It was a tense university council meeting

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Council members present at the meeting. /image: Arthur Ward

Council members present at the meeting. /image: Arthur Ward

There will be no vote of non-confidence in the administration

Article: Michael Chmielewski – Editor-in-chief

On Sep. 27,the University of Regina’s Education Auditorium was the scene of a tense showdown.

The University of Regina Council held a special meeting to debate and vote on whether or not Council should have a non-confidence vote in President Vianne Timmons, and the Vice-President (Academic), Tom Chase.

The motion failed by one vote, so there will not be a non-confidence vote in the administration. The vote was conducted through secret ballot.

135 Council members were against the motion, 134 voted for it, three abstained, and one ballot was spoiled. There are 600 members of the U of R Council, according to the University’s website. As the numbers above indicated,only 273 showed up to the vote.

President Timmons chaired the meeting that lasted an hour and a half, which consisted of debate and the vote at the end.

After Timmons announced the close results, she said it was a sad day for the U of R.

Timmons took the initiative in calling this meeting, saying in an email to Council members that “While the University Secretary has not yet formally received the petition, I believe it is important to address the issues raised within it.  For this reason, I am calling a meeting of Council.”

The next meeting of Council will be on Oct. 29.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Timmons called the numbers “concerning.”

“What’s even as concerning is that we had less than half of Council show, so I’ve got some work to do at the University to bring the campus together.”

When asked how she’ll pull the campus together, Timmons said “I committed to have an open forum within a month, and I’ve got a list of all the concerns they’ve raised, in particular around transparency and what they want to see, and I want to get a clear idea exactly what they’re looking for. If they want line for line budgets, we’ll produce them, we’ll do that.”

Prime mover of the petition Susan Johnston presented the motion at the special meeting of Council. She also spoke to journalists, where she discussed her take on the vote,

“I agree with the President, it is a sad day.”

“I’m hearing that we were heard, I’m hearing there’ll be a town hall, I’m not hearing that there will be a release of the operating fund with its line by line budget that is reviewed every summer. I’m not hearing that transparency will increase, right? I’m hearing ‘thank you for the dialogue.’”

Johnston also said she was surprised how close the result was, saying the matter feels “unresolved.”

“A university is supposed to be a city on a hill, and if the light shines out, then the light also has to shine in.”

Timmons emphasized uniting the campus, saying that it’ll be hard, due to the fiscal challenges the university is facing.

The Council meeting was spurred on by a growing number of controversies at the university. The call for this meeting started in August when a group of concerned faculty signed a petition. They needed 50 signatures to secure the meeting, which they got.

Dr. Susan Johnston presents her petition to the council Chairperson, Vianne Timmons./ image: Arthur Ward

Dr. Susan Johnston presents her petition to the council Chairperson, Vianne Timmons./ image: Arthur Ward

The petition’s rationale states that University Council has lost confidence in Timmons and Chase because they have “harmed the university’s academic mission, and pursued instead its diminishment relative to university administration.” Furthermore, “by refusing to produce a complete budget, the President and Vice-President (Academic) have obstructed University Council’s efforts to safeguard the academic mission, and because, by presiding over the mismanagement of public and private donors’ funds, they have done grave harm to the University’s reputation.”

They can add another controversy to that list, when it recently came to light that two University employees collected massive amounts of overtime that wasn’t earned. According to a CBC article, the university administration had known about the ordeal since last year, but it came to light the week of the vote.

Nevertheless, Council voted to reaffirm confidence in the administration. Still, some are doubtful, including the President herself.

Neil Middlemiss is a Philosophy and Classics, and International Languages student who represented the Faculty of Arts as a student on Council. He told the Carillon that he believes the administration is more focused on numbers than education.

“As a student in particular, what I’ll want to talk about today is how the administration, most of their decisions are justified in terms of essentially administrative and economic reasons, and not very much in terms of education or the academic mission.”

Middlemiss raised the same point while speaking in favour of the motion. Majority of the speakers spoke in favour of the motion, but some spoke against it.

URSU President Nathan Sgrazzutti expressed the unions’ stance on the issue.

“The University of Regina Students’ Union has been really adamant in the fact that we believe that this decision to have this whole Faculty civil war, it’s a detriment to the overall university ideal of education and research.”

He continued, explaining that URSU felt the U of R is experiencing “a culture of anger, distrust, and outright argument,” while students are largely left out. Students, said Sgrazzutti, are going to be “the future researchers, future educators, [and] people who are interested in gaining the knowledge these people have, and right now what we’re seeing is a whole bunch of people we thought would be mature, adult, educated people who are going to teach us about how we’re going to live our lives, arguing, bickering amongst each other.”

