An Open Letter to Premier Wynne Reply

May 16, 2018

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne
Premier of Ontario

Dear Premier Wynne,

I am aware that you are in an election campaign but I don’t believe this should prevent you from acting, on the contrary.

Ontario’s second largest university, York University, is in a profound crisis, as I have already written to you and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development.

A self-appointed, unrepresentative and imbalanced Board of Governors, overwhelmingly rejected by students, staff and faculty, is abusing its power in an attempt to bust a legitimate union. Their tactics are the equivalent of a disguised lock-out, and they are willing to destroy the university in the process.

When can we expect to see you and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development at York University to confront this illegitimate and abusive Board?

A disguised lock-out

Other governments are able to assume their responsibilities and intervene. Faced with a similar abuse of power by senior administration at the Université du Québec àTrois-Rivières (UQTR), the Quebec Liberal government held a cabinet meeting and the Minister of Higher Education, Hélène David, immediately presented the President of UQTR with an ultimatum to end the lockout and get back to the negotiating table.

This is a very good example of what could be done. It is not too late for you to act. We have been waiting already 10 weeks for your government to act meaningfully.

We cannot wait weeks and weeks again until after the elections are over.

Associations representing 56,000 York students have lost confidence in the Board and the President

The situation at York University is much more serious than the one at UQTR. The York University Graduate Student Association (YUGSA) representing all of York’s almost 6,000 graduate students and the York Federation of Students (YFS) representing approximately 50,000 students at York have passed votes of non-confidence in the Board of Governors and President Lenton.

Five faculty councils (Glendon, Education, Environmental Studies, Graduate Studies and Liberal Arts & Professional Studies) and numerous departments and departmental student associations have adopted votes of non-confidence in the Board of Governors and the senior administration.

This wave of rejection is unprecedented. The message is loud and clear: the only way to move forward is to replace the Board and the President.

Your government is responsible for ensuring that public funds are used respectfully

Your government funds York University on a per-student basis, from hard-earned taxpayers’ dollars. The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development oversees Ontario universities to ensure that, in return for this funding, they deliver quality courses to their students.

The Board of Governors and administration are demeaning York courses and degrees by offering full course credit for only 60-70% of coursework. They are shamelessly intimidating instructors to comply. As professors, we cannot in good conscience be complicit with this kind of educational fraud. It goes against all our principles as teachers, and all the educational values of a university.

York University has been given full funding; it cannot be allowed to deliver 60-70% of its course content. The Ministry cannot allow York University to undermine with impunity the academic quality of its courses.

Your government must hold the York University Board and administration accountable for their misuse of public funds.

We need a new Board and administration

This Board and administration have lost contact with the educational purpose of a university. They are not elected and see themselves as accountable to no one.

Rather than resign in the face of these massive votes of non-confidence, they are brazenly seeking to intimidate students and instructors and impose senseless measures that make a mockery of academic integrity. They are allowing the situation to rot, with no end in sight.

Why have you, as Premier, following Québec Minister David’s example, not convoked a meeting with York University’s Board and President, and gone yourself as Premier to York University with your Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, to present them with an ultimatum. At UQTR, professors and students formed a guard of honour to welcome Minister David.

I implore you as Premier to help us put York University back together again as a functioning and harmonious educational institution.

This Board and administration have deliberately created confrontation and in their arrogance they are willing to wreak havoc with students’ lives and destroy the whole university. They must be stopped.

I implore you as Premier to help us remove this illegitimate, unrepresentative, disconnected, imbalanced, sexist and heartless Board and senior administration, so that we can put in place a new Board and a new administration, and build together a university that truly reflects our shared values of social justice.

When can we expect you at York University? It’s not too late for you to take action and regain the esteem of the university community and the public.

Sincerely, Agnes Whitfield, Ph.D., c. tran.
Professor/Professeure titulaire, Department of English/Département d’études anglaises York University/Université York, Toronto (Canada) http://people.laps.yorku.ca/people.nsf/researcherprofile?readform&shortname=agnesw Founding Director/Directrice fondatrice, Vita Traductiva http://vitatraductiva.blog.yorku.ca/ Visiting Professor/Professeure invitee, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, 2017 Bilingual Joint Chair in Women’s Studies, Carleton University, University of Ottawa/Chaire conjointe bilingue en études des femmes, Université Carleton, Université d’Ottawa, 2009-2010 Virtual Scholar, Heritage Canada/Chercheure virtuelle, Patrimoine canadien, 2006-2007 Seagram Visiting Chair in Canadian Studies, McGill University/Chaire d’invité Seagram en études canadiennes, Université McGill, 2003-2004 Présidente, Association canadienne de traductologie /President, Canadian Association for Translation Studies, 1995-1999

Motion of non-confidence by the Faculty of Graduate Studies Council Reply

May, 10, 2018

The Council of the Faculty of Graduate Studies overwhelmingly passed a motion of non-confidence with the following language:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Council of the Faculty of Graduate Studies expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University, defined as the President, the Vice-President Academic & Provost, and other Vice-Presidents, and in the Board of Governors.

Motion of non-confidence by the Development Studies Graduate Student Association Reply

The following motion was passed on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

Motion:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Development Studies Graduate Student Association expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University led by President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rationale:
With the strike now in its tenth week, York’s administration continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE Local 3903 to resolve outstanding issues in a timely fashion. The approach of the Senate Executive Committee to remediation while the strike is ongoing has created confusion and chaos within York’s community, intensifying the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, as well as undermining the academic integrity of courses and therefore York’s reputation. T

he York University senior administration and Board of Governors appear to be disconnected from the York University community, demonstrating their refusal to establish meaningful dialogue with all university stakeholders. York’s President and Board of Governors, with the support of Senate Executive, have deviated from a just and fair interpretation and application of The York University Act, 1965, thereby undermining collegial governance at York.

Given these considerations, the Development Studies Graduate Student Association can no longer express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

Furthermore
The Development Studies Graduate Student Association calls upon other organizations, associations, councils, and bodies within the greater York University community to pass similar motions of non-confidence in the senior administration and condemn ongoing attempts to undermine collegial governance at York University.

Two motions by the Department of Social Science Reply

April 30, 2018

The Department of Social Science passed the following motions at its meeting on April 30, 2018:

 SOSC MOTION OF NON-CONFIDENCE

The actions of the York University Board of Governors and Senior Administration in relation to the ongoing strike are doing incalculable damage to the reputation of York University, to our ability to serve our current students and attract students, and to our financial situation. The Department of Social Science in the LA&PS Faculty therefore expresses no confidence in the senior administration led by President Rhonda Lenton and the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

SOSC MOTION REGARDING SENATE AUTHORITY

The Department of Social Science in the Faculty of LA&PS condemns the attempts made by the York University Board of Governors and Senior Administration to weaken the autonomy and undermine the authority of Senate over academic matters, as enshrined in the York University Act.

Motion of non-confidence by the LA&PS Faculty Council Reply

April 30, 2018

LA&PS Faculty Council expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University led by President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rationale

With the strike in its eight week, the Administration of York University, led by President Rhonda Lenton, continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE 3903 to resolve outstanding issues. Although it welcomed the appointment of Commissioner William Kaplan, the Administration still publicly refuses to negotiate. The positions of Administration remain deeply contradictory. On the one hand, the Administration has stated that CUPE 3903’s positions “continue to be well outside the range of anything the university can ever agree to.” On the other hand, the Administration calls for CUPE 3903 “to allow an independent third party to decide what’s fair and impose a settlement that binds both sides.” The Administration claims that the proposals are outside what they can ever agree to, but supports a process of binding arbitration that might lead to those very same outcomes. This strategy has nothing to do with negotiating a contract and everything to do with bypassing negotiations altogether.

