The undergraduate students union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, and Athabasca University professional and faculty association have now all come out with strongly worded public statements protesting the recent firing of Peter Scott and the process used to pick and hire the new president of AU. Here they are:
Well done to all three unions for bringing this to the public eye.
Meanwhile, the minister for advanced education has, quite bizarrely, denied that he or his government influenced the board’s decision.
Words fail me.
We may never know for certain whether this is not an outrageous lie. Perhaps the minister had amnesia, or was drugged; perhaps space aliens took the minister’s form to approach the board chair; maybe it was Russians using technology to imitate his voice on the phone; maybe he is a pawn in someone else’s game, some shady figure who is really calling all the shots; perhaps his mind has decayed to the point that he was entirely unconscious of his influence; maybe he just muttered “who will rid me of this troublesome president” under his breath without realizing he was within earshot of Byron Nelson. We may never know.
However, the fact that he fired the incumbents then hired a board chair and board majority composed entirely of his friends and cronies, only one of whom knew the faintest thing about education, clashed publicly with Peter Scott, and threatened the university with bankruptcy if his demands were not met casts a small shadow of doubt over not just the truthfulness but even the truthiness of his statement. On the other hand, politicians never lie, so there’s that.
On the subject of non-liars, Byron Nelson, chair of the Board, Calgary-based lawyer, and failed far-right politician (do read this article – it’s good), has helpfully explained a little (though not a lot) about how this came about.
Mr. Nelson conceded not all governors had registered their vote before the outcome was determined.
“The way that this was conducted, while legal, I would acknowledge was not best practices,” said Mr. Nelson, who is a lawyer. “It wasn’t best practices and it couldn’t be best practices.”
The process was less than ideal because the situation was “unique” and required an “extreme amount of confidentiality,” Mr. Nelson said.
Why? Seriously, why? Nelson quite accurately claims:
“This was not a close vote,” he said. “It was the overwhelming decision of the board.”
It probably was an overwhelming decision, given the fact that Nicolaides’s appointed cronies overwhelm the board, and that they were effectively the only ones voting. The rest of the board – representatives of faculty, tutors and students – did not have a chance to vote, and at least a portion of the couple who did vote, at least weeks after the new president had been recruited and on the day of the firing, were forced to abstain because of the complete lack of consultation or explanation.
Back to Nicolaides:
Demetrios Nicolaides, Alberta’s Advanced Education Minister, said in a statement said it was his understanding that bylaws were followed, but any board members who feel the rules were breached should raise the issue with the chair.
“I’m confident if there are any issues that the board can adequately resolve them.”
One has to wonder where this non-interfering politician gets his confidence. Perhaps he has been consulting with a lawyer.
If you are bothered by this appalling political interference and have not already signed the international petition condemning it, please do.