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Procedural rules are coming to Senate

December 10, 2010

Following the undemocratic decision making process  that took place at the November 5 meeting of the University of Ottawa Senate, the need for proper procedural rules governing discussion at Senate became clear (see below).  Throughout the month of November 2010, I and other student senators communicated our desire to have a clear set of guidelines established that would ensure that the following Senate discussions would be fair and equitable.

At the December 6 meeting of the University of Ottawa Senate, following the urging of several senators, Chairman François Houle proposed that the Senate adopt the Code Morin to deal with the substantive items on that meeting’s Agenda.   According to Vice-President of Governance, Diane Davidson, who’s office reportedly performed a thorough search of the University of Ottawa Archives from 1930 on,  an explicit set of procedural rules had never before been adopted by Senate.

Prior to Monday’s meeting, all decisions had been made by “consensus”, according to Madame Davidson.

Being a student member of Senate concerned with the democratic functioning of our institution, I am not opposed to the concept of consensus decision-making, however I do insist that our University’s consensus model be clearly defined and decided upon by the members of Senate.  And when a motion to jump to a vote plows ahead while Senators are pointing out that incorrect information is still on the table and that an adequate discussion has not been made, that’s not consensus.

When seemingly every deliberative assembly from the House of Commons of Canada to the  Student Federation of the University of Ottawa to the Arnprior & District Quilter’s Guild requires its members to adhere to strict rules of procedure when engaging in business at its meetings, the absence of rules of order at the University of Ottawa Senate brings one question to mind: what have the members of our highest governing council on academic matters been up to for the past 163 years?  Could it be true that a vigorous debate requiring fair guidelines has in fact never occurred in the entire history of “Canada’s University”?

In the new year, the Senate will tackle the delicate question of how to implement permanent rules of order without having rules of order to follow while making that decision.

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