The head of Thompson Rivers University's board of governors says a final decision on whether to axe the university's beleaguered visual arts program will be made next month — and it will likely be made by the board alone.
That's what board chair Marilyn McLean said during a meeting on Friday, days after TRU's senate decided to halt discussion of the proposed program closures and not provide advice to the board, a duty of senate outlined in the university's program reduction and elimination policy.
“The final decision to close visual arts programs lies in the board as per the Thompson Rivers University Act,” McLean said.
“Despite differing views on the process, the board believes the process implemented by the administration to date has been thorough, inclusive and aligned with the policy objectives and consultative principles.”
TRU President Brett Fairbairn said while the policy does state the board will seek advice from senate before making a final decision, the process is merely a guideline.
“The regulations provide guidelines and an orderly process by which the board and governors shall decide on the need for reduction or elimination of particular programs,” he said.
“The regulations outline the steps that are used pursuant to the policy, and as an aside, these aren’t actually cast in stone.”
TRU lawyer Scott Blackford said it was his view that senate is obligated to provide advice to the board when asked, but not providing the advice doesn’t prevent the board from making a final decision.
“I think to read that senate must advise before the board can decide is clearly contrary to the intention of the act,” Blackford said.
“What the consequences of non fulfilling that are, I’m not prepared to go there — that's for senate to decide — but it doesn't prevent the board from making a decision.”
Governor Jim Hamilton said he felt the “controversy” comes down to different interpretations of what constitutes the quality of the language, interpretation and delivery of policy and legislation.
Fairbairn said there is a “log jam” in senate that prevents it from performing its duties.
“None of that is the board's responsibility or even even the board's business,” Fairbairn said. “But certainly my role as chair of senate is to do what I can to help senate address that.”
McLean said senate will still have an opportunity to provide advice to the board if it wishes.
“We want to work co-operatively," she said. "We will make a decision by the end of January."
The proposed program eliminations include the bachelor of visual arts, the visual arts minor, diploma, and certificate.
Senate decided Monday evening to adjourn talks of the potential closures until it receives both a written notice of intent to proceed with the program closures and a written request for advice on each identified program from the university's board of governors.
A resolution passed Monday states senate will continue its consideration once the Academic Planning and Priorities Committee provides information to senate on educational losses, expected financial and other resource savings and alternative actions or cost reduction as a result of the proposed closures — a report that was planned to occur during the same meeting.
Senator Craig Jones, a professor in TRU's law school and a highly regarded lawyer, has previously raised concerns that the university may not be following policy in the proposed program eliminations.