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The Back Campus and the University of Toronto Governing Council, Remarks by Michael Bliss, University Professor Emeritus,

University of Toronto, at City Designers Forum for Keeping the Back Campus Green, Toronto, May 1, 2013

I'll limit myself to taking about the back campus fields project as it relates to the governance of the University of Toronto. My views on this are similar to those of the Supreme Court of Canada when in 1981 it adjudicated on Prime Minister Trudeau's proposal to have Ottawa ask Britain to patriate the Canadian constitution even if all the provinces were opposed. The Court ruled that it would be legal for the Government of Canada to make this unilateral request to Britain, but also that it would be unconstitutional. It would be unconstiutional because this way not the way Ottawa had searched for constitutional consensus in the past, and such a procedure would violate customary norms of propriety in our federated community. Chastened by this ruling, Mr. Trudeau decided not to press on, but rather to go back to the drawing board, where he eventually secured the support of nine provinces and went ahead from there. The governing body of the University of Toronto is its Governing Council. Its 50 members are meant to represent the various "estates" that make up the university - elected representatives of the students and faculty, appointed alumni reps, and, through other government appointees, the people of Ontario. The Governing Council was created in the early 1970s in the hope that it would be a forum for vigorous debate by the groups that make up the university community. One of the cardinal principles governing the proceedings of this council was that all of its proceedings, save for those that involved sensitive personnel or financial details, would be open to the public. The Governing Council system has had mixed results. Sometimes Council and its committees have functioned as a genuine legislative forum, neatly reflecting the views of the stakeholders in the university. Other times it has been chaotic and confused. Very often, and especially in recent years, it has tended towards passivity, accepting leadership from the administrative officers of the university without much question or controversy. Nowadays it often seems like a very large board of directors, content with rubberstamping decisions by administrators in whom it has confidence. The proposal to astroturf the back campus for field hockey pitches originated somewhere in the university administration in time to feature in Toronto's original bid for the PanAm Games. The head of the group making the bid was former Ontario Premier David Peterson, who was also at that time Chancellor of the University. The bid having succeeded, in 2011 the administration created a project planning group to report on how to convert the back campus to field hockey pitches, without violating any of the university's guideliness. The group's report was not made public, but rather was

steered through Governing Council committees and then Council itself in the spring of 2012. All of the discussions of the report were in camera, including Council's final approval of the deal. So there is no record of what was said. We have managed to obtain the summary of the project given to the Business Board by the VP of Operations, Professor Scott Mabury. That summary contains one false statement, in which Mabury misinforms the Board that the project venue is "owned" by the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (it is, of course, owned by the University of Toronto). It also contains a highly misleading statement that the use of in camera proceedings was deemed the best way of complying with Infrastructure Ontario's need to protect the confidentiality of financial details. The statement is misleading because it would have been perfectly possible to have the project discussed in principle in open session, with the financial details handled separately. Technically it seems legal for Governing Council to go in camera whenever it thinks it should. Morally, the resort to secret proceedings, at every stage of the Governing Council process, is an astonishing violation of the spirit of openness and respect for the university community that is the foundation of and justification for the very existence of the Governing Council. In these secret deliberations there was apparently little or no critical discussion of the project, as the governors were content to accept as gospel the various kinds of misinformation and self-serving rationales that the administration put before it, some of which have now been made public. There was apparently virtually no consideration of the project in the light of previous planning documents, the details of which are unknown to current governors and were not deemed relevant by administrators. Votes to approve the astroturfing of the back campus were apparently unanimous, with only one abstention. Details of the proposal continued to be withheld from the university community until the contract had been let for the construction of the field hockey pitches. When public presentations began to be made, and critical newspaper comment began, and on-campus opposition immediately developed, the administration tried to suppress the project planning report that it had finally made public. In various statements the university's key administrators, Vice-president Mabury and president David Naylor, have claimed, in the teeth of massive evidence to the contrary, that there was extensive consultation and appropriate consideration of the project. Faced with extensive public outcry against the proposal, including a petition that now has 4750 signatures, and lacking any support whatever in the public media, or from student or alumni organizations, or the federated universities, neither the administration nor Governing Council has been moved to reconsider the project. The approval of the back campus fields project by Governing Council, at the urging of the administration, seems to have been both entirely legal and a deliberate rejection of the spirit of community and open discussion that is supposed to be guiding the University of Toronto. The motives for doing this seem to range from deep cynicism by administrators to shocking ignorance and passivity by governors. The contrast between Council's

furtive handling of this matter in 2013 and its lively and open debaters on university planning some 14 years ago is a damning indictment of the institution's governance malaise. Its procedures have been legal, to be sure, but profoundly unconstitutional in university terms. Indeed a shame and a disgrace to a great university. Those of us concerned about good government of the University of Toronto have tried very hard to persuade administrators and governors to follow the example of Trudeau and realize that without genuine community enthusiasm for their project they are heading for very rough times. As did Trudeau, they should go back to the drawing board. If they will not do this, then we can only hope that their proposal to despoil, to vandalize, one of the lovely green spaces of Toronto is stopped by a higher power.