University of Northern B.C. board failed to consult on James Moore: senate

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. -- The University of Northern British Columbia's senate is formally opposing the process used to select former Conservative cabinet minister James Moore as chancellor.

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After a lengthy debate on Wednesday, a majority of members voted to ask UNBC president Daniel Weeks to inform the school's board of governors that it didn't sufficiently consult with the senate on Moore's appointment.

The decision has caused an outcry among some faculty and students who say Moore's role in former prime minister Stephen Harper's government clashes with the values of the Prince George, B.C., institution.

The board is required by the University Act to consult with the senate before appointing a chancellor, but the legislation does not spell out what that consultation must entail.

Student senator Angela Kehler said the only discussion that took place was an in-camera meeting in October, shortly before the board announced on Nov. 26 that Moore had been selected.

"As far as following the letter of the legislation, we were notified ahead of time," she said. "We just felt that it wasn't meaningful consultation. We didn't have enough time to consider before a recommendation went to the board."

The senate is made up of about 45 faculty members and students and handles academic decisions, while the board controls financial affairs.

Each senator was given an opportunity to speak during Wednesday's meeting, which was so packed that 60 members of the public were shuttled into an overflow room and it stretched on for about two hours past the allotted time, Kehler said.

Moore's critics have pointed to the Harper government's environmental record and muzzling of federal scientists as inconsistent with the values of UNBC, which calls itself "Canada's Green University."

Paul Siakaluk, an associate psychology professor on the senate, said they were not given the name of the nominee prior to the in-camera meeting in October.

"Basically, we were surprised at the in-camera meeting. We expressed our views and that was it. There was no effort afterwards to have any more dialogue or discussion between the board and the senate."

Brian Menounos, a faculty senator and the Canada Research Chair in Glacier Change, called on the board to reconsider the appointment or for Moore to step aside.

"A chancellor is supposed to unify a community, not divide it. The amount of controversy this has caused, and division at the university, is really unfortunate."

Weeks, the university's president, said he will set up a meeting with board chairman Ryan Matheson to relay the senate's concerns as soon as possible. He will also raise the issue at the next board meeting once it's called.

He downplayed the division at UNBC over Moore's appointment, saying there's no better place than a university to have passionate dialogue on controversial issues.

"My job as the president is to take that passion and make sure that we channel it toward working in the best interest of our students," he said.

Matheson said the board followed the process as set out in the University Act.

"The board always considers information and input from the senate," he said in an email on Thursday. "Yesterday, the senate provided our president with direction, and the board will consider the president's report at our next opportunity."

Moore announced in June that he would not seek re-election for family reasons. The former Industry Minister and graduate of UNBC has said he's honoured to be named chancellor and wants to work with everyone in the community to build on UNBC's successes.


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