyer. In general, we would like to see university boards reflect the demographic and occupational diversity of Alberta’s society, and include representatives of Aboriginal peoples.

Knowledge of the general political-economic challenges facing post-secondary education and the province as a whole would also be a considerable asset in a Board chair. Indeed, understanding Alberta’s political economy is essential to effective steering of any of Alberta’s public institutions; universities have a major role to play in the creation of a diverse and ecologically sustainable economy, as well as a vibrant, democratic culture.

In our view, Alberta’s post-secondary education institutions need governors and administrators who are committed to:

  • promoting and defending the University of Alberta as a public university serving the public good;
  • defending the independence and integrity of the university with regard to its public mandate;
  • drawing upon meaningful consultation with members of the university community to represent the concerns and interests of the university to the government;
  • supporting a democratic, collaborative, and deliberative governance model that includes the use of consultative mechanisms that reach beyond the usual shallow forms (such as town hall meetings, press releases, and blogs written by public affairs professionals);
  • maintaining collaborative and respectful relationships with all employee groups at the university;
  • respecting and demonstrably supporting the freedom of academics to express criticism of and their dissent from management decisions or policies affecting our work or our perceptions of the public interest;
  • building strong relationships between the university and the communities it serves;
  • acting to achieve employment equity and diversity goals;
  • defending the importance of “pure” research and teaching for its own sake in any and all disciplinary contexts; and
  • collaborating with other post-secondary institutions to improve the conditions for their common success.

Lastly, we must address the issue of conflict of interest. The close connections between governance appointees (Presidents, Chancellors, Boards of Governors) and private sector interests (particularly, in Alberta, connections to energy or construction corporations) have generated conflicts with academic freedom and integrity. When an appointee to university administration or a university board is the legal counsel, executive officer, or a member of the board of directors of a firm that funds research chairs, capital projects, or other endowments, he or she may exercise inappropriate influence over academic (and budgetary) decisions taken within the university. In other words, governance appointees should not be closely connected to large private donors to the universities.

The selection of the Board chair is a major opportunity for Alberta to begin redressing the challenges facing the University of Alberta’s ability to serve its public interest mandate. We urge the Government of Alberta to give careful consideration to the issues outlined above.

Laurie Adkin, Associate Professor, Political Science

Sourayan Mookerjea, Associate Professor, Sociology

Carolyn Sale, Associate Professor, English & Film Studies

David Kahane, Professor, Political Science

Evelyn Hamdon, Doctoral candidate, Education

Melisa Brittain

David Schindler, OC, AOE, FRS, FRSC, Killam Memorial Professor of Ecology (Emeritus)

Bill Beard, Professor, English & Film Studies

Kathleen Lowrey, Associate Professor, Anthropology

Jane Heather, Drama

James Muir, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law and History & Classics

Andrew Gow, Professor, History & Classics

Adam Kemezis, Associate Professor, History & Classics

Michael Friskhopf, Professor, Music

David Beck, Professor, Linguistics

Gary Kelly, Professor, English & Film Studies

Corrinne Harol, Associate Professor, English & Film Studies

Sandra Rein, Associate Professor, Political Studies, Augustana

Michael Lounsbury, Professor, Alberta School of Business, and Canada Research Chair in Enterpreneurship & Innovation

David Cooper, Professor, Alberta School of Business

Frank Peters, Professor Emeritus, Educational Policy Studies

Dip Kapoor, Professor, Educational Policy Studies

Makere Stewart-Harawira, Educational Policy Studies

Richard A. Rachubinski, Professor and Chair, Cell Biology

Alison Murray, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences

Manish Shirgaokar, Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning

Amy Kaler, Professor, Sociology

Diane Conrad, Associate Professor, Secondary Education

Michelle Maroto, Assistant Professor, Sociology

Imre Szeman, Professor, English & Film Studies, and Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies

Jaimie Baron, Assistant Professor, English & Film Studies

Rob Shields, Henry Marshall Tory Chair and Professor, Faculty of Extension and Sociology

Tania Kajner, Educational Policy Studies

Andrew Holt, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology

Richard Westerman, Assistant Professor, Sociology

William Ramp Associate Professor, Sociology, The University of Lethbridge

Katherine Binhammer, Professor, English & Film Studies

Beau Coleman, Associate Professor, Drama

Judy Davidson, Associate Professor, Physical Education & Recreation

Jennifer Kelly, Professor, Education

Maryam Moshaver, Associate Professor, Music

Liza Piper, Associate Professor, History

Kevin Solez, Instructor in Classics, MacEwan University

Stu White, APO-Assistant Chair, Educational Policy Studies

Sheena Wilson, Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies, Campus Saint-Jean

Janice Williamson, Professor, English and Film Studies

Malinda E. Smith, Associate Professor, Political Science

Shannon Stunden-Bower, Assistant Professor, History & Classics

Shelagh Campbell, Professor, Biological Sciences

William Anselmi, Professor, Modern Languages & Cultural Studies

Julie Rak, Professor, English & Film Studies

Chris Westbury, Professor, Department of Psychology

Karin Olson, Professor, Nursing

Alexandre Da Costa, Assistant Professor, Educational Policy Studies

Dwayne Donald, Associate Professor, Education

Stephen A. Kent, Professor, Sociology

Natasha Hurley, Associate Professor, English & Film Studies

Mark Simpson, Associate Professor, English & Film Studies

This entry was posted in University of Alberta Compensation Negotiations 2012 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to OpEd to be submitted to Edmonton Journal: Criteria for Selection of New Chair of the Board of Governors

  1. david.kahane@ualberta.ca says:

    Sign me up. I’d be happier if “Tomorrow’s generations will be grappling” read “Tomorrow’s generations will grapple.” But it’s not a hill I’ll die on.

  2. Evelyn says:

    Please add my name. Thx

  3. Thanks for writing this. Please add my name to the list: Melisa Brittain

  4. Amy Kaler says:

    I emailed you, but in case you didn’t get it – add me too. Amy Kaler, professor, Department of Sociology.

  5. Michelle Maroto says:

    Thanks for writing this! Could you please add my name to the list as well: Michelle Maroto, Assistant Professor, Sociology

  6. Rob Shields says:

    I wholeheartedly support this.
    Rob Shields, Henry Marshall Tory Chair and Professor, Faculty of Extension and Sociology

  7. Tania Kajner says:

    Yes! I support this! Please add me to the list: Tania Kajner, Educational Policy Studies

  8. Richard Westerman says:

    Please add my name: Richard Westerman (Sociology)

  9. Janice Williamson says:

    Please add my name and thank you.
    Janice Williamson, Professor, Department of English and Film Studies, University of Alberta

  10. kevinsolez says:

    Kevin Solez, Instructor in Classics, MacEwan University.

  11. Chris Westbury says:

    Chris Westbury, Professor, Department of Psychology

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