Post-secondary unions are condemning the BC government’s adoption of Bill 18, the Advanced Education Statutes Amendment Act.
The new legislation, passed on March 29, bars elected faculty, staff or student representatives from sitting on university or college boards and further provides that a governor may be removed from office by a two-thirds majority vote of the board.
According to the government, the legislative changes are an attempt to address conflicts of interest and implement “good governance,” practices, but academic staff associations argue it’s unfair to single out union members for special scrutiny.
“Bill 18 is squarely aimed at bullying and intimidating the professors, students and staff members who serve on university and college boards of governors,” said Robert Clift, executive director of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC.
He said a number of aspects in the initial legislation tabled in November were ambiguous, but despite the organization’s attempts to voice its concern about shortcomings few were met.
In a discussion paper to the committee reviewing the legislation, CUFA-BC had proposed a set of amendments, including redrafting the exclusion and removal provisions and clarification to prevent university administrators from being elected to the board as staff or faculty representatives.
“This (bill) has nothing to do with good governance. If it was about good governance, they would have at least tried to fix the technical problems with the bill. What we are left with is legislation that is both wrong in principle and technically defective,” said Clift.
The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators also signalled its displeasure with the new law, which it says tramples its members’ inviolable right to freedom of association.
“Faculty will now have to pick between being active in their union or active on the board of their institution,” FPSE president Cindy Oliver said in a statement. “Forcing that kind of a choice flies in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which expressly mentions freedom of association. Bill 18 tries to punch a hole in that basic right.”
In the coming months, academic staff associations say they will work to mitigate the negative aspects of the bill. Plans are also underway to assemble dossiers on board appointees to determine if they are in “conflicts of interest due to their business, professional, volunteer or personal activities.”