Because of its refusal to bargain, the winter semester is in chaos. Now the Administration has announced the imminent cancellation of summer semesters. This announcement once again usurps the authority of Senate and Senate Executive to make decisions on class suspension due to a labour disruption. It demonstrates a “scorched earth” approach to contract negotiations placing the business-driven interests of the Board of Governors over the academic reputation of the institution and the education, mental health and future of our students. The Senate Executive Committee has managed remediation in full deference to this administrative approach. It has created chaos and dysfunction within York. It has intensified the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, and undermined the academic integrity of courses and York’s standing with students, families and the public.

The April 2 letter from Rick Waugh, Chair of the Board of Governors, to Lesley Beagrie, Chair of Senate, is a frontal attack on collegial governance at York. It states that “oversight and accountability for the operations of the University rest with the Board of Governors.” This misleading statement fails to acknowledge the exception clause from the York Act: “Except, as to such matters by this Act specifically assigned to the Senate” (article 10). “The Senate is responsible for the academic policy of the University” (article 12). The Board’s usurpation of Senate’s authority for academic governance during a labour disruption violates the legal framework that established York University and the Board’s fiduciary responsibility for “collegial self-governance” (York Mission Statement).

Given these considerations, LA&PS Faculty Council can no longer express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

Motion of non-confidence by ComCult Graduate Student Association Reply

On Friday April 27, the Communication & Culture Graduate Student Association, made up of students, research assistants, teaching assistants and graduate assistants in the Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture at York University and Ryerson University, unanimously passed a motion expressing non-confidence in the senior administration at York University. This motion and rationale draw language and sentiment from the many statements of non-confidence issued by faculty, student and staff associations across York’s community.

Motion:
Be it resolved that the ComCult GSA expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University led by President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rationale:
With the conclusion of the eighth week of the strike, York’s administration continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE 3903. The Senate Executive Committee has failed to provide clear remediation throughout the strike leading to confusion and chaos within York’s community, intensifying the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, as well as undermining the academic integrity of courses and therefore York’s reputation.

York’s President and Board of Governors, with the support of Senate Executive, have
undermined the historic interpretation and application of The York University Act, 1965, thereby undermining collegial governance at York. Given these considerations, the Communication & Culture Graduate Students’ Association cannot express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

This expression of non-confidence is not grounded in the disparity between the demands of the Union and the offer of the Employer – rather, this statement is based in the failure of senior administration to uphold academic integrity as well as their actions in the erosion of said integrity through their continued strategic efforts to undermine the process of collective bargaining. Beyond undermining the Union’s constitutional right to collective bargaining, the Administration’s unwavering commitment to punishing CUPE 3903 for dismissing binding arbitration has clearly demonstrated their priority to cut operating costs at any cost to their own students.

Read their official statement.

Motion of non-confidence by the Faculty of Education Faculty Council Reply

April 25, 2018

The following Motion of non-confidence in the BOG and call for an independent, external, judicial review of the BOG conduct and interpretation of the York University Act was passed by the Faculty of Education at the Special Meeting of Faculty Council on April 25, 2018.

Votes in favour: 25

Votes against: 3

Votes abstaining: 3

Motion: The Faculty of Education rejects the BOG understanding of their responsibilities and authority to include authority to suspend classes during a disruption, and we reject their interpretation of the respective roles of Senate and the Board of Governors under the York University Actand further the Faculty of Education rejects the BOG’s assertion that they are fulfilling their fiduciary duties, all of which was asserted in the April 2, 2018 letter from the chair of the BOG to the chair of Senate. We put forth a vote, a statement of non-confidence in the Board of Governors and a call for an independent, external judicial review of the Board’s conduct and interpretation of the York University Act.

