The Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) is demanding more transparency in current revisions to the UNB Act, a piece of legislation that outlines the university’s structure and how it operates.
Revisions to the Act began in February 2013. The AUNBT is concerned that changes to such an important document will be made without adequate consultation with the wider university community.
“What we’re worried about is the consultation process might be rushed. We’re also worried that if people in the community – the faculty, the students and the staff – don’t want these changes, are we going to be able to stop them?” said Miriam Jones, president of the AUNBT.
The Act has been under review by the UNB Act Review Steering Committee, comprised of members of the Board of Governors and the Senate. Although there is faculty representation on the committee, they are forbidden to discuss the revision process outside of the committee and haven’t had a part in the actual drafting of the changes.
“In a sense we have faculty representation but in another sense no one’s doing the writing and they’re not allowed to tell anyone anything, so it’s not really useful in terms of the rest of us knowing what’s going on or having any input,” Jones said.
According to Roxanne Fairweather, chair of the review committee, the next step in the review process will be a consultation with the rest of the university community. The consultation is expected to take place sometime this fall.
“Once the draft document is completed and released, all stakeholders – including faculty and staff, the Senate, students, alumni, the provincial government and the larger community – will be consulted,” she said.
It is about this point that the AUNBT is asking for more transparency.
“We have been told that the wider UNB community will be consulted, but we haven’t seen anything yet. The whole process has been very unclear,” said Jones.
In response, a document called Changes to the UNB Act written by members of the AUNBT executive was sent to all union members on Aug. 7.
It addressed concerns over a transcript of the report given to the Senate by the Act Revision Committee on May 26.
The transcript includes an outline of the draft revisions of the UNB Act.
“That’s the most information we’ve had and the most recent about what some of the changes might be so there’s a number of concerns,” Jones said.
Two of the proposed changes in particular stood out to the teachers’ union. One of these is the proposal to create a smaller Board of Governors in order to make it more efficient.
“The review is also examining the size of the university’s Board of Governors, which currently sits at 43 members. That’s a large board for a university of our size,” said Fairweather.
But the AUNBT is worried that this will mean less representation.
“It would be easier for the board to change the direction of the university or make decisions, so that’s more efficient, but there’d be fewer voices making those decisions,” Jones said.
Another proposal is to remove approval from the Lieutenant Governor in counsel for certain legislation and bylaws, including changes to administrative and academic matters, the appointment of UNB’s president and chancellor and the leasing of university lands.
Although Fairweather said the reason for this proposed change is to speed up the process and make it more efficient, Jones said she is concerned what less government oversight in the Act might mean.
“There’re checks and balances that we have there now that are probably a good thing to keep. At least people have to justify their decisions and the government has to sign off on it and agree to the best interest of the people of the province,” Jones said.
The last major changes to the UNB Act were made in 1984.