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Senates passes motion for extension of UNB Act consultation period

The UNB senates from both campuses passed identical motions last week to extend the first phase of the public consultation process for the UNB Act revisions.

This was on top of both the faculty of engineering council and the faculty of arts council separately passing similar motions over the past two weeks.

“All faculties have expressed concerns and those concerns were represented at Senate by faculty representatives. Some faculties had passed specific motions and I think that other faculties probably will,” said Norman Betts, a professor and member of the UNB Fredericton senate.

“I guess that’s just an indication about the concern throughout the university community for the short period of time in which to react to what equates to substantive changes.”

The motion requests that the preliminary consultation period be extended from Nov. 15, 2014 to March 15, 2015. The request from the motion is now currently in the hands of the UNB Act Review Steering Committee.

“The results of the motion were communicated to the Board and the committee of the Board who are looking at this will be considering the request. Ultimately it’s their decision but it’s a pretty strong message from the faculty,” Betts said.

The UNB Act is a piece of legislation that outlines the university’s structure and how it operates. A complete revision of the Act was started in February 2013 under the UNB Act Review Steering Committee and drafts of the revisions were published for public feedback on Sept. 30 of this year.

But faculty members are discontent with the timeframe allotted to the public consultation period, so much so that the Engineering Faculty Council passed a motion to extend the time period on Oct. 15 and the Arts Faculty Council passing a similar one last Tuesday.

“We decided that we needed more time so that was the idea of the motion that we basically agreed as a faculty that we needed more time, so we suggested six months instead of six weeks,” said Marcelo Santos, a geodesy and geomatics engineering professor who brought forward the motion at the engineering faculty council.

“It’s a very long document; it’s also a very legal document. It’s written in legalese and it’s really difficult for faculty members in the middle of term who don’t have legal expertise to be able to [understand it],” said Jennifer Andrews, who helped to draft the arts faculty motion.

Other faculties may still pass their own motions.

“I have been talking to people and there is widespread discontent with the process under which the UNB Act has been revised and also discontent with the six weeks deadline,” Santos said.

“When one faculty does something that we think is a good idea to voice our support or dissent,” said Andrews.

The six-week feedback period is only a part of the public consultation process, comprised of a six-week period of email response, followed by a revision stage by the steering committee. Further consultations via town hall sessions are scheduled to be open to the public in January 2015.

Roxanne Fairweather, chair of the steering committee, said in a written statement that all feedback, including the requests for more time, will be taken into consideration.

“There has been feedback from a few corners that more time is needed to review the draft Act and supporting documents before submitting comments,” she said.

“I am pleased that members of the university community are engaged in this process. I am planning to take this advice to the UNB Act Review Steering Committee.  As soon as the committee has had a chance to discuss the timelines, we will provide an update to the Senates, the Board and the university community.”

The dissatisfaction with the consultation timeframe is not the first issue to arise out of the UNB Act revisions. Faculty have raised concerns in the past about the how long it took the committee to draft the revisions, which up until they were released to the public were largely kept from the public.

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