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UNB Act feedback deadline extended

The UNB Act Steering Committee has agreed to extend the deadline for written submissions for the UNB Act revisions until March 15, 2015.

This comes after both campus senates and the Fredericton arts and engineering faculty councils passed motions to extend the first phase of public consultation past the Nov. 15 deadline.

“All faculties have expressed concerns and those concerns were represented at Senate by faculty representatives,” 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.”

In an email to the UNB community on Thursday, Roxanne Fairweather, chair of the steering committee, said, “We have received feedback from our Senates and other members of our community that they would like more time to consider the proposed changes to the UNB Act.”

“The committee is pleased to see the level of interest and engagement and is committed to hearing from people or organizations who have suggestions, questions or concerns about the proposed changes. Respectful of the guidance that more time is needed to review the changes, the committee is extending the deadline for written submissions.”

The issues over the consultation timeframe came from concerns that the UNB community would not have enough time to go over the document.

“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.

“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.

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.

The now extended written feedback period is only a part of the public consultation process, which will be followed by a revision stage by the steering committee. Further consultations via town hall sessions will also be included in the process.

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.

“From the beginning of this effort, the intent has been to create revised legislation that will allow UNB to effectively govern the university without having to seek provincial government approval on administrative decisions as is now the case under the current Act. The proposals by the committee are intended as a starting point for discussions,” Fairweather wrote in her email.

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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