Editorial—It’s Like Musical Chairs in Reverse

In case you missed it, and since it’s been buried under the news of Danielle Smith’s election you probably have, there will be seven new members sitting on the AU board of governors, including two new positions bringing the board total up to 19, and further reducing the power of students, staff, and faculty to have meaningful votes on the board.  This means there are now 10 named public members, plus the new chair, Mr. Bryon Nelson who took over for the abruptly terminated Ms. Nancy Laird.

Now, if you like to dig into details, like me, you might be going, “But Karl, the Post Secondary Learning Act, in section 16.3 only allows for up to nine public members.”   Or maybe you like to go even more in depth and so found that there’s specific regulation for Athabasca University which says that there can be only eight public members on the board.

And why might that be?  Why would universities like the U of A and the U of C be restricted to nine public members while AU is restricted to eight?  Well, those universities have larger boards than we do.   Which means you can have a higher limit of public members without overwhelming the votes of those who actually have a stake in the university succeeding.  Regardless, we’re at ten now, with the majority of them very recently appointed.

Unfortunately, the university succeeding is not something that Advanced Education Minister thinks should be a primary concern. At least, not more of a concern than pleasing a small town and region that’s spent almost $40,000 hiring lobbyists with close connections to the UCP.  Given that this lobbyist was a campaign advisor for the UCP, and given that the first leadership campaign of the UCP is still, so far as we know, under RCMP investigation, it would be understandable if some were to wonder if there might be any connection between what Mr. Danchilla knows about such events and why the Advanced Education Minister is being so blatant about demolishing any notion of the university being allowed to conduct its own affairs.

Getting back to the board, four of the previous members had their appointments rescinded, while a fifth will be allowed to finish out his current term before being replaced.  In addition, two members submitted resignations in the short time before the changes were announced, with Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides stating “If I remember correctly from one of them, they indicated they have had some significant time constraints and conflict with work and haven’t been able to provide the full dedication they were hoping to.”   I may well be wrong about this, but, to me, that sounds like politician speak for someone, on hearing about the demands of the Minister, telling them “I don’t have time for shit.”  I’m probably reading into it too much.  Probably.

Oh, right, that legal thing I mentioned?  Well, the final line of board membership in that legislation allows the Minister to appoint anybody he chooses, in any number.  So if too many people who want the university to succeed are stopping the Minister’s plans, he has the ability to overwhelm them.  And it seems he’s using it.

Once again, it might be time to call your MLA and ask if they really want taxpayers post-secondary money being used to move employees who don’t want to, rather than educating you or your kids.