by Dietrich Neu
The voice of the University of Regina faculty got a little bit louder Wednesday.
The University Council, an advisory body made up of University of Regina students and faculty, met for the first time in several decades to vote on numerous issues stemming from the U of R’s looming budget crunch.
The historic moment saw the council vote on eight motions in total, passing all but one. However, the motions were simply formal recommendations by the council – University President Vianne Timmons and the U of R board of governors will decide to what degree the council’s decisions will be implemented.
The council moved to freeze hiring of all non-union administrative staff, create a university hiring committee to reduce the cost of university management, and create a three-year plan to restore the university’s academic mission.
The only motion to fail asked for a suspension of all executive council meetings until the University Council had met first – meaning the executive council would continue to pass motions at separate meetings on behalf of the University Council.
“I think that this was an excellent meeting of council, and an example of collegial governance that is very positive,” Timmons said to a cluster of reporters post-meeting. “Many universities have council meetings as part of their regular procedure, but the University of Regina has not. My sense is that there is a lot of anxiety on this campus … we have had a lot of changes happen on the campus and what I heard today was a lot of concern from the faculty.”
The council also passed motions to increase transparency regarding all university financial matters, halt structural changes pertaining to the faculty, create a fiscal “think tank,” and create a budget committee of council.
U of R administration must now decide whether or not they are going to implement the changes that the council has suggested. The only motion guaranteed to come to fruition is the creation of the budget committee, which will make recommendations to the board of governors on financial decisions.
Timmons said that, despite concerns about administrative transparency, she will “absolutely” make the rationale behind any decisions regarding the council’s motions known.
“I will make everything public,” she said.
The meeting Wednesday had a massive turn out. Almost every seat in the university’s largest auditorium was filled – and several non-council spectators had to be turned away after the room quickly filled. Media was allowed to view the council, but was banned from recording the meeting to insure “that all members are comfortable bringing forth their concerns,” said Timmons, who chaired the meeting.
Student representation on the council was markedly low compared to meetings in the past. Out of a potential 50 seats, U of R students sat on only eleven voting positions. University of Regina Students’ Union President Nathan Sgrazzutti said that student underrepresentation on the council will not happen again.
“This time we didn’t get our 10 per cent representation,’ he said. “I can guarantee you that next time we will.”
Since 1976, the University Council has met rarely – delegating most of its responsibilities to the executive council. Despite that, Timmons said she is looking to chair another meeting this term if possible.