Governance Matters

We are well into our semester, and it is good to see people in person again. 

As I mentioned in my last email, a major focus of ULFA activities this year will be on supporting Members as they engage with governance in their capacities as members of the Academic Staff: “Working for a better university.”

In this update I will point you towards a number of events happening this month and next that have to do with governance issues and let you know of some discussions and activities we have had or are planning. 

“Welcome back” town halls this week

Let me begin by inviting you to attend one or both of our more general “Welcome Back” town halls this week: 

  • “Welcome back” Town Hall (virtual). Sept 21 (Wed.), 12:00-13:30.
  • “Welcome back” Town Hall (in person, TH201). Sept 22 (Thur.), 10:00-11:30.

We are surveying Members on our Calgary Campus to determine whether there is interest for a specific Calgary event, perhaps combined with new Member orientation (A Lethbridge New Member orientation will be announced soon).

The focus of these town halls will be answering Member questions and engaging with Member concerns. 

Governance events

There are a number of events coming up in the next two weeks that are focussed on the issue of governance and the university in the wider world.

Sept 23 (Friday), 12:00-16:30. In person (M1048)/Live stream. “Opening the University” (Liberal Education Symposium). 

The School of Liberal Education will be hosting their sixth annual symposium on Friday, September 23 from noon to 4:30 p.m. The title of the symposium is “Opening the University” and will consist of three speakers and a panel discussion on open pedagogy. The Symposium schedule is available here. The activities are available in person (Markin Hall, M1048) or via live stream (

Sept. 26 (Monday), 10:00-:14:30. In person (Student Union Ballroom). “Alberta Future: Post-secondary.” Alberta NDP.

The Official Opposition is organising a round table on the future of Post Secondary Education in the province on Monday, September 26, from 10:00-14:30 (with a lunch break from 11:30-12:30. The post-secondary education critic, David Eggen will be in attendance and an RSVP ( is requested. 

The purpose of the round-table is to hear about community priorities for post-secondary in the province, and “particularly how our colleges, universities, and poly-technics can contribute to building strong and resilient communities.”

Please note that this notice is not an endorsement of any party or policy. In promoting Member interests ULFA meets regularly with representatives of and participates in events organised by various political parties including from the government and the official opposition. 

Sept. 28 (Wednesday), 15:00-16:30. Registration Details TBA. Sirma Bilge, Université de Montréal. The University and its Worlds (Women Scholars’ Speaker Series).

“Dr. Bilge’s presentation, entitled “EDIble Others: ‘We’ve joined the table but we’re still on the menu,'” weaves together strands of scholarly work on neoliberal university, diversity governmentality and affect under racial capitalism, to think through a specific process of interpellation. It seeks to understand how the newest playing field of neoliberal diversity complex, namely EDI/DEI portfolio, hails us as “persons of diversity” and succeeds to recruit some of us as its players. It asks, what does it mean to engage in EDI enterprise within university at this historical moment? In what ways EDI rhetorics, procedures, and protocols articulate to neoliberal university’s ongoing ingestion of difference and neutralizing of dissent?”

Further details:

Governance at CAUT

The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) is also very focussed on University Governance this year. There is an active committee on governance, and the most recent edition of the Bulletin also had a governance focus, with articles on the debacle at Laurentian and my review of Cheryl Foy’s An Introduction to University Governance — a guidebook intended to orient external board members to the ins-and-outs of University Governance.

ULFA governance activities

As part of our daily activities, ULFA committees regularly engage with issues that touch upon the governance rights of Academic Staff Members. Here are some upcoming activities.

Member support

As always, we are supplying infrastructure support to members of the academic staff engaged in governance positions such as members of GFC and Department Chairs. If you are interested in organising colleagues at the department, faculty, or other level, please contact us for support. This could include training, meeting space, and digital infrastructure (e.g. help in establishing email lists, etc.). It is provided under the “empower” part of our mandate and comes with no strings attached. Members are not asked or expected to represent ULFA or its positions through their governance activities; we believe Members govern best when they are supported and free to advocate for the policies they think best serve our institution. 

Stay tuned for upcoming training sessions.

Governance group

The ULFA executive will be meeting this week with several leaders from last semester’s ad hoc “Governance Group” to discuss ways in which ULFA and its Members can further support governance issues on campus.

GFC committees

There are many positions available on GFC committees. While these committees can in some cases become rubber stamps, active and engaged members can effect change. If you are interested in putting your name forward for any of these positions contact any member of GFC (including me before the next GFC meeting on October 3.

Presidents’, Board of Governors, and Employer Relations Team Meetings

Advocacy for Members’ governance rights also comes up frequently during meetings between the ULFA Executive and members of the senior administration. At a Presidents’ meeting last week (Sept. 14), we discussed recent announcements regarding the approval processes for upcoming decanal searches and the Navitas pathways programme. In both cases we emphasised the importance of full consultation with GFC, the Board, and other governance organs and the advisability for transparency as we plan our transition to a new president, provost, and four deans.

On October 12, the ULFA executive will be meeting with members of the Board of Governors. This represents a return to an early practice — unfortunately discontinued in the last decade — in which members of the Board and the ULFA executive met socially each year. This is an important counter-balance to our current approach, in which Board Members’ primary knowledge of the Academic Staff comes to them from members of the senior administration in the context of positional discussions concerning negotiations and grievance.

Finally we are currently in the process of arranging a meeting with Dean Gallimore, the new Board Chair, to discuss Member concerns about lack of transparency in the presidential search. In particular, we will convey Member interest in public presentations and discuss our concerns about how some other plans for this year — such as internal-only searches for more than half the decanal positions on campus and a long-term contract with Navitas this academic year — might affect the attractiveness of the U of L to external candidates.

Board representatives

Two faculty Members serve on the Board of Governors. Currently they are Craig Coburn (ULFA rep) and Anne Dymond (Faculty).