Well, that was a surprise.
On Sept. 30, 2016, the Brock Board of Trustees announced that it had appointed Dr. Tom Traves, retired President of Dalhousie University, as our new Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, for a 12 month term beginning Oct. 1.
Dr. Traves has the academic qualifications that many of us believe are an essential prerequisite for the position. Senate, BUFA, academic units, and individual members of the Brock Community strongly urged the Board to limit its search to internal candidates who had academic experience and background. Further, Senate also asked the Board to have an open call for nominations from the Brock community. We welcomed the Board’s agreement with these recommendations.
Senate also requested the opportunity to provide feedback on the shortlisted candidate(s) but the Board decided to refuse Senate’s request on this matter. Somewhere in this closed and supposedly internal search process, a single external candidate’s application was added to the Brock nominations. It was this external candidate who was chosen by the Board to be our Interim President and Vice-Chancellor. That was the surprise.
There were many reasons to have kept the search internal. These included the advantages of having someone who could “hit the ground running” because he or she was familiar with Brock’s culture and procedures. Given the immediacy of developing a new Strategic Mandate Agreement and imminent changes in the provincial funding for universities, it also was seen as important to have an Interim President who had experience with provincial-university relations in Ontario, which are fundamentally different than those in provinces such as BC and Nova Scotia.
If the Board was going to consider external candidates, it should have announced that from the beginning, before Brock nominators and nominees submitted their applications under the impression that it would be an internal search. If mid-way through the process the Board decided that it was essential to consider external candidates, then a pubic announcement should have been made and there should have been an opportunity for other external candidates to apply for the job.
The potential implications this process may have for next year’s search for a permanent President and Vice-Chancellor are particularly worrisome.. We are already operating under the shadow of the failed Presidency of Dr. Cukier. Now we have another Presidential search with a problematic process, in which the rules under which individuals applied were changed during the consideration of the shortlist, without public notice, in a way that apparently precluded applications from more than a single external candidate. This situation may cause further concerns among potential candidates about the fairness and transparency of Brock’s selection process for its most senior administrator. One partial remedy for this is to have the next search be as open as possible.
Dr. Traves may make an excellent Interim President and Vice-Chancellor, given his lengthy and varied experience at Dalhousie. We hope that he will be successful. We intend to work with him to help make this a good year for Brock. We also hope that the next Presidential search is an open and transparent one, where the public and agreed-upon search parameters do not change unexpectedly and without broad consultation.
Linda Rose-Krasnor, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Psychology
President, Brock University Faculty Association
1812 Sir Isaac Brock Way, MC D402
St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1
Phone: (905) 688-5550 ext. 3268