SENATE- b/c we need more

Western's Senate and its various committees are exploring transparency measures by making committee meetings open to the public. 

At the last Senate meeting on Oct. 21, the operations/agenda committee responded by stating they would not be recommending opening their meetings.

Other committees have yet to come up with a decision, although senators have said they are on the fence about opening meetings up.

Sam Trosow, Faculty of Law senator, wants more transparency in University governance and has proposed adopting a municipal model for Western's Senate.

“When I talk about the municipal model what I’m talking about is, general rule, open meetings subject to certain exceptions where confidentiality is appropriate,” Trosow said. “What I’d like the individual committees to do, especially the policy making committee, is to go through these types of exceptions.”

Similarly, a more fleshed-out model for committee meetings would allow for general participation in meetings with certain exceptions. 

“This is probably more applicable to the Board of Governors as well,” Trosow said. “I think it’s useful for the Senate to go through this exercise. I do think, unless there’s a good reason to keep it close, I would like to see the committee meetings open.”

Transparency has been a hotly discussed topic in Senate ever since the scandal surrounding President Amit Chakma made headlines across the country. In response, Senate created the ad hoc committee on renewal in June 2015 to evaluate governance perception and transparency at the University.

The discussion to open committee meetings to the public stems from the ad hoc committee's recommendations. 

Sheila Macfie, chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Policy and Awards (SCAPA), believes it's not necessary to open up committees to the public.

“I think many of the discussions happen at the department and faculty level in a very open forum before they hit a senate sub committee,” Macfie said.

Macfie also said that often, committees will hold town halls and put out calls for feedback to the general community.

Harry Orbach-Miller, chair of Western's student senators, also said that there are reasons for committee meetings to be held in secret.

“I’m on the nominations committee as well as the joint board senate selection committee for the vice-president of research, and those should be obviously confidential because you’re talking about a person and their credentials,” Orbach-Miller said.

In other scenarios, more transparency could be beneficial, especially in the case of the Media Theory and Production (MTP) program which was cut despite much contention from students.

Trosow believed that open committee meetings would have allowed for more discussion to be had from all sides of the debate, rather than a rushed senate approval.

Senate will have final decision after the different committees make their recommendation on whether t they would consider opening their meetings to the public. 

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Moses Monterroza is a news editor for Volume 110 of the Gazette. Previously, he was an arts and life editor for Volume 109, and staff writer for Volume 108. You can reach him at moses@westerngazette.ca.

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