Rationale:
1. Respective roles of Senate and the Board of Governors under the York University Act, 1965
Section 12 of The York University Act, 1965 clearly vests responsibility for academic policy of the university exclusively with Senate and gives Senate the authority to enact by-laws, rules and regulations for the conduct of its affairs, regarding academic policy. And further The York University Act clearly states Senate’s jurisdiction over academic policy is wide ranging, general and without limitation: without limiting the generality of the foregoing.
The language of section 12 is unlimited and gives no overriding power to the BOG to override Senate jurisdiction over educational policy. This means that Senate’s authority over academic policy does extend unilaterally and without limitation over academic policy and all matters that pertain to, and impact on, academic policy. There is no requirement or obligation under the York University Act for Senate to consult with the BOG on academic matters, or to seek its agreement on academic policy, although it has the power (not obligation) to consult, if it so wishes.
Unlike some other university Acts in the province and across Canada, the York University Act distinctly protects the Senate’s powers. There is nothing in the York University Act that accords priority, paramountcy or overriding jurisdiction to the decision of the Board.
By stark contrast the powers of the Board of Governors, under the York University Act, are immediately limited by the language under section 10 of the Act which clearly provides in its opening words that Except, as such matters by this Act specifically assigned to Senate, the conduct, management and control of the University and its property, revenues, expenditures, business and affairs are vested in the Board. This means that except for academic policy, which is clearly the exclusive jurisdiction of Senate as stated in section 12 of the Act, the other conduct is within BOG jurisdiction. It also means that when the BOG’s conduct, management and control over revenue have implications for academic policy the Senate has paramountcy. Under the York University Act, the BOG powers are clearly and unequivocally limited by the Senate’s control over academic matters.
Following the reasoning of Justice Sharpe in the case Kulchyski v. Trent University, 2001, These words qualify all of the Board’s powers, including its general governance power and its specific authority over property and expenditures. I agree with the appellants’ submission that by enacting these words, the legislature provided its own solution to potential conflicts between the Board and the Senate. The legislature subtracted authority over educational policy from the Board’s powers and protected Senate’s power over educational policy from encroachment by any power of the Board. Neither the Board’s powers of general governance, nor its power of the purse, allow it to usurp the role of the Senate to control, regulate, and determine the educational policy of the University. (Paragraph 65)
Explicitly, under the York University Act, the limitations of the Board’s powers are precisely in the area assigned to Senate namely, in the area of academic policy. Preserving the academic integrity of York University is central to academic policy. Any disruption (labour or otherwise) that undermines academic integrity is squarely within the purview of Senates authority. Moreover, s. 12 (b) gives Senate the explicit power to determine such things related to standards, courses of study and requirements for graduation. This also speaks to Senate’s power and authority over class suspension or continuation. In the Kulchyski case, Sharpe J. tells us that Administrative interpretation and practice may be used to assist in determining the meaning of legislation and can be an important factor in case of doubt about legislative meaning. (para 91). Senate policy and the university by-laws support this view and past practice of the university during previous strikes also reflect Senate’s clear authority to cancel classes.
Unlike the Board, Senate’s very expertise is in academic matters. The BOG suggestion that they have the expertise, competence or statutory authority to determine academic matters is preposterous. Their conduct violates the York University Act.
2. Fiduciary duties of the Board of Governors
Since the letter suggests that the BOG fiduciary duties somehow give it the power to overstep its role under the York University Act, we would like to address this notion head on. We reject the assertion that the Board is somehow acting in fulfillment of their fiduciary duties in this blatant power grab and aggressive attack on Senate’s exclusive jurisdiction over academic policy. This interpretation is a gross distortion of the BOG fiduciary duties at law. In the university setting the fiduciary duty of care owed by governors and officers of the university is described by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges the following way:
The duty of care generally requires officers and governing board members to carry out their responsibilities in good-faith and using that degree of diligence, care and skill which ordinarily prudent person would reasonably exercise under similar circumstances in like positions. Accordingly, a board member must act in a manner that he or she reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the institution.
 
