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Student presence on president search committee still uncertain

UNB president Eddy Campbells term is ending in 2019, so the search for UNBs next president is on, raising the question of whether students will have representation—and therefore voice—on the search committee.

The President Search Committee will consist of three members from the Board of Governors, two members from the Fredericton Senate and a member from the Saint John Senate. With only two spots available for Fredericton senators, student senator Chris McGinn says that a student senator should have one of these spots.

Its important for the student voice to be heard in all aspects of the university—especially in something as important as our next president,” said McGinn.

McGinn acknowledges that not all those on the senate share his views.

A few of the senators felt like they didnt want to give up one of the seats to a student, but we feel that its important for a student to sit on the committee,” he said.

Jennifer Andrews, a UNB professor who sits on the senate as an elected board member, says that there are faculty members frustrated with the search committee’s composition. This is largely because the three board members who are to be on the search committee—the chair, the vice-chair and a board member who has expertise in human resources—are not UNB faculty.

Andrews says that many members of the faculty feel they have a lot of stake in deciding the next president, as they are often here longer than some of the other board members, and in the aftermath of the 2014 staff and faculty strike, they want to have a good working relationship with them.

As a result, I think thats where the response has come from faculty senators who want to make sure that there is enough representation of faculty—because at the end of the day, the faculty and the students have to interact with the president really directly,” said Andrews.

The process to find UNB’s next president could take a long time to be completed, with Andrews estimating anywhere from 18 months to as long as two years.

Its tricky because the other thing too is that students typically are more transitory than faculty. Its a search committee that goes on for quite a long time and so I think its really important that student voices are at the table. It might not be as easy to do as a faculty member whos there serving for a longer period of time.says Andrews.

Alternative ways that students can participate in the search committee have been suggested—such as serving as non-voting members who are still able to give opinions.

I think there is an inherent obligation of the committee to invite students to be non-voting members, and include them in those conversations and discussions and ensure they are part of the process,” said Andrews.

Though adding an additional student position onto the search committee might seem an ideal solution for some, the committee’s composition is dictated by section 19(3) of the UNB Act—which cannot be easily amended.

Andrews says she still believes student voices are relevant and important in deciding the next president:

I would hate for students to feel that we are not including—or wanting—student representation on that committee because I think its really important that students are involved in this search and this hire. Its really critical, because ultimately, the president is seen as the leader of the university—and the students have to have confidence in that leadership and in that person.

Recommendations for the appointment of Fredericton senators to the President Search Committee will be made by the the Fredericton Senate Nominating Committee at this week’s senate meeting.

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