Is Stephen Harper in charge of the University of Victoria?

Op-eds Opinions

Dear community, students, faculty, staff and administration, do you know who’s in charge of the University of Victoria?

If you visit the university’s website, you’ll read that “the Board of Governors is responsible for the management, administration and control of the property, revenue, business, and affairs of the university.” Reading further, you’ll see that the Board of Governors is made up of eight politically appointed members (a majority), the president (elected by a 20-person appointment committee), the chancellor (recommended to the Board of Governors by a seven-person search committee, approval required by the Board of Governors), two elected students, two elected faculty, and one elected staff member. That’s a total of 15 members.

So who gets to appoint the eight members? The “honour” goes to the lieutenant governor of British Columbia, Judith Guichon (a figurehead). She is appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Let me repeat myself. The person who appoints the majority of the Board of Governors of the University of Victoria (eight out of 15 members) is herself appointed by Stephen Harper! Long story short, why is Harper in charge of the majority of the Board of Governors of the University of Victoria? Is Harper in charge of the University of Victoria?

According to UVic’s website, the federal government provides 13 per cent of the university’s revenue, so why does Harper, through his appointment of Guichon, get to appoint the board majority—100 per cent of the appointed UVic board members (eight out of 15)? Most reasonable people would agree that voters should have democratic political representation. When a voter votes for their candidate and party of choice, they are exercising their fundamental human right, a political right, the right to vote. In the 2011 Federal Election, 54 per cent of British Columbian voters and 60 per cent of Canadian voters voted for a candidate and party that was Liberal, New Democratic, Bloc Québécois or Green, yet none of these parties get to appoint any member to UVic’s Board of Governors, while Stephen Harper and his Conservative party get to appoint all the appointed members. In the 2013 B.C. Provincial Election, 95 per cent of voters voted Liberal, New Democrat, Green or independent, yet none of these parties get to appoint any member to UVic’s Board of Governors, while Harper and his party get to appoint all the appointed members.

One person and party should not be able to appoint all the appointed members to the Board of Governors of UVic, because this violates the human and political rights of voters who did not vote for Harper and the Conservative Party. The reason this is undemocratic and a clear violation of the human and political rights of voters is that their political views and choices are not represented by the current Board of Governors at the University of Victoria. If the University of Victoria is to be considered a progressive and democratic institution, its politically appointed members to the Board of Governors have to be representative of the political choices of British Columbians and Canadians.

So what would a democratically appointed board that respected the human and political rights of voters look like? Based on the 2011 Federal Election results, 19 per cent of the voters voted for a Liberal candidate, so the Liberal Party would appoint 1.52 members to the Board of Governors or two members if we’re rounding (19 per cent of eight appointed members). The New Democratic Party got 31 per cent of the vote, so they would appoint three members (31 per cent of eight appointed members). The Conservative Party got 40 per cent of the vote, so they would appoint three members (40 per cent of eight appointed members). Using the same proportionally democratic system for the 2013 B.C. provincial election, the Liberal Party would appoint four members to the board (44 per cent of eight appointed members), the New Democratic Party would appoint three members (40 per cent of eight appointed members), and the Green Party would appoint one (eight per cent of eight appointed members).

The system above for choosing the politically appointed board members is democratic and respects the human and political rights of voters, unlike the current system which is undemocratic and violates our human and political rights.

Dear community, students, faculty, staff and administration, let’s start working together to make the University of Victoria a democratic institution that respects our human and political rights.