THE UNIVERSITY OF LETHBRIDGE:

Secret “Board Meeting” #1


Secret “Board Meetings”

The University of Lethbridge has three primary kinds of meetings or sessions of the Board: open sessions, closed sessions and in-camera sessions. The first is open to the public, the latter two not. The latter two are designed to deal with business that is of a confidential nature. All such meetings, however, are documented, with minutes kept. In other words, such meetings are on the record even if the content of the meetings are not made public.

The Board of the University of Lethbridge has another kind of meeting—never mentioned in the Board documents. These meetings, although called “Board meetings” or “in-camera sessions of the Board,” are totally secret, and operate by standards quite different from what the Board explicitly requires of its board meetings. There are no minutes, no agenda (other than hidden ones), no quorum, and the full Board membership is not informed about even the existence of such meetings—let alone invited to attend and participate. These meetings are under the radar, and they fail the test of due process and fair play.

I have participated in two such meetings—or more accurately, I have been the victim of two such meetings.


Secret “Board Meeting” #1

I met with the Board Chair and Vice-Chair at their request on March 23, 2006. They refused to allow me to have a witness at the meeting and no minutes were kept of the meeting. I was told that this was to be considered an “in-camera session” of the Board. The meeting was largely about my behaviour as a Board member, although I was not told that prior to the meeting. Several allegations were made about my conduct and motives.

After the meeting, in which no minutes were taken and in which serious charges were made about my conduct, I summarized the meeting and sent the Chair and Vice-Chair a copy. I also copied the letter to the faculty association, since I was the association’s nominee to the Board. I received no reply from either the Board Chair of Vice-Chair. The only response has been to accuse me of violating Board confidentiality by providing a copy of the letter to the university faculty association. For a link to the letter, click here.


What was Confidential about Meeting #1?

What confidential material of the Board did I reveal?

The confidential material could not have been about the classroom incident, for that information came to me from a student long before any Board involvement, and I had already been involved with this matter for three months at that point. Further, many non-Board members already were aware of the matter and involved. Thus the matter was already very much in the public domain. The President himself states that he was not making it a Board matter in an email of February 28, 2006.

The confidential material could not have been my criticism of the silly investigation that the President commissioned into the matter, for that was not a Board matter. The report of the investigation was not sent by the President to the Board but was distributed to administrators. By that action, the report was not viewed as a Board document but as an academic matter and handled by academics, not Board members.

What is left—only the false or misguided charges that the Board Chair and Vice-Chair made against me.

(1) They wrongly charged that I should not have gone to the President, and that everything had to be run by the Chair of the Board first. That contravenes the clear policies of the Board, which require Board members to bring matters to the attention of the Board Chair, President, or Chair of the Audit Committee. Since the matter was an academic one, it was appropriate to bring the matter to the attention of the President, as is clear from the President’s reception of the issue.

(2) They wrongly charged that I had my own agenda and that I was using the student to exact that agenda. That was the spin that the administration gave to the Board leadership, but it was repeatedly denied by the student when the Board Chair and Vice-Chair met with her, and I could have easily refuted that charge had the Board Chair and Vice-Chair had enough sense of due process to talk to me about the matter before making these charges against me public to the student.

(3) Since the only thing that was new in the meeting was the allegation by the Board Chair and Vice-Chair that I had acted improperly as a Board member, it was the leadership of the Board, not me, who brought this matter outside of the context of the Board by making these false charges about me in front of a student, who clearly is not a Board member. Further, these charges were already in the public domain since they originated outside of the Board in the circles of the administration.

QUESTION:

Is it the case that the University of Lethbridge permits the Board Chair and Vice-Chair to make false allegations against a faculty member and Board member outside of the context of the Board, but the accused individual cannot summarize these statements and offer a defence outside of the Board? The only supposedly “confidential” matter that I revealed was the fact that false charges were being made against me. I reject categorically any claim of the University Board to that special privilege.


My Questions for the Board Chair and Vice-Chair

Why did you make serious allegations against me to others without having first met with me to discuss the matter and to hear my account? Why did you say that I had manipulated the student before you had spoken to either the student or to me? How did you reach this conclusion? Who fed you that line? Are you mere parrots of the Administration? Do you not believe that you must do a complete investigation before you make such allegations and reach such conclusions? In that my conduct did not violate the code of conduct for Board members, why did you make that charge against me? Were you unfamiliar with the code of conduct, and, if so, why would you not have informed yourselves of the code before you asserted that I had violated that code? And, if you were informed about the code of conduct, why did you make allegations about my conduct that you must have known to be false? And regarding the parallel the Vice-Chair drew between my advocacy for the student and his hypothetical advocacy for his wife, did you not realize that the comparison had no merit? Or were you suggesting something more substantial and slanderous? And why have you not apologized for and retracted the allegations you have made? Finally, if I violated the code of conduct by going to the President, why did the President not inform me of this at our first meeting? Why did the President continue to correspond with me on the matter? And why did you not censure the President for allowing this supposed violation of the Board code of conduct and for participating himself in that violation by continuing to communicate with me? Or did you censure the President? And, if you did, why did this fact not come up in a Board meeting so that the full Board would have knowledge of the action?


— Tom Robinson
Professor

The University of Lethbridge



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EXAMINING ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS