A Thompson Rivers University senator is raising concerns the university could find itself at legal risk by not following procedure if it follows through on plans to discontinue its visual arts programs.
TRU announced in April that it would be considering eliminating its visual arts programs, with faculty of arts Dean Richard McCutcheon telling senate in May dwindling enrolment, financial concerns and workload equity are all contributing factors.
TRU senator and law professor Craig Jones said the university's senators are being asked to provide advice to the board of governors on the program's potential closure, but no resolution was passed by the board.
Jones says the process playing out contradicts the bylaws of the university's board of governors, which require the board to motion to accept a recommendation to close the program, then motion to ask senate for input before making a final decision.
Board chair Marilyn McLean confirmed the board didn’t vote on either issue, saying that it would be “atypical” as no action by the board was required yet.
TRU President Brett Fairbairn said during Monday’s special senate meeting the board’s usual practice is to only pass a motion when it makes a decision — not when receiving a report or asking for advice.
“The board, which I'm a member of, has stated very plainly and follows its usual practice, that it passes motions only when it's making a decision on an item,” he said.
“It doesn't want to vote on something until after it's received the advice of senate. So that's very much the board's understanding in terms of how it's proceeding.”
Jones told Castanet Kamloops that past practice doesn’t supersede the requirements of board bylaws, which state any action on any matter by the board requires a resolution.
Jones said failing to follow TRU program discontinuation policy could put the university in a dangerous position.
“Failure to follow that statutory process might result in a discontinuance decision being overturned on review by a court, and may become the subject of grievances on behalf of affected faculty,” he said.
TRU senate heard passionate pleas during Monday’s special meeting from community members, students and faculty hoping to save the university’s visual arts programs.
TRU senators will decide on a recommendation to the university's board of governors at a later date.