Nothing much happened at Senate today (26 September 2014)

I am glad to have posted something to this blog this morning because Senate this afternoon was a sleeper. The meeting lasted for only one hour, without much substantive discussion.

Fall and Winter Breaks. There was discussion about changing the names of fall and winter breaks to ‘study breaks’ or ‘reading weeks’. The advocates for this think such names would better reflect that they give their students tons of extra work during those week-long breaks from classes. Apparently nothing in Senate rules or other university rules precludes this. I was appalled. People need breaks, holidays, and vacations. This is why unions lobbied so hard for weekends. Carleton has been emphasizing the importance of student’s mental health and ways of coping with stress. Therefore, I want to retain the names of these mid-term breaks, but also would like Senate to mandate that no work be assigned to students during those breaks, much like we stipulate that instructors cannot administer exams during the final two weeks of class.

Contract Instructors on Senate. A motion was put forwards to add a pair of contract instructors to Senate. The motion came from Dean John Osborne via Senate’s governance committee and was beautiful written. I fully support the motion. However, members of Senate seemed irked by who counted as a contract instructor. The original motion defined this as members of CUPE 4600 Unit 2, which maybe should have referred to members of that bargaining unit. But suggestions from the floor were to remove any reference to CUPE 4600, as though there is something dirty or unseemly about unions, and instead just say ‘contract instructors’. Rather than debate such wording on the floor of Senate, a motion was passed to return the matter to the governance committee. It would be a mistake to change the wording to simply ‘contract instructor’ because there are several ways that members of the tenure-track faculty union, CUASA, could also be contract instructors. If retired tenured faculty members come back to teach a few courses, then they do so as contract instructors, even though they are still members of CUASA. Last year when I taught a course in the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, administratively I did so as a contract instructor, even though what happened was Arts & Social Science bought me out of one of my Science courses. Therefore, keep some language about being in the CUPE 4600 Unit 2 bargaining unit in this change to the Senate bylaws.

Senate Finance Review committee. Senate will soon re-populate its Financial Review Committee, which was in a state of suspended animation for many years. Call for nominations to the committee and terms of reference will be coming soon. I honestly am unsure of the purpose of such a committee given the fairly well delineated roles of Senate and the Board of Governors at Carleton, the former of which deals with academic matters and the latter of which deals with financial matters.

Sorry for such a boring report, but as Rich Terfry said, “A home run every time would get boring.”

2 comments
  1. Colin Cordner said:

    Greetings Professor Gorelick,

    As one long-standing member of the Senate, among colleagues, who has been making an issue over the depopulation of the Senate’s Financial Review Committee (FRC), I’d have to disagree with you, and say that the meeting was quite interesting! I’d be glad to further clarify my judgements on this matter, and that of the Senators who’ve shared my concerns (without speaking for their particular concerns, of course), as well as the constitutional matters bearing on this – from the perspective of a political scientist. I hope that you’ll forgive a long comment!

    ***

    From a constitutional perspective, the FRC exists as a standing committee of Senate, and has three principle purposes and responsibilities. The first, as a general responsibility to the University, is that the committee is tasked “to ensure that the financial implementation of programs is consistent with the academic objectives of the University as established by Senate”, to review and insure the financial integrity of the academic program, and to advise the Executive on these matters.

    The second responsibility, to the Senate in particular and as a Whole, is to advise Senate “on the overall financial implications of the academic programs under consideration by the Senate Academic Planning Committee”, “[on] modifications of [undergraduate and graduate] programs on the basis of academic merit when financial constraints require such modifications”, and to aid the Senate in the planning of its own internal budget.

    The third responsibility, to the Board of Governors (BoG) as a Whole (and in particular to the Audit and Finance Committees (AFC) of the BoG, to which many financial tasks have been delegated), is to “meet at least once a year on an informal basis with the appropriate Committee of the Board of Governors so that the Board can be kept fully apprised as to what Senate considers to be the requirements for financing its academic program.”* The FRC is thus meant to serve as a vital institutional link between Senate and the BoG, and cutting it means cutting an independent line of communication between the two.

