These notes are not comprehensive and are limited by my memory. I hope they inform members of developments in Faculty Board (pending the appearance of the minutes) and I invite others who attended to add their thoughts. To me, it seems apparent that more of us need to take regular attendance at Faculty Board seriously, that is, if we have concerns regarding democratic process at Queen’s in the Faculty of Arts and Science.
Attendance at the January meeting was good, filling Watson 217. Some people sat on steps or stood in the back of the room, so it was challenging to get an accurate count. Objections and corrections were made to the minutes for 9 December. Mr. Jones (English) claimed that the minutes “need to be more detailed and accurate.” He said that “Instead of describing discussion in the style ‘there was considerable discussion about X,’ the minutes should record statements, such as ‘Mr. X claimed Y’ or ‘someone claimed Y.’ In other words, specific arguments need to be preserved in the minutes, especially on new or contentious issues where the Faculty is finding its way.” He proposed several additions to the minutes, including the following:
- “Page 6, Section 6, re Question Period: Not even mentioned in the Minutes is a question concerning Blyth that was asked by Ms. Davies (Philosophy and Gender Studies). She noted that faculty members not employed by Blyth have been asked by members of the Arts and Science Faculty Office interested in the development Blyth’s for-profit programs to share syllabi or other material for courses taught at Queen’s. She asked whether the University or Faculty of Arts and Science could assure faculty that their intellectual property rights will be respected. To this question the Dean answered ‘yes.’ This is an important exchange that needs to be recorded in the minutes.”
- “Page 7, Section 8, ‘Motion’: The ‘Statement’ quoted on p. 7 needs to be attributed. It was read out by Mr. Jones on behalf of 62 signatories.” (See “http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bfaadmissionsstatement/signatures.”)
- “The Dean and the Head of History both denied that Function ‘D’ of Faculty Board, ‘to control registration,’ had been overridden when the Dean unilaterally froze admissions. They both claimed that ‘registration’ and ‘admission’ are completely different things.”
- “There was a great deal of testimony from both BFA students and BFA faculty to the vitality and importance of the BFA program.”
- “Strong objections were made to the Dean’s shutting down of admissions on the basis of one half-time retirement two years away, when, as the Dean of Arts and Science admitted, the teaching role of that half-time instructor could be filled at least for a year by hiring an adjunct for around $25,000.”
- “These specific points need to be recorded in the minutes. More generally, the minutes need to represent the various viewpoints with more detail and accuracy.”
Debate ensued about what level of detail is appropriate for Faculty Board minutes. Mr. Nielsen (Mathematics) pointed out that minutes can be detailed or abbreviated, and that Faculty Board decided long ago to use an abbreviated style. He said it would be inappropriate to change this suddenly for the present case. Mr. Jones objected that while abbreviation may be appropriate for routine business, detail is appropriate for new or contentious business where Faculty Board is finding its way. Mr. Holmes (Geography) observed that his own comments concerning Blyth in the meeting of 9 December had not been accurately represented, and that the 9 December minutes give five pages [pp. 1-5] to the Dean’s report and only one page [p. 7] to the BFA motion and its extensive discussion.
Faculty Board did not approve the minutes but agreed to bring a revision to the following meeting for approval. Mr. Jones agreed to transmit his corrections in writing.
BFA Motion. Under “Business Arising from the Minutes,” Mr. Jones made the following statement and requested that it be inserted into the minutes:
The practice of letting Faculty Board move motions and then refusing to comply with them brings into question whether we have a democratic process or merely democratic window-dressing for an autocratic process. Putting aside for a moment the question at the root of all this, i.e., whether the upper administration has the right to make decisions that have both financial and academic impacts without consulting the Faculty Board and Senate as the representatives of the academic view—putting that question aside, I believe that where the Dean’s office does not feel that a Faculty Board motion is in order, or where it believes that it cannot comply with a motion under consideration, its proper recourse is not to let the motion pass and then ignore it. The proper recourse would be to declare the motion to be out of order and let the faculty board decide whether that is indeed the case. Once the motion is passed, faculty board has an obligation to see it enacted. Faculty Board uses Bourinot’s rules, and the rules state:
The democratic right to introduce a proposition in the form of a motion, and to have a full debate and a free vote on the matter, carries with it an obligation on the part of the majority to respect its own decisions, just as the minority is obliged to accept and respect the decisions of the majority. In other words, a decision reached by due process must be recognized and observed as such by all concerned; if it calls for action, that action must be taken. (Geoffrey Stanford, Bourinot’s Rules of Order, 4th ed. (M&S, 1995), pp. 47-48)
I also object to the grounds upon which the Dean has refused to act in accordance with the December motion. He is quoted in the Queen’s Journal as saying:
“The fact that there was a majority is, in a sense, irrelevant because it is not in the authority of Faculty Board to rule in a resource issue.”
