University Secretariat

Final Report

Final Report - Review of the UWO Act


REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF
THE JOINT BOARD/SENATE COMMITTEE
TO REVIEW THE UWO ACT

1. BACKGROUND

The University of Western Ontario Act is a provincial statute. It establishes principles of general application and designates the areas of responsibility and categories of membership of the Board of Governors and Senate. It does not enumerate specific, detailed powers and responsibilities; that sort of elaboration is accomplished by or under Board and Senate By-Laws or other Board and/or Senate policies.

The University of Western Ontario Act, 1982, Section 39, stipulates that:

The Board and the Senate shall review this Act within fifteen years from the date of its enactment.

In examining the purpose behind Section 39, one must conclude that the Legislature wished to ensure that the University would reflect on the governance structure established by the Act to determine whether it continued to be well served by it. This will explain why Section 39 gives no guidance concerning the scope and substance of the review it requires and why it does not imply that changes are expected to be sought. Two preliminary points should be noted: first, ours is apparently the only university statute that requires a review; and second, if not for this legislated requirement, there is no reason to believe that the University would have thought it necessary to undertake such a review at this time.

The Joint Committee to Review the Act was established by the Board and Senate to carry out this review. The terms of reference of the committee are:

The committee invited commentary from the University community through advertisements in Western News and the Gazette at the end of February, 1996. The committee also identified individuals and groups it thought might be interested in making submissions and sent letters inviting their participation. Several written submissions were received and open meetings were held, as advertised, on April 1 and May 1, 1996. The committee also met with a number of individuals and groups at a closed meeting on May 22, 1996. As a result, the committee received a substantial number of written and oral submissions to review and consider. A list of those who participated, in writing and/or through an oral presentation (including those who responded to the Draft Final Report), is provided in Annex 1.

The committee published its Interim Report on June 27, 1996, and annexed to that report was a list of issues raised in the submissions covering a wide range of topics, from basic principles to operational details; that list was circulated with the Committee's Interim and Draft Final Reports.

The Interim Report concluded with the following observation:

These submissions also make clear that there are widely divergent views on the fundamental question of whether to suggest any amendments to the Act and on what those suggested amendments, if any, might be. It is worth noting that the merger of Faculties we are now engaged in is being accomplished without amending the Act. Indeed, prudence dictates that the committee consider the fact that any request for legislative amendment carries the risk that the Legislature itself could introduce amendments that would not be subject to review and approval by the Senate and the Board.

The committee met on a number of occasions to review the submissions made to it, and has identified and discussed issues that can be addressed by means other than the amendment of the Act, such as through application of provisions in the Act itself and By-Laws of the Senate and/or Board.

The majority of submissions focused on: the size and composition of the Senate and the Board, the addition or removal of certain ex officio positions on the governing bodies, accessibility to the Board and accountability. Submissions on these issues often conflicted. For example, some submitted that the Board of Governors would be more effective if it was significantly reduced in size, while other submissions, taken together, would result in the addition of several new seats to the Board.

Of the recommendations that would require amendment of the Act, the committee can see merit in the suggestion that the Board of Governors could be reduced in size while retaining the same proportion of internal and external members. However, related submissions were also compelling. These focussed on accessibility to the Board by campus groups and organizations external to the University community, the means by which potential external Board members are identified, and general matters of openness and accountability - none of which would require statutory restructuring of the Board. The University's emphasis on collegial decision-making distinguishes it from the Boards of Directors of private corporations. Although it may seem attractive in times of great change and uncertainty to contemplate moving to a smaller unified Board whose members are named entirely through the Board's own nominating committee, that model is untenable in view of the University's character as a public, collegial enterprise.

The Draft Final Report of the Committee was circulated widely on October 22, 1996. A number of oral submissions were made at an open hearing on October 31, 1996, and written responses were received up to November 4, 1996. Reaction to the Draft Final Report was predictably mixed.

