Student Voices Silenced at Athabasca University Board of Governors
Athabasca University’s appointment of Dr. Alex Clark as President has raised more questions than answers about the process and decision, according to students. Last Wednesday, February 1, 2023 the Board Chair announced the termination of Dr. Peter Scott and his replacement Dr. Alex Clark, despite the lack of a Board of Governors meeting to make the decision.
Most decisions taken by the Board of Governors are done at a meeting called by the Board Chair virtually via Microsoft Teams, including the recent tuition decision made at the January 23 meeting. The bylaws of the Board of Governors and the Post-Secondary Learning Act allow email decisions, but according to the bylaws (https://www.athabascau.ca/university-secretariat/_documents/board-of-governors/governance-documents/bog-bylaws.pdf) it can only be done with at least 75% of the board members voting and should allow all board members to weigh in on the decision before the vote is taken, which was not done in this case.
Student tuition makes up over 70% of Athabasca University’s income, and students have three seats on the Board of Governors, two for undergraduate students and one for graduate students. Despite this, students and other campus community members, such as AU staff and tutors, on the Board of Governors were not consulted prior to the decision being taken.
“The reason the Post-Secondary Learning Act puts students on the Board of Governors is so that students have a voice in major decisions of their university. The fact that students were deliberately excluded from the discussion and vote is an abuse of power. Going forward, that has to change.”
Karen Fletcher, AUSU President and member of Athabasca University’s Board of Governors
“The exclusion of students from a decision as important as who is the university president sets a terrible precedent and should never have occurred. As a member of the Board of Governors, I am offended and appalled to be informed of this decision only after the public members had already been consulted and allowed to vote. This makes it clear that the student voice on the Board of Governors is seen as performative, and that my vote does not count. That is wrong.”
Dur-E-Najaf Syed, AUSU Vice President Finance and Administration and member of Athabasca University’s Board of Governors
The Athabasca University Students’ Union (AUSU) is calling on Athabasca University and its Board of Governors to change how decisions are made and to give the university community including students the opportunity to be involved in important decisions. As a start, AUSU is demanding that all future executive searches include broad consultation with the community including students, all Board committees (standing and ad hoc) should include student members, and all future Board of Governors decisions must allow for input from all board members.