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UNB Town Hall Review – Part II

January 15, 2009

Warning: What follows is the second in a (brief) series of UNB-centric postings, this time on governance.

The Commissioners discussed a range of topics under the general heading of governance in their report, but it is their recommendation that UNB’s Board of Governors appoint a “Community Liaison Council” for the Saint John campus (and only the SJ campus) that was a focus of particular concern at the SJ Town Hall. The idea is to have a Council made of Board members plus the President and VP (Saint John) with an equal number of “community leaders” from local government, business, and the not-for-profit sector (“to be selected on the basis of their knowledge, influence and independence of mind”), which would “focus on ways to enhance the development of the University’s campus in Saint John and to advise on campus development and on ways that the community of Saint John can best assist” (p. 55), and also to “advise on the development of a new mandate for the Saint John campus” (p. 72).

Two questioners raised the concern at the Town Hall that the recommendation had the potential to undermine the important role of the UNBSJ Senate in university governance and thus the academic integrity of the institution. The Commissioners assured that this is not the intent of their recommendation; rather it is simply to provide a mechanism to enhance communication between UNB and the Saint John community.

This is no doubt a worthy intention. Questions were raised by some SJ community members during last year’s discussions surrounding the L’Écuyer/Miner Commission on Post-Secondary Education about the role of universities in society, implying that universities need to be harnessed more directly to serve local economic needs. In response, many students (past and present), faculty members, and concerned citizens felt compelled to write commentaries highlighting the social good that universities provide as places for critical intellectual exchange and research, for engaging with history, for contemplating future possibilities, for cultural expression, for nurturing the “educated imagination” – a good that underwrites the democratic nature of our society. It may well be useful to engage in further public dialog on these issues. However, it strikes me that (a) a recommendation for improved communication between UNB and the Saint John community, particularly as it pertains to UNBSJ’s university mandate, that articulates no role for the UNBSJ community (its students, faculty and Senate) is likely to prove problematic if implemented, and (b) enhancing communication between UNB and the communities it serves should be pursued as a matter of community relations rather than university governance.

Your thoughts?

  1. Debra Lindsay permalink
    January 15, 2009 9:06 pm

    Community is a capacious concept—and presumably the fact that the Bi-Campus report does not identify the precise nature of the community representation it suggests is indicative of the fact that the proposed representation would come from all walks of life.
    There is a tendency to assume that the business community—the most vociferous of those who demanded change, er a polytechnic, would have a voice on the community council—but whom else?
    Assuming that this idea is implemented—and I’m adopting a neutral stance on the question of whether there should be such a community council—there are many potential participants.
    A sampling off the top of my pointy little furry head…
    Labour, specifically organized labour, but independent workers should be represented as well – you can’t have the ying without the yang
    The medical professions – physicians, nurses and a bevy of professionals in the therapeutic fields who would conceivably have something to contribute given that there is to be a medical education program in SJ
    Teachers and guidance counsellors – and perhaps an equal number of high school students
    Agriculture, forestry, and especially fishing—given the marine biology program at UNBSJ
    Ministers, priests and religious of all denominations/faiths
    Arts and culture – from museums to libraries to gallery owners and bookstores
    Well, really, everyone should be represented.
    The SJ Community Advisory Council will be one big council.

  2. Linda Hansen permalink
    January 16, 2009 3:21 pm

    One big council indeed — and among lo, these many *representatives*, no doubt there will be those who have a stake in what goes on at UNBSJ and those who have an understanding of what should go on at an institution of higher learning — the two not currently being synonymous, I fear.

    I wonder, she said, somewhat disingenously and for editorial purposes only, because she also fears she knows the answer, just which group will have the most say?

  3. January 18, 2009 10:04 pm

    If UNBF agrees to have such a council and allows it to determine a new mandate for them and all, perhaps we could as well. But they may have trouble filling the seats: there were precious few from F’ton outside of the campus who met with or wrote to the Commission, whereas the list from SJ is most interesting. Many from outside the campus, but pretty one-sided for all of that. None of Debra’s alternate potential participants were represented.

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