On Wednesday, February 1st, 2023, it was announced that Dr. Peter Scott would be terminated from his role as president of Athabasca University (AU) and that Dr. Alex Clark would be replacing him. Big deal, right? Well, it might be. According to Karen Fletcher, AUSU President and member of Athabasca University’s Board of Governors, the student voice was not considered in the making of this decision. A potential breach of the Board of Governors’ By-laws. Should we be outraged? Should we even care? Well, that’s up to you. But first, before you make that decision, some information on the governance structure of the university is in order.
Now bear with me here, this isn’t as boring as it sounds. Well, it might be, but I’ll be quick. I swear.
The first relevant governing body is the Athabasca University Students’ Union (AUSU). And, since you’re reading this, you are probably already aware of this one. If not, that’s alright. The AUSU is composed of many student advocates (and some non-student ones) working to keep Athabasca University a great place. At the top, there are the student councillors, who are elected every two years in a general election open to all undergraduate students currently taking any AU course, then there are the six student-led committees (Awards, EDI, Executive, Finance, Indigenous, and MEC) who are appointed by Council. Every AU student pays dues to the AUSU at registration and so, even if you don’t make use of AUSU services, you may still have a vested interest in the goings-on with the student government.
The next relevant governing body is the Athabasca University Board of Governors (BoG). The BoG is a corporation that manages and operates AU in accordance with the BoG mandate. The conduct, management, and control of AU and all its property, revenue, and business affairs are assigned to the BoG. Which means, in normal-speak, the BoG basically makes all the decisions relevant to the running of AU.
Now, finally, here’s the juicy bit. The BoG is comprised of many members with various spots reserved for members of the AU community. Of these spots, three are always reserved for AU students (two for undergraduate students and one for graduate students). On Wednesday, February 1, 2023, when the Board Chair announced the termination of Dr. Peter Scott and the appointment of his replacement Dr. Alex Clark, the full BoG was not consulted. Of those people who did not get the opportunity to weigh in on the decision were BoG student representatives Karen Fletcher and Dur-E-Najaf Syed.
The point of reserving spots for students is to hear the voice of the student body and to keep the BoG accountable to AU students. When student representatives, who go through a thorough vetting process, and have a minority vote on the BoG don’t even get to use that vote to influence such a major decision, one might wonder whether the BoG has students’ best interest at heart or not.