Students may get to say in which professors get raises if Vice-president Academic-elect Nic Porco has his way.
The Appointment, Promotions and Dismissals committee of the General Faculties Council voted 4-3 in favour of a motion to grant voting rights to students sitting on Faculty Promotion Committees brought forth by Porco in February 2000.
"The basic premise is that students should have full voting rights," said Porco. "They should either be full members of those committees or they shouldn't be there. They're very important in the university's governance structure, not only on the policy side but also on the executive side, and I would say that students take this responsibility very seriously."
FPCs are responsible for determining annual faculty raises and are composed of the faculty dean, a faculty member chosen by the dean, department heads or associate deans, a student and a faculty association member.
"Typically, a student on an FPC is non-voting unless otherwise determined by the faculty council," said Porco. "I'm trying to change that to say that they are voting in all cases."
The process leading to the successful vote was complex and involved a number of rewrites and amendments to the document submitted by Porco.
Currently, each faculty is empowered to select the number of student representatives on the FPC and to define the role of these students. University of Calgary Faculty Association President John Baker felt that voting rights should remain a matter for each faculty to determine rather than a university mandate. Students have voting rights on the FPCs of science, nursing, environmental design and law.
"There are problems with making [student voting rights] a requirement," said Baker.
He raised concerns with the time factor involved with FPC meetings and the effect on a student's attendance, the fact that faculty members don't have a vote on FPCs and the ability of students to assess faculty performance outside the classroom.
"I'm not clear why students want the vote. It doesn't seem to be something that they're going to be able to exercise in all conscience," said Baker. "How many students are willing to give up five days, from nine to five every day for some of the longer FPCs? The faculty members all sit there the whole time. Are there any students willing to do that?"
Faculty of Kinesiology professor Dr. Joan Vickers felt the committment of student representatives to the position should not be a concern of the GFC but be left to the individual FPCs to regulate.
"Students are a huge part of the university community, so why shouldn't they have the vote?" she asked. "Student representatives are going to find themselves pressured for time, but it's an FPC policy that you can't be present for only part of the process, then skip out for a class and then come back and vote later on. Most chairs do ask people to abstain from a vote if they've missed a part of the process."
Vickers said student representatives who already have voting rights in their faculties have conducted themselves responsibly and earned good reputations, and said if a student was present for all FPC proceedings, she would have no concerns about the validity of their vote.
Although he felt it was a good idea to test the idea that all FPCs give voting rights to students, university Vice-president Academic Ron Bond said the onus is on students to be well-prepared for the increase in responsibility.
"[It's a] challenge for students to attend consistently during what is sometimes a full week of meetings during the middle of term," said Bond. "If you haven't been there for the full discussion, should you be able to cast a vote?"
Bond has offered to run "systematic and rigorous" orientation sessions for students representatives if the motion for voting rights is approved by the GFC.
The motion must be approved and recommended to the Board of Governors by the General Faculties Council at the April 12 meeting
before becoming a part of FPC policy.
Porco believed the motion, if not approved at GFC, will be amended and returned to APD next year.
"Students form more than half of the campus population," he said. "They provide a large portion of the university's operating budget and they're a part of this university. Whether this motion passes or fails at GFC, it won't be the end."