2. FUTURE GOALS FOR ONTARIO COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES: THE WHITE PAPER

One fact was recognized by all who appeared before us: the changes and challenges with which we are expected to cope are unprecedented. The strategy to be adopted for managing change is ultimately decided by our Senate and Board: they are our institutions of government and we have a special interest in preserving their role during a period of great uncertainty. We are clearly in such a period now. Many important issues are being advanced for debate with little indication of how they will be resolved. These include the appropriate role of tenure of faculty in Ontario's universities, the structure of the Province's student loan system, and the potential for deregulation of tuition fees. We do not know what funding will be provided to us for the next academic year; nor do we know what tuition fees we will be allowed to charge nor whether we will be able to charge them differentially.

At a more general level, we also do not yet know the implications of the change that took place under the last government when the Ministry of Colleges and Universities was abolished and replaced by the Ministry of Education and Training. The current Minister has not indicated his position on the direction that post-secondary education is to take. Nor is that direction evident from the recently released White Paper on Higher Education, Future Goals for Ontario Colleges and Universities. The Advisory Panel on Future Directions for Postsecondary Education is to follow up the release of the White Paper by providing advice to the Minister on the following three issues by December 15, 1996:

(i) Recommend the most appropriate sharing of costs among students, the private sector and the government, and the ways in which this might best be achieved;
(ii) Identify ways to promote and support cooperation between colleges and universities and between them and the secondary school system in order to meet the changing needs of students;
(iii) Provide advice on what needs to be done to meet the expected levels of demand for post-secondary education, both with reference to existing public institutions and existing or proposed private institutions.

The five broad objectives identified in the White Paper to guide policy development for post-secondary education - excellence, accessibility, a range of programs and institutions, accountability and responsiveness to evolving needs - are highly open-ended.

The current experience of other members of the MUSH sector (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals) strongly suggests that significant changes are likely. The Hospital Restructuring Commission is reviewing the structure and funding of health care across the Province and has already issued a number of decisions concerning closures and amalgamations of hospitals. At the primary and secondary school level, the government has established a new regulatory structure through the Ontario College of Teachers and has indicated that it is considering the elimination of boards of trustees and intends to make additional significant reductions in funding. Media speculation about the likely effects wrought by such measures takes place against the backdrop of the Federal Government's own determination to reduce transfer payments to the Province.

3. THE COMMITTEE'S RECOMMENDATION

Several existing provisions of the Act allow the Senate and Board of Governors to address a significant number of issues internally through amendment of their By-Laws.  The committee believes that there is much to be gained by concentrating on the avenues for change that are already available.  Annex 2 to this report is a summary of matters that could be addressed by Senate or Board By-Laws or Resolutions as opposed to those which would require amendment of the Act.

In addition to the fact that worthwhile and constructive changes can be achieved through amendment of the existing By- Laws of Senate and the Board of Governors, there are also compelling reasons why the pursuit of comprehensive restructuring or revision of the Act at this time would be imprudent.  Having reviewed all submissions, including those made in response to the Draft Final Report, we again set these out in what we consider to be their order of significance.

The Act is serving us well; the Senate and the Board of Governors are able to function effectively, both in their respective spheres and cooperatively.

The development, approval and implementation of Western's Strategic Plan: Leadership in Learning, is the most striking example. The overwhelming approval of the plan by both Senate and the Board in the Fall of 1995 recognized that the implementation of individual recommendations would depend on subsequent action by the Senate and/or Board as the University's procedures required. This has already occurred in respect of the approved plans to create new Faculties of Health Sciences, through merging the Faculties of Applied Health Sciences, Kinesiology and Nursing, and Communications and Open Learning by merging the Graduate School of Journalism, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and the Faculty of Part-Time and Continuing Education.

One of the recommendations in the Strategic Plan was that "while recognizing the importance of the collegial decision-making process and accountability, Western's Departmental, Faculty, and Senate committee mechanisms should be reviewed with an eye to eliminating unnecessary complexity and delay, with particular attention to the process of introducing and amending undergraduate courses and programs and amending the University Calendar to reflect changes in curriculum." The Senate responded quickly when, in March 1996, it approved a restructured system for amending academic programs and for approving and amending courses and scholarships. This resulted in the decommissioning of six Senate committees and subcommittees. In their place, Senate established one new committee, the Senate Committee on Academic Programs and Admissions (SCAPA), which focuses its work on policy matters. By delegating to the Deans, as agents of their Faculties, the authority to give final approval to new courses, course and scholarships changes, and program changes, the approval process was reduced from about eighteen months to two weeks.