“It’s to the detriment of the University that we’re having these arguments in such a public and combative way.”

On the Students Against Austerity Facebook page, one student posted publicly, “Barton Soroka, you never got back to me as CRO as to whether I’m still on university council or not.”

When Soroka replied that the student in question indeed wasn’t on the list, the student responded by saying “A little late Soroka. That information would have been handy during the nomination period, when I emailed you, so I could have done what I needed to still be on council. And could have voted in today’s meeting, which would have changed the outcome. So thanks for shitting the bed on that one. I’ll be writing a formal complaint.”

Soroka responded seriously by saying “I’d appreciate it if you did. I didn’t have access to the CRO email until after nominations were closed, and I am including that in my ‘things to be changed’ report next week. A formal complaint will make it much more likely to be taken seriously.”

The Carillon tried to contact the student who didn’t end up on Council. The student did not email back the Carillon before we went to press.

On the other hand, Soroka did. He said that there were troubles with the Chief Returning Officer’s email, and that they didn’t resolve the issue until after the nomination period for students on Council ended.

He emphasized that there were other ways for the student to check if they were on Council: “there’s the official university council lists on their website at all times… especially since it was such a close time between when [the student] emailed us and when the nominations were due, it would have been much better if [the student] had a chance to check the council list, and it’s very unfortunate but it was a pure logistics issue. Nobody had access to the CRO email at that point.”

There are 27 student representatives on the most recent Council list.

The University of Regina Act establishes the University Council: “Council consists of the University’s president, vice-presidents, university secretary, registrar, librarian, assistant librarians, and the deans, directors, professors, associate professors, assistant professors, full-time lecturers, special-lecturers and instructors employed by the University or its federated colleges, and a number of students.”

8 comments

  1. Neil 1 October, 2013 at 00:16

    I understand frustration around the CRO email snafu. I ran into the same thing, but I went to ursu and found out pretty quickly what was up on the day the nominations were due. If someone really wanted to be on council, there were ways to make that happen.

  2. Devon 1 October, 2013 at 15:48

    It’s worth noting that until the election ended nobody, including elected members of university council during last years election and those that were elected in the by-election before the last university council (as well as central administration members like D’arcy the university secretary) , was aware of who was on university council.

    This, alongside the complete and utter failure to publicize both the election and the nomination (less then 200 votes were tallied), was quite concerning to the people involved in that conversation.

  3. Devon 1 October, 2013 at 15:51

    The election and nominations were so under-publicized that I had a member of the board of directors approach me (after the elections results were presented during the meeting) and ask me what forms to fill out in order to be eligible for University Council. A tweet and a facebook post /= student engagement and URSU needs to be held accountable for that.

  4. Mike Young 1 October, 2013 at 23:02

    Devon, Thats wrong. Get some facts. There was no election of at large members of university of regina council last year. There was only elections of EXECUTIVE OF COUNCIL members, which is not the same thing. Executive of Council members become, as per the E of C rules, Members of council, but the Council rules forbid URSU from electing University of Regina Council members at large until the rules were changed AFTER last spring University of Regina council meeting. Prior to that the University of Regina Council rules held that the faculty admins had to run their own elections for students to be on University of Regina Council and URSU had no standing to elect at large members. The rules were changed after last springs University of Regina Council meeting and that change delegated to the URSU the power to elect students as at large members of Univeresity of Regina Council. (Thank You Anna Dipple and Tyler Gray). URSU then held a by-election in the fall to elect at large members to University of Regina Council. Stop spreading misinformation. It makes you look bad, and more importantly it makes the URSU look bad. Get your facts or shut up.

  5. guest 3 October, 2013 at 18:59

    If you’re going to give yourself a 5k raise I expect you to be able to fill more than 19 out of 59 positions for University Council. I’m pretty sure that URSU is doing a good enough job at making itself look bad.

    It’s really embarrassing how poorly run your organization has been over the past 3 years. I really hope that the students next year are able to elect a group of student executives that are moderately competent.

  6. Guest 7 October, 2013 at 14:02

    There were 27 Students on University of Regina Council not 19. It’s in the article. Good Lord get your facts.

  7. Guest 7 October, 2013 at 14:03

    Aren’t you on the Board? And why didn’t you get your friends to run if you are on the board?

  8. Goodbye to the Carillon | 2 April, 2015 at 19:44

    […] story as editor-in-chief in 2015 was how our President Vianne Timmons and Provost Tom Chase almost being subjected to a vote of non-confidence by the university council, being saved by one vote. What better way for […]

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