“This came up two or three years ago and the legal ruling is the same as Diane Kelly gave in Senate. The authority is not that of Faculty Board or Senate.” (Queen’s Journal, 13 Dec. 2011)
Concerning the first point, the problem is that the freezing of BFA admissions is not solely “a resource issue.” It has a resource aspect, over which the Board of Trustees and the upper Administrators have authority, but it also has an academic aspect, over which Faculty Board and Senate (students and faculty) have authority. Concerning the second point, what the Dean has invoked as a “legal ruling” by the university counsel Diane Kelly is not a “ruling” but a legal opinion. There is a vast legal difference between the two. Ms. Kelly’s opinion [see Senate minutes for April 2009 p. 3; also Senate minutes for November 2011] is one among others, and the opinion of noted constitutional expert David Mullan is in clear disagreement with it. There is a notice of motion in Senate asking that Senate take steps to resolve this disagreement.
Mr. Jones then asked the Dean the following question:
We are dealing here with a confusing set of questions concerning what is to be done in a bicameral institution when decisions have to be made that have both financial and academic impacts. In these cases it is understandable that there will be disagreements. But to work these out fairly it is all the more important that we follow the processes that we do have. In order to clarify these processes for future reference, I ask the Dean of Arts and Science whether it is better to declare a Faculty Board motion out of order and deal with it as such on the floor of Faculty Board, or whether it is better to treat it as a valid motion in Faculty Board and then ignore it as an invalid motion outside of Faculty Board.
The Dean admitted that he had believed the motion to be invalid, at least in parts, at the time, but he said he had decided to let the motion proceed on the grounds that it was good for Faculty Board to have the discussion of the issue. Ms. Davies observed that it is important to conduct discussions under the understanding that they are discussions (as opposed to representing them as votes), and that it is important for the procedures of Faculty Board to be clear and transparent. Mr. Jones noted that a vote resembles a gamble in that if one loses one must still respect the decision, just as one would have expected the other side to respect the decision if they had lost. According to Bourinot’s Rules, pp. 47-48, he repeated, Faculty Board had an obligation to enforce its motion. He also pointed out that the difficulties for the Dean in obeying the motion were not nearly so great as pretended. The motion, he noted, allows that the admissions freeze may be re-imposed so long as it is done with proper academic consultation. He said that the motion did not envision giving Faculty Board unilateral authority over the matter, but required only that in such a decision, which had both financial and academic impacts, the Deans should have to consult not just with their financial advisors (the Board of Trustees) but also with their academic advisors (Faculty Board and Senate).
Ms. Mercier (Philosophy) suggested that since the 9 December vote had been taken, Faculty Board’s obligation to enforce the passed motion was real, even if the motion itself was technically invalid. She suggested a motion that Faculty Board seek a legal “decision” or “opinion” on whether the motion was a valid motion and whether Faculty Board was obliged to support it. Mr. Baird (Chemistry) objected that such an opinion would come too late to be relevant to the BFA Admissions Freeze. Ms. Mercier responded that it would be useful to discover in principle whether motions such as the 9 December motion are valid and how they should be treated. Next, Ms. Hosek (Modern Languages) moved that Faculty Board vote to allow Ms. Mercier’s motion on the floor. Ms. Lamb (Music) seconded the motion. Unfortunately, many people did not distinguish between the procedural motion to allow discussion and the substantive motion by Ms. Mercier. Thus the discussion was confused—some discussing the substantive motion rather than the procedural motion. Clear leadership from the Chair of Faculty Board would have been appreciated at this point. Faculty Board regulations require that a procedural motion to allow discussion of substantive motion from the floor receives 2/3 approval in order to pass, and this motion failed because only 65.6% of those present voted in favour. Mr. Morelli (Physics) pointed out that this failure to obtain the required 2/3 majority does not prevent faculty from giving notice of the same motion for the next Faculty Board meeting. After the vote, the Chair acknowledged that Faculty Board needs more clarity in its procedures and stated these would be dealt with by the Procedures Committee. While there seemed to be general agreement that procedures need to be clear and transparent, there was some disagreement regarding how.
Before reaching the point of voting on the procedural motion, Faculty Board did approve extending the meeting by 30 minutes to 5:30 p.m. Once the vote had been completed the remaining Faculty Board business was completed quickly. Mr. Greenfield (History) raised concerns regarding the negative impact of the Queen’s 4.3 grading scale on undergraduate students in the humanities, and the great and sudden increase in numbers of undergraduates on the Dean’s Honour List, once the 4.3 grading scale was implemented. Faculty Board adjourned at 5:20 p.m.