There is a marked division of opinion within the University and outside it on those issues that focus on comprehensive restructuring: for example, the role and the weighting of constituencies on the Senate and Board, the appropriate role of Deans in Senate and the desirable size of the Board.

Increasing demands and workloads are being placed on faculty, staff and students and a protracted debate, particularly one unlikely to produce a broad consensus, promises to do little more than dissipate our energies.

We would be prompting a Government facing enormous pressures of its own (several of which are already outlined above) to review our proposal without any assurance of which changes, if any, it would favour or itself add to the list.

Our recommendation, therefore, is as follows:

Recommendation to the Senate and Board of Governors:

That the University advise the Government, through the Ministry of Education and Training and our local MPPs, that the Act has been reviewed by the Senate and Board of Governors, as required, and that the University proposes

Subject to endorsement of this recommendation, once the review requirement has been met, the Act will continue in its same form, and may later be reviewed as the University may decide.

A specific point about the Committee's responsibilities needs to be emphasized here. The University Students' Council, the Society of Graduate Students and some individual respondents to the Draft Final Report took the position that the Committee failed in its alleged obligation to recommend changes to the Act and work toward consensus on what those changes should be. That is not the Committee's mandate. The first of our terms of reference as a creature of the Senate and Board is to review the Act "to determine if there are any changes the Board and the Senate wish to propose to the Legislative Assembly". Our recommendation is that there are not any changes that the Board and Senate would wish to propose primarily because the Act, as our fundamental constitutional document, is working well. The fact that we have developed and begun to implement a Strategic Plan, and that there is no consensus view of the need for changes after months of discussion simply testifies to the Act's effectiveness.

4.SPECIFIC ISSUES

The strongest disappointment with the Committee's draft recommendation was voiced by the University Students' Council. Clearly our report does not meet their expectations which are founded on a different conception of the Committee's role and a different interpretation of its terms of reference. The Committee remains of the view that it has discharged its responsibilities in a way intended by the language of the Act and according to the terms prescribed by the Senate and Board.

The Committee is compelled to disagree with two dominant and related themes in the submissions of the University Students' Council. The first is that student representation on the Senate and Board should bear a direct relationship to the increasing amount students are paying towards the cost of their education and the second is that the University must provide for greater student participation in decision-making by these bodies in the name of accountability. In the Committee's view these submissions are flawed.

The Senate and Board are not mere amalgams of constituency interests whose membership fluctuates on some formulaic or proprietary basis. Members of the Senate and the Board are to discharge their responsibilities in the best interests of the University. Accordingly, the criteria for membership should relate to the ability to identify and serve the University's best interests. Students have valuable perspectives to bring but these do not acquire greater force simply because the cost of tuition is rising. Faculty, staff, alumni and the public at large also have a stake in The University of Western Ontario and their perspectives are often informed by greater knowledge and experience than students have yet had the opportunity of acquiring.

Having made the recommendation that no changes be proposed to the Legislature for amendment to the Act pursuant to our review, the committee wishes to state its position on a number of the most significant issues identified by those who made oral and written submissions.

A. The Composition and Size of the Board: The unique role played by the Board of Governors is revealed by the stipulation in Section 18 of the Act:

Except in such matters as are assigned by this Act to the Senate or other bodies, the government, conduct, management and control of the University and of its property and affairs are vested in the Board and the Board may do such things as it considers to be for the good of the University and consistent with the public interest.

In light of this fundamental responsibility, it is clear to the committee that the composition of the Board must be predominantly external to ensure a broad range of experience and perspective. The Board of Governors is not like the Board of Directors of a business corporation; our Board's primary goal is not to maximize earnings for its shareholders and it must constantly have the public interest in view. It is equally clear, however, that Board members must reject the notion of representing a particular constituency. The Board of Governors is not like a model parliament in which constituency representatives seek to advance their interests or those of a political party to which they are bound by membership and allegiance.

