“The Governing Council has just become a rubber stamp,” said Andrew Agnew-Iler, one of eight students on the fifty-member council. “It is completely useless as any kind of democratic institution. There isn’t much actual debate going on at any point. People are voting, but the votes don’t matter. Nothing ever gets voted down.”
Since the Governing Council is the highest decision-making body at U of T, critics feel that such developments will have direct effects on the university’s transparency.
“There are no remaining spaces—at least no regular, standardized spaces—where dialogue and debate can occur properly,” said Adam Awad, UTSU VP University Affairs.
During the meeting, the Association for Part-Time Undergraduate Students (APUS) held a rally outside Simcoe Hall to protest the extension of President David Naylor’s term. APUS representatives are adamant that the president’s agenda sacrifices accessibility and academic freedom in favour of corporate research funds.
Many of the association’s students and staff became frustrated when the Governing Council, despite being an open forum, did not allow them to put forward these arguments before reappointing President Naylor until 2015. All speaking requests submitted by APUS were rejected.
Students expressed concerns about Governing Council's unwillingness to listen to dissent and policy criticism. “At the very least, we should be allowed to attend a public meeting,” said Oriel Varga, APUS Liaison Officer. “Having locked doors and undercover police defies any meaning of ‘public’ I’ve ever heard. And even those inside the meeting aren’t given a chance to finish their points before votes are cast.”
President Naylor acknowledges that such bureaucracy can be confusing, but he is quick to point out that Governing Council is not representative of all U of T administration.
“Students are frustrated that all sides of an issue are not being worked through at these public meetings,” he said, “but this is an unfair misunderstanding of how governance works. Anything the administration does is shaped by a range of stakeholders in departments and divisional councils. Both students and staff on these councils have a say. By the time an issue moves to a final public meeting, it’s likely that most of its aspects have been considered and talked over.”