CAUT Weighs in on University Council Election Irregularities

Following University Council elections last spring, the USFA Executive decided to ask CAUT to review a summary of the election process. After reviewing the summary, the University of Saskatchewan Act, and University Council’s by-laws on elections procedure with CAUT’s legal staff, Executive Director David Robinson concluded:

The short answer is that we are of the view that the University violated the Act and the by-laws. The best remedy if the administration does this again would be judicial review.

By manipulating the nominations to the University Council, the Governance Office acted contrary to the University’s Act. According to the standard method of statutory interpretation, the words of legislation are to be read in the order written, using their plain meaning, without resorting to inserting additional words or punctuation. Words are presumed to have a meaning and the mention of something specific excludes the general.

The Council’s by-laws clearly set out an election procedure that saves the deans for last. Thus, it is clear from the Act and the By-laws that the second college position is not presumptively reserved for the dean – if they choose to “let their name stand” – rather, the deans are the last step in the procedure to fill council seats democratically.

In our opinion, this kind of electioneering at the U of S poses a threat to collegial governance everywhere. Since the matter, as I understand it, has been resolved for now, there is no “lis” for the Court. However, if the administration acts in the same way again, CAUT would support a judicial review.