Similarly, a number of those who made submissions to us spoke to the danger of focusing on narrow interests or relatively minor matters of administration at the Board level. At the very least, this is likely to distract Board members from the primary responsibility to represent the best interests of the University in a way that also serves the public interest. At present, for example, a primary responsibility of the Board is to monitor how the operations of the University are advancing our Strategic Plan.

As indicated in the Interim Report, the committee has received many submissions, several from members of our Board or other Boards, which take the view that the Board should be significantly reduced in size if it is to be effective in the face of the challenges that now confront it. Other submissions, however, when taken together, call for the addition of several new seats on the Board. The committee agrees with the philosophy underlying the latter group of submissions, which is that greater communication must take place between the Board and the community-at-large if it is to fulfil its responsibility "in the public interest". However, the committee is of the view that this end must be achieved through other means such as are described in Section 5.B. of this report.

The Broadhurst Report (University Accountability: A Strengthened Framework, Report of the Task Force on University Accountability, May, 1993) emphasized the role of a University Board of Governors at page 38:

It must be clearly understood that the governing body must not manage the institution. The officers of the central administration constitute the senior management of the University. They include both the senior officers of the central administration and the senior academic officers. Under the President, the chief executive officer, they are responsible for implementing the policies established by Board and by Senate and for overall management of the institution.

The committee recognizes that the Board's responsibility is not administration per se. Accordingly, we propose, as the first of several recommended changes not requiring amendment of the Act, that the Provost, Vice-President (Administration) and the Vice-President (Research) no longer be members of the Board of Governors.

B. The Role of the Deans in Senate: The committee heard several times that Faculty Deans should not continue to be ex officio voting members of Senate because their role has essentially become that of middle managers. According to this view, Deans are not primarily concerned with academic matters but with administration. However, the committee notes that the University's basic strategic objective, expressed in Leadership in Learning, is to achieve a place in the first rank of major Canadian universities by supporting academic distinction. The Deans play a major role in generating that support by leadership and example.

The fundamental principles of excellence, selectivity and accountability are equally ones that call for the Deans to take full responsibility as academic leaders. Academic leadership is the primary criterion of their selection by broadly- based committees and they continue as full members of faculty during the time they also serve as Deans. Furthermore, the Strategic Plan also makes clear that the contribution which Deans should be expected to make in fact is in furtherance of the academic standing of the University as a whole without separate, much less primary, regard for their individual Faculties. To have the Deans participate as full voting members of Senate affirms for everyone their primary responsibility as academic leaders.

C. The Role of the President and Vice-Chancellor as Chair of Senate: The Committee remains of the view that the President and Vice-Chancellor should continue to be Chair of Senate. Indeed, submissions to the contrary reveal the need to emphasize that the University's leader holds the dual position of President and Vice-Chancellor. It is in the capacity as President and chief executive officer that he participates in meetings of the Board, and in the capacity of Vice-Chancellor that he presides at Senate. Appreciation of this distinction means that the fundamental academic mission of the University, and of Senate as its governing body in academic matters, is reinforced when the President and Vice-Chancellor is its Chair. By making the President and Vice-Chancellor the spokesperson of its senior academic deliberative body, the University enhances the authority of Senate far more than would an elected Chair. Indeed, when the President brings to the Board of Governors resolutions that have been passed by the Senate, he does so as the Chair of Senate and as an advocate for the decisions that Senate has seen fit to make.

In addition, it must again be emphasized that Senate does not operate on a parliamentary model. The President and Vice-Chancellor of the University is not in the same position as a Premier or a Prime Minister, holding the position by virtue of being the leader of the governing party. Instead, he is the leader of the entire University and this role is not compromised but enhanced when he sits in the Chair of Senate. Over the years, the demonstrated ability and willingness of incumbents to relinquish the Chair in order to enter substantive debate has ensured that Senate has had the benefit of the views of the President and Vice-Chancellor on important matters before it.

D. Other Matters of Senate's Composition: As for other issues concerning the composition of Senate, the committee is guided by Section 29's identification of Senate's fundamental responsibility as "the academic policy of the University". It is therefore necessary that Senate's composition reflect a broad spectrum of academic and disciplinary experience and perspective among its members. We therefore accept that a clear majority of seats in the Senate should be filled by members holding academic appointments and that the next largest proportional representation should be drawn from the student body.

The committee again wishes to emphasize that notions of narrow "constituency representation" or "block voting" are undesirable and should not be encouraged. Senate should enable the representation of a diversity of views but many of the requests that the committee heard for increased representation came from the groups themselves and seemed to have more to do with increasing the influence of the particular group. The committee does note that Section 24.(1)(a) and 24.(2) give to Senate, subject to the final approval of the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, authority to adjust the proportional representation.

The committee notes that the composition of Senate will change when the two new merged Faculties become operational in 1997. First, the net number of Deans on Senate will be reduced by four. Senate will also have the opportunity to allocate an appropriate number of Senate seats to the new Faculties. The Act allows one elected representative per Faculty, by Senate resolution, but if it is agreed that there is to be more than one, according to the Act, the Senate will apply to the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council for this variance.

5.RECOMMENDED CHANGES NOT REQUIRING AMENDMENT OF THE ACT

The committee has made only a single formal recommendation to the Board of Governors and Senate. However, we invite the Board and Senate to consider independently the additional recommendations listed below.

In original submissions and those made following the release of the Draft Final Report, numerous suggestions were made for detailed changes that are within the Board's or Senate's ability to enact as either sees fit. The Committee has selected only a few of these which it believes should be given early consideration. The Board and the Senate may, on their own initiative, choose to pursue additional suggestions. This is already happening; for example, the Board is looking for a new location for its regular meetings to increase openness and accessibility.

A. Composition of the Board of Governors

Recommendation to the Board of Governors:

That the Board of Governors rescind its earlier resolutions to appoint three of the vice-presidents to membership on the Board of Governors and resolve that all vice-presidents will be invited to attend all Board meetings where they will participate at the request of the Board.

Impact:

The vice-presidents will no longer count among the number of voting members of the Board. However, they will continue to attend all Board meetings, both open and closed, and will participate, except that they may not move or second motions, or vote.

In effect, the vice-presidents will attend Board meetings as agents of the President, in recognition of their direct accountability to the Board and obvious resource function. It is not anticipated that they will function as Board members who are merely non-voting; rather, their role is to be responsive. This is a significant point in light of the request, made in response to the Draft Final Report, that the Presidents of the Faculty Association, the USC, SOGS and MBAA be granted participating, ex officio "voice but no vote" status at the Board. The Committee cannot support this request, for two reasons. First, the granting of such status would carry with it the expectation that the grantees would speak on behalf of the interests of their respective constituencies. Indeed, their presence at the Board table is predicated on their filling that very role which is directly at odds with the role of all Board members to fulfil their responsibilities in the best interests of the whole University. Second, the granting of such ex officio status would inevitably lead to an undesirable focus on matters of administrative detail rather than on matters of policy and strategic planning and direction.

The overall size of the Board will be reduced from 30 to 27 voting members without making any change to the statutes. Of the voting members, 17 (or 63%) will be external and 10 (or 37%) will be internal. This satisfies Recommendation 3 [4.4.2,p. 40] of the Broadhurst Report that Boards should consist of both external and internal members, with a majority of external members. The Broadhurst Report further suggested that in institutions with a bi-cameral structure, external members should comprise at least 60% and internal members at least 30%.

If the Board ceases to exercise its option to appoint up to three vice-presidents, the number of voting members will fall from 30 to 27. Of the 27 voting members remaining, four are ex officio, nine are elected by internal constituencies, and there are 14 external members, elected or appointed by various bodies: two by the Council of the City of London; four by the Alumni Association; four by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council and four by the Board of Governors itself. This appointment process contrasts with the impression, held by some who made submissions, that the Board of Governors is a self-selecting and therefore self-perpetuating body. Each of the external bodies - City Council, the Alumni Association and the Lieutenant-Governor- in-Council - has its own procedures for selecting its appointees and the Board of Governors may or may not be invited to offer suggestions. The Board of Governors therefore has only four seats to which it can make appointments. Members typically serve for eight years so opportunities for the Board to name members are infrequent.