    ***

    Now, as a matter of logic, my colleagues and I hold that accomplishing any of these responsibilities requires that the FRC insure that both the Senate and the BoG are being presented with accurate financial forecasts (aka. budgets) by the Executive, so that they make whatever planning decisions they elect to deem prudent or efficacious to the purposes of the University.

    As it happens, however, it does not at all seem that the Budgets presented to Senate, or in Town Halls, nor, from what I’ve heard, in the BoG, have been at all accurate – or else they have been predicated from premises which seem wildly out-of-whack with the realities revealed in University’s own audited financial statements**.

    To be brief, the budget forecasts of the past four fiscal years, which I well remember being presented, have been gravely misleading as to what one may reasonably expect of Carleton’s expenditures and revenues, based upon actual past performance (which one can derive from the audited financial statements of the previous years). For instance, the VP-F’s office projected revenues of ~$328M in fiscal year 2011-2012 and expenditures of ~$327M, for a modest surplus or profit of ~$1M; these figures were then used to justify the 2012-2013 budget of ~$353M in expenditures and ~$354M in revenues.

    The problem with this is that the actual expenditures and revenues in the 2011-2012 fiscal year seem to have been ~$437M and ~$483M, for an actual surplus of roughly $43M. That surplus was not reported to Senate or (according to my colleagues there) to the BoG in the budgets which they were presented, nor have substantial surpluses in previous years.

    I personally, along with my colleagues, judge this sort of business to be a gross violation of the rights and privileges of both the Senate and BoG as Wholes, and of myself as an individual Senator, to be reported to and advised properly by the University’s permanent executive. The lack of proper insight into the finances of the University is an obvious obstacle to proper planning even in theory, and, in actual practice, the illusion of near penury has been used to justify policies which, in retrospect, now seem questionable.*** I hold that a functioning FRC would have prevented these sorts of errors from occurring, by better insuring that the Senate and the BoG (through the AFC) were being given a clear understanding of the University’s finances as they actually stood.

    ***

    As a further constitutional matter, the VP-F is on-the-record as stating that it was at his request, some years ago (no one knows how many), that the Clerk of Senate ceased populating the FRC and ceased listing it in the Senate minutes as a standing committee. He is also on-the-record as stating that he did so in order to present budgets to the Senate as a Committee of the Whole (CoW).

    Ignoring the obvious matter – that the VP-F grossly exceeded his authority by attempting to bury a standing committee of Senate (imagine our gov’t trying that with a standing committee of the House!) – I myself am on-the-record stating that the VP-F is, and has been Out of Order on this matter. The reasons are straight-forward (i) the Senate’s parliamentary code has no provisions allowing it to act as a CoW; (ii) if the Senate wished to act as a CoW from time to time, it would need to first amend its constitution and by-laws, which it never has; and (iii) even if it had so amended itself, it would still be necessary for someone to raise a standard motion in Senate requesting it to act as a CoW with regards to some matter, and that motion to be adopted in the usual manner: this too has never happened. Ergo, the VP-F is Out of Order both to suggest that budgets can be approved by the Senate acting in the capacity of a CoW, and to act as if it had approved the budgets while sitting as a CoW. Quite frankly, it is also a violation of the privileges of the Senate and its members.

    ***

    But all that is making a long story long! For all of those reasons, I’d thus respectfully disagree with your judgement on the boring nature of this particular meeting, but I’d also go so far to say that, in both fact, theory, and in practice, the FRCs proper functioning is a needful thing, if the VP-F’s office is to get all due help in reporting financial matters to the BoG and Senate.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Colin Cordner

    * See http://www.carleton.ca/senate/standing-committees/financial-review/
    ** See http://www.carleton.ca/financialservices/financial-reports/
    *** See for instance these fine pages(!): http://carletonbogblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/29-april-2014/ , http://carletonbogblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/tuition-increases-27-march-2014/ , and https://carletonsenateblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/28-march-2014/ . We shan’t even speak of the Executive’s enthusiasm for MooCs and “lesser paid employees”.

  2. Nick Falvo said:

    Excellent points, Colin.

    Root: do you think it’s actually possible to draw a line in the sand between academic matters, on the one hand, and fiscal matters, on the other?

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