University Council gave no response to a motion of non-confidence in the TransformUS process that University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union President Max FineDay presented at the Jan. 23 council meeting.
“We were disappointed with the lack of response from administration regarding the motion,” FineDay said. “What we saw though were faculty and students really engaged by this act of the University Students’ Council.”
The motion of non-confidence is based on poor student consultation during TransformUS, that students have expressed concerns about the process, that the consultation period is inadequate and that there is no student representation on the Provost’s Committee on Integrated Planning.
The last two points of the motion, student representation on PCIP and possible changes to the consultation period, have been met with responses from senior administration indicating that the USC’s requests will not be met.
University President Ilene Busch-Vishniac has said that the consultation phase will not be extended to include further engagement with the student body because of the strain that will be put on the implementation phase of TransformUS.
“If we extend the period for consultation and therefore come up with an implementation plan later than the end of April, then there is very little chance of us taking some of the easy actions that will have impact immediately,” Busch-Vishniac said.
“If that happens, we are in the position where we might have to make cuts that are deeper for the future because we’ve allowed for the deficit to get larger rather than try and control it.”
Despite the consultation period not being extended, Busch-Vishniac has offered to have a meeting with the USC and Association of Constituency Presidents to discuss TransformUS.
“Although [Busch-Vishniac] may not say that the consultation period was extended, we certainly will be having high level talks past the end date of the consultation period with key student leaders,” FineDay said. “There will be an extension of the consultation period whether officially recognized or not.”
Similarly, on including student representation on PCIP, Fairbairn said that there will not be any students on the committee.
“I don’t think it would make much sense to me to have an administrative committee and to have students within it,” Fairbairn said. “This really is a committee within the administration.”
However, students are on other governing bodies — Senate, University Council and the Board of Governors — where they are involved in the decision making processes allotted to each body.
PCIP is made up of the university’s vice-presidents, a dean and the vice-provost, and is responsible for planning and budgeting large-scale items for the university.
Fairbairn said that PCIP has three main tasks: to give recommendations to the university’s three governing bodies, act as a means for the university vice-presidents to coordinate plans and allocating the Academic Priorities Fund — money set aside to support the university’s priorities as laid out in the Third Integrated Plan.
“In my view, one of the most important principles to follow in complex organizations like universities is really to focus on policy governance,” Fairbairn said. “I really encourage everyone to get involved in the venues where we talk about directions, about setting policy.
“I think council, senate and the meetings we have around things like the Integrated Plan are great places to do that.”
FineDay said he is disappointed with Fairbairn’s response to the motion and that students will not be given a seat on PCIP.
“I would hope that the role of students wasn’t confined to simply attending classes and going about their business when such an important process is taking place on campus,” FineDay said.
Despite the lack of formal response to the motion, FineDay said USC’s actions have not gone completely unnoticed.
“USC doesn’t put forward motions like that very often. I think that really speaks to how students are feeling,” FineDay said.
“The role of USC is to advocate for their members and I think there’s power in that… It’s sort of made people pay attention, or help people realize that there’s some significant issues with the way that TransformUS is being rolled out.”
Photo: Katherine Fedoroff