Board of Governors candidates question low student representation
Elections for the sole seat for student representatives on the Board of Governor’s were held Tues. March 19 and Wed. March 20. But the question most candidates asked was how many students even know what the Board of Governors is?
The Board of Governors (BoG) is the chief governing body that oversees the University’s financial and administrative operations. The BoG is legislated by The McMaster University Act, 1976. The act has been unchanged since its inception.
Several of this year’s undergraduate candidates have called on the BoG to change member allocations, which are governed by the Act.
They argue that by increasing the number of held by students, the Board will be better able to garner student interest and adequately address their needs.
According to a 2011 OUSA report, the lobbying body that represents the MSU, McMaster has one of the lowest student representations on its chief governing body.
One seat of the 34 has been allocated, under the Act, to undergraduates since 1976. One seat is also allocated for graduate students. 2.7% of the board is allocated to undergraduate student representation. The provincial average for student representation on governing bodies is 7.1%.
Schools such as University of Toronto and Ryerson have 12% and 12.5% student representation respectively.
Candidate Shanthiya Baheerathan noted that the Board is interested in giving students what they want.
“Having one rep is not okay for 28,000 students. This is really important to recognize, if they really want to gauge student interests. Regardless of their receptiveness to student interests, they need to be more actively engaging with students.”
In contrast, candidate Leah Pantich focused on how an increase in the size of the BoG could be detrimental to governance.
“When additional members are added to a group, the structure of communication between the representatives and the group represented must be altered, and this can give rise to complication.”
Candidate Derrick Yick reiterated the importance of the BoG but emphasized how inaccessible it can be for undergraduate students.
“Despite the influence and the responsibilities that the Board holds (such as overseeing financial investments), it seems that the largest group affected –undergrad – students, have the smallest voice.”
Multiple candidates identified the issue of representation and student body awareness as core ideas in their platforms.
“Honestly, if I were to ask students across campus if their concerns of the university are being heard, I can say that the majority of us will somehow mention the MSU,” said David Cheng, another BoG candidate.
In general, the majority of the members of the BoG are from the external business community. Board members are also allocated to sit on specific committees. The current undergraduate representative, Melanie Iarocci, sits on the Finance and the Human Resources Committee.
Helen Ayre, Acting University Secretary, explained that most of the BoG is governed almost entirely by the McMaster Act of 1976.
“[In order to increase the number of student seats], it would require changing the act which would require the provincial government to change the act, as a provincial piece of legislation. This would be a long and complex process.”
When The Silhouette went to press, online voting was still being processed. The elected student representative for the Board of Governors should be announced on March 21.