Brock’s presidential search needs to come out of the shadows

The position of the President of Brock University seems to carry with it a daunting weight with which most students have difficulty relating. After all, the President’s office is at the highest room of the tallest tower — and it remains somewhat inaccessible to students, at least in their eyes.

Current President Jack Lightstone’s term as Brock’s President is quickly coming to an end — at the end of this year — and committees are currently looking for an adequate replacement who can effectively move Brock University forward and, ideally, resolve Brock’s financial issues.

A president who could modernize the school further, establish greater pedagogy, find millions of dollars in grants and create new initiatives to entice students will likely be hard to find, but some faculty members believe that more ‘eyes’ on the search process might make this a possibility. The petition and initiative called “#OpenBrockU” is a way to create a more transparent, and therefore more equitable university.

The #OpenBrockU petition is a BUFA and union-based project that has already received strong support from many professors and administrative personnel at Brock. The campaign’s core message revolves around the message: “closed searches protect candidates, while open searches protect Brock”.

The current advisory committee is made up of 15 members of the Brock community, some from the Senate, some from the Board of Trustees, one from the Senior Administrative council, one undergraduate student and one graduate student.

That one undergraduate student is Kyle Rose, BUSU’s President. No student, whether in a position of power or not, should have to bear the burden of representation for 17,000 undergraduates. Similarly, 15 individuals, regardless of their familiarity with the Brock community cannot possibly defend the interests of faculty, staff, students and the greater Niagara community effectively.

This is why it’s pivotal that members of the Brock community should be able to meet, hear from and have their feedback valued by the advisory committee. It’s a dangerous precedent. If this key step in university governance is hidden in the shadows, then how many other decisions are being made without sufficient staff and student input? Brock is a not-for-profit, public institution and a matter as ideologically and realistically important as who should ‘steer the ship’, should be handled as a public matter.

To be fair, it’s not a totally closed search; there has already been a town hall meeting where a small group of students and staff met to discuss their personal perspectives, and the Advisory committee will schedule confidential listening sessions, allow for interested parties to write in letters or e-mail the Advisory committee. These are, however, avenues of contribution that can easily be, and likely are, dismissed. This is the same type of feedback collection that was totally disregarded when the Board of Trustees decided to cut the number of board members and trim the number of undergraduate representatives in half.

Who needs democracy? How could there be any problems that arise with an oligarchic system of presidential assignment? These are questions that has to be asked, and the only way to ensure that there will be an answer is through the #OpenBrockU petition.

To sign the position or to get more information and see the numerous professors and faculty members who already have, visit bufa.ca

- Steve Nadon

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