March 12, 2018
Statement to York’s Senate submitted by Senator Richard Wellen:
We the undersigned Senators would like to address recent statements by the University Counsel and members of the senior administration of the university which have asserted that York University’s senior administration and/or Board of Governors has authority or veto power regarding decisions to suspend classes during a labour dispute.
It has always been understood (and pursued in practice) that Senate, in conjunction with Senate Executive, has responsibility for decisions to suspend classes during a labour dispute based on considerations of academic integrity and fairness to students. The advice of the administration and other bodies within the university has always been considered by Senate and Senate Executive, but the decision taken has always been understood as lying within the purview of Senate.
This policy is founded on the principle of Senate’ s authority over academic policy as enshrined in the York Act, which is the governing legislation of the university, as well as relevant policies on disruption and class cancellation. In short, Senate in conjunction with Senate Executive, is the body that is properly constituted to make such decisions.
Recognizing the authority given to Senate over academic policy is always important as a general matter, but it is particularly so during a labour dispute or a strike. In such circumstances, the senior administration and the Board of Governors, no matter how well-intentioned, are positioned as labour relations protagonists responsible for negotiating with the union in the strike. By vesting responsibility for class suspensions and other similar matters in the Senate – which is meant to take a disinterested stance towards labour relations – the primacy of issues of academic integrity and fairness to students can be given greater assurance and the decisions made will have greater legitimacy. Moreover, the membership of Senate and Senate Executive is composed of multiple stakeholders – students, faculty, staff and administrators – who act in concert to oversee and enact the academic policies of the university.
No matter what view one holds on the question of suspending classes during a labour dispute, we believe that the authority and role of Senate in such decisions must be preserved in the interest of academic integrity and collegial governance by Senate as established in the York Act. It is the duty of Senate to consider and determine this issue, a duty that must not be denied the Senate by Senate Executive or other bodies within the university.
Muhammad Ali Khalidi
Mina Rajabi Paak