B. Identification and Selection of External Appointees to the Board of Governors

Recommendation to the Board of Governors:

That the Board of Governors develop and implement procedures for the identification and selection of external appointees to the Board of Governors.

The committee agrees with the view that the Board must clearly articulate to the broad community how its members are chosen. The procedures might contain a profile of the Board, including the principle responsibilities of the Board, the desirable mix of skills on the Board overall, the legal responsibilities of Board members, and an estimate of the amount of time members should expect to commit to serving on the Board and its committees. While the Board itself appoints only four members, the information contained in the profile should be useful to other bodies that appoint external members to the Board (e.g., the City, the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, and the Alumni Association).

C. Expanded Role for the Campus and Community Affairs Committee of the Board

Recommendation to the Board of Governors:

That the Board of Governors establish a schedule of meetings and procedures for the Campus and Community Affairs Committee to provide a regular forum for campus groups, and organizations external to the University community, to bring their concerns to the attention of the committee. The committee should report and, where appropriate, make recommendations to the Board on the submissions it has heard.

A number of submissions to the committee centred on the relationship of the University to the community, and the inability of individuals or groups to address the Board of Governors directly. Although the committee was not convinced that Board meetings would be the appropriate venue for such representations, it was persuaded that there is a need to improve communication by providing a way in which members of the community might make their views known.

The terms of reference of the Campus and Community Affairs Committee (CCAC) of the Board (Annex 3) reveal that it is particularly suited to responding to requests from various groups who wish greater access to the Board of Governors.

The procedures called for by this motion would need to identify the mode of "application" to be heard and should be expected to provide that the meetings where such representations would be heard would normally be open to the public.

It is important to stress that the CCAC, in its expanded role, is not expected to undertake a role as a "court of appeal" for individuals who may find themselves unsatisfied with a decision of the University's administration (e.g., parking tickets), if it is a routine matter which the administration is expected and mandated to resolve. The CCAC normally would deal with such general issues and concerns as would be appropriate for eventual consideration by the Board of Governors.

D. The Openness of Board Deliberations

The Board's By-Laws state:

Subject to limitations of space, meetings of the Board shall be open to attendance by the public except during a closed session so designated for the consideration of confidential business, such as matters concerning personnel, finance, acquisition or disposal of property, and other confidential matters of the University, the disclosure of which might be prejudicial to an individual or to the best interests of the University.

Naturally, this requires that the Board conduct some substantial business in closed session. However, to counter the perception that the Board's meetings are somehow secretive and inaccessible, the committee makes the following recommendation:

Recommendation to the Board of Governors:

That one Board meeting each year be held at an off-campus location and a second meeting each year be held at a different on-campus location, and that both of these venues be advertised to the public.

Recommendation to the Board of Governors:

That the Board of Governors review its policy and practice concerning in camera sessions of the Board and its committees with a view to providing openness with due respect for confidentiality.

E. Terminating the Membership of Members Who Become Inactive

Recommendation to the Board of Governors:

That the Board of Governors, pursuant to Sections 12 (3) and (4) of the Act, develop a by-law for the termination of appointed or elected members who become inactive on the Board.

Recommendation to the Senate:

That the Senate, pursuant to Sections 26 (3) and (4) of the Act, develop a by-law for the termination of appointed or elected members who become inactive on the Senate.

In each case, the governing body will have to set attendance standards and a procedure for declaring the member's seat vacant.

F. Presidential Selection Committee

[This follows on a 1993 recommendation of the Board of Governors that the selection committee for President include at least one student.]

Recommendation to the Senate:

That the Senate, with due regard to the composition and rules of procedure for a presidential selection committee as set out in Section 19(a) of the UWO Act, recommend to the Board of Governors a way to ensure that there is at least one student on a presidential selection committee.

This will involve development of a new section of Appointments Procedures.