The duty of loyalty means that the board member must not act in their own individual interests, or the interests of another person or organization, but rather must act in the interests of the university and its not- for- profit or charitable purposes. They must act reasonably and in good faith and not out of expedience, avarice or self- interest.[1]
 
In our view, the BOG has certainly been acting out of expedience and quite possibly in bad faith. According to this legal standard, and contrary to the claim in the April 2, 2018 letter, York’s BOG are not fulfilling their fiduciary duties to carry out their responsibilities in good-faith and using that degree of diligence, care and skill which ordinarily prudent person would reasonably exercise under similar circumstances in like positions. In our view, they are not acting prudently or reasonably or with diligence and care. In fact, past practice shows that previous BOG at York, and elsewhere around the country, as well as statute and case law, have all respected Senate’s power over academic policy. This is especially crucial during disputes and disruptions to maintain academic integrity.
Contrary to the assertion in the letter that the majority of governors independent external members who receive no salary or other remuneration who volunteer their time, knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the university and all its stakeholders; current and future students, faculty and staff, alumni, donors, and the public at large, we contend the BOG are, in fact, not acting in the best interests of the university and all its member constituents, nor is the BOG protecting the public interest in its reckless and flawed interpretation of the York University Act. We, as paid employees and academic stewards of this institution are invested in educational governance at York. We are extremely concerned that York’s reputation has been squandered in this strike by the BOG. Chaos and confusion abound as a direct result of the BOG actions in this matter.
This raises issues for us regarding our non-confidence in the BOG’s leadership and, as represented by its Chair. We believe the BOG’s egregious interpretation of theYork University Act compromises their ability to institute any legitimate, internal governance review at York University, and that an external, independent, and judicial review of the BOG’s conduct in this matter is urgently warranted, to ensure that, now and in the future, the respective roles of Board and Senate in a labour disruption are respected and clearly understood by all members of the community, and that any decisions about how to manage the academic implicates of a strike are effectively implemented.
The faculty that have submitted this motion have consulted in-person together at two open invitation meetings to tenure-stream members of the Faculty of Education and on-line numerous times since March 5th, 2018 to prepare this motion.
Appendices:
1. York University Act, 1965

2. Letter from Chair of BOG to Chair of Senate Executive, March 2, 2018

[1] Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Governance Brief on Fiduciary Duties. At https://www.agb.org/briefs/fiduciary-duties. Note that the Canadian University Boards Association (CUBA), which York University is a member, directs members to this American association and this document regarding the statement of board duties. Similar statements appear in case law. For example, the fiduciary standard was classically defined by Judge Cardozo in Meinhard and Salmon, 164 N.E. 545 (N.Y.1928) as “Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior, the duty of finest loyalty, and, stricter than the morals of the marketplace.”

Motion of non-confidence by the Department of Sociology in LA&PS Reply

April 25, 2018

The Department of Sociology at LA&PS adopted the following motion of non-confidence in the York University Board of Governors and administration at its meeting on April 25, 2018:

The ongoing strike is doing incalculable damage to the reputation of York University, to our ability to serve our current students and attract students, and to our financial situation. The Department of Sociology in the LA&PS Faculty expresses no confidence in the senior administration led by President Rhonda Lenton and the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Motion of non-confidence by the Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students Association Reply

The following motion was passed on April 21, 2018. 

Motion:

The Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students Association expresses non-confidence in the senior administration of York University led by President Rhonda Lenton and in the Board of Governors led by Rick Waugh.

Rationale:

With the strike entering its eighth week, York’s administration continues to refuse to bargain with CUPE 3903 to resolve outstanding issues in a timely fashion. The approach of the Senate Executive Committee to remediation while the strike is ongoing has created confusion and chaos within York’s community, intensifying the anxiety and stress of students, faculty and staff, as well as undermining the academic integrity of courses and therefore York’s reputation.

York’s President and Board of Governors, with the support of Senate Executive, have undermined the historic interpretation and application of The York University Act, 1965, thereby undermining collegial governance at York. Given these considerations, the Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students Association can no longer express confidence in the leadership of President Rhonda Lenton or Chair of the Board of Governors Rick Waugh.

Furthermore
The Science & Technology Studies Graduate Students Association calls upon other organizations, associations, councils, and bodies within the greater York University community to pass similar motions of non-confidence in the senior administration and condemn ongoing attempts to undermine collegial governance at York University.