University of Ottawa Senate
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Bridging the divide between the Senate and the BOG

Photo by Marta Kierkus

Universities are communities of academics who are mandated to preserve and expand human knowledge through teaching and research. The professors and students are the constituent parts of this community, and often have an academic Senate to represent and guard their interests.

Unfortunately, the Senate at the University of Ottawa is at risk of becoming ineffectual in an increasingly corporatized academic sphere.

While the Senate is in charge of overseeing academic issues on campus, the Board of Governors (BOG) is the corporate legislative body responsible for implementing important financial decisions and policies that allow the university to function properly. Each has their own jurisdiction, but the BOG and the administration like to give out the impression that these jurisdictions are totally exclusive and shouldn’t overlap. However, these jurisdictions cannot be totally exclusive, and to think otherwise demeans the academic role of the university.

Instead, the Senate and BOG must work closely together to allow corporate and academic management of the university to mix. This is the most efficient way our institution can provide professors and students with a positive environment in which to learn.

Practically, this artificial divide established by the BOG and Council of Administration is best seen in the budgeting processes of the university. Throughout this process, the Senate does not get to see the projected expenses, nor does it see the audit. Senators can look it up on their own time, but the administration is not bringing itself and its ideas before the supreme academic body on campus. In other words, the BOG is not taking into account the thoughts of others.

This approach to government is antithetical to university life. A rigorous debate encourages effective policy, and it lifts the abysmal morale of students and faculty who do not feel valued. Students and faculty compose the core of this university, and their well-being must be the priority of the university administration.

A first step toward being heard is to break this artificial divide between the Senate and the BOG. This step is really easy—all it requires is honest, frank, and public discussion of problems that affect us all, and a desire for compromise between each other and administrators.

A major criticism of this university is that there is little sense of community, something that inspires very little public discussion. Let’s dispel this criticism by having an open discussion on issues that affect us directly.

Departmental assemblies, faculty council, and the U of O Senate are powerful forums for discussion amongst academics and students alike. They are our tools to bring public discussion to the fore, and we must make it so. If we do not, no one will.

Adam Strömbergsson-DeNora is a student representative on the University of Ottawa Senate.