FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The UNB Act: Not yet out of the woods

The following press release was sent out earlier today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

The UNB Act: Not yet out of the woods

FREDERICTON and SAINT JOHN, NEW BRUNSWICK (April 1, 2015) — Earlier today the UNB community received the welcome news that the sweeping changes originally proposed for the UNB Act have now been curtailed. “You can hear the sighs of relief across both campuses,” said Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers (AUNBT) president Miriam Jones.

The UNB Act is the provincial statute that shapes the governing structure of the University. Last fall, many academic staff and students responded with alarm once the plans of the Board of Governor’s UNB Act Review Steering Committee were publicly released, and over the last few months those concerns escalated. Board of Governors member and Committee Chair Roxanne Fairweather’s message today acknowledged the high degree of community engagement with the issues raised by their proposal. The next version of the proposal, which Ms. Fairweather indicated should be released by May, will apparently focus mainly on easing restrictions on land transactions. UNB holds considerable land in both the Fredericton and Saint John areas.

AUNBT welcomes much of the Committee’s message. Some months ago, the Association formed a UNB Act Task Force that has been working extremely hard to understand this complex piece of legislation and evaluate and articulate the potential effects of the proposed changes. While AUNBT has concerns about the way the process rolled out, not to mention the costs both in terms of money as well as disruption, we are relieved that the Board Committee heard the concerns of our members and others.

Of course we have not yet seen the revised proposal. We are gratified that most of the more radical elements of the original proposal appear to be off the table, but we still have concerns about the continued desire to change the Act with respect to ending government oversight of land transfers. University lands are, we must not forget, being held in trust for the people of New Brunswick in perpetuity. In meetings with the Committee, AUNBT raised, more than once, questions about the future of the UNB Woodlot, an ecologically valuable tract of land that functions as a watershed for the city of Fredericton as well as a site for teaching students and ongoing research. Those questions remain unanswered.

In addition to the disposal of land, the Committee has said that the new proposal will include unnamed previously agreed-upon items. If this means that some long-overdue issues such as representation for contract academic employees on Senate is finally to be addressed, AUNBT heartily welcomes the news.

“Today is a good day to be part of UNB,” said Dr. Jones. “Many in the community came together to voice concerns about what we perceived as a threat to UNB’s values, structures and identity and demonstrated a shared conviction that those things are worth saving. It seems that this time, our voices were heard.”

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Categories: Media, Press release, UNB Act