Non-Confidence Motions: Saskatchewan and New Brunswick (2013-14)

In 2013-14, there were a series of attempts to pass non-confidence motions against upper administrations: they were successful in New Brunswick, and failed in Saskatchewan.

September 2013: a motion to hold a vote of non-confidence, by secret ballot, against the Provost and President of the University of Regina failed by a vote of 135-134.

February 2014: a motion of non-confidence in the administration’s TransformUS initiative was defeated 42-18 in the University Council.  (In May 2014, Professor Robert Buckingham would issue his famous “Silence of the Deans” (pdf) missive, leading to his firing, then reinstatement as a tenured professor, then the resignation of the Provost and the termination of the President.) TransformUS timeline.

March-April 2014: a series of Faculties at the University of New Brunswick passed motions of no-confidence in the President and Vice-Presidents. The Arts Faculty Council passed its two motions by a wide margin: 1) “The Arts Faculty has no confidence in the ability and intentions of the UNB University Management Committee to administer the core mission of UNB: teaching and research”; 2) “We instruct our Dean and our Senate representatives to present this motion and the results of this vote, and request that the Board of Governors’ representatives present this motion and the results of this vote, to the bodies where they are charged with representing faculty interests.” Other Faculties to pass similar motions include Engineering, Science, and Business; Education passed a related motion, indicating their confidence was “shaken.”

3 April 2014: Faculty Council at Mount Allison University, by a wide margin, passes a non-confidence motion by secret ballot:
Whereas Mount Allison’s senior academic administration, under the leadership of President Robert Campbell and Provost and Vice-President Academic and Research Karen Grant, have demonstrated a lack of transparency in decision-making, disregard for collegiality and academic principles, and a lack of respect for faculty and librarians,
And whereas there has been a failure to prioritize and support the academic mission of the university and integrity of academic programs, specifically by not providing adequate replacements for leaves and departures,
Be it resolved that the academic staff of Mount Allison, as represented by Faculty Council, advises Senate that they have no confidence in the current President and Provost as the academic leaders of our community” (see full article and the text of the motion).

These motions arose at least partly from concerns about financial decision-making, broadly prioritization in Saskatchewan and strikes in New Brunswick. But the two provinces have very different economic circumstances: Saskatchewan’s has been “growing,” and New Brunswick’s “struggling.”  Economic pressures are not comparable between the two provincial public education systems.

The New Brunswick motions indicate a lack of clear mechanisms for dealing with a problematic administrations: faculty could only send their concerns to Senate (Mount Allison) and to Senate and the Board of Governors (UNB). But using Faculties (UNB) and a Faculty Council (MtA) also meant that professors could vote in bodies where there were not significant administration members to vote as a bloc, and specifically to vote as a block to motions critical of the administrations.

At the University of Saskatchewan, the turnaround from the failed motion against TransformUS to the replacement of personnel in the President, Provost, and other positions, largely appears to have pivotted on three factors: national outrage that a tenured professor could be fired for dissenting from administration policies; ongoing concern among students and faculty at the University of Saskatchewan about TransformUS; the involvement of the provincial government (“Silence of the Deans” was addressed to them, and the University of Saskatchewan Act is not only provincial legislation but also includes various provisions for government oversight). For detailed analysis, see Melonie Fullick’s valuable article, “Dissecting the USask Fiasco.”


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