UNBC chancellor … Moore or less
Thursday, December 3, 2015 @ 3:45 AM
By Bill Phillips
One of the best lines since the October 19 federal election has to be: “The election is over.”
That came from UNBC’s soon-to-be chancellor, James Moore.
He was responding to the initial complaints about his appointment. The issue, led by the faculty association and with more than 1,300 people signing an online petition opposing his appointment, has turned into a full-fledged foofaraw.
There is one thing that is missing from the all the bluster, debate, opining, and attempted history revisions.
The chancellor position at UNBC is an honourary, unpaid position.
It’s ceremonial (if you’re on social media, read ‘ceremonial’ in all caps please).
We’re getting our knickers all tied up in a knot over nothing.
The duties of the chancellor are basically to don a medieval robe and silk beanie once a year, hand out degrees during convocation ceremonies, and say something nice and inspirational. The chancellor may attend a few other events, but very few.
The chancellor does not sit on the board of governors, the chancellor does not tell the president how to run the university, the chancellor does not dictate which programs the university will offer. The chancellor is to the university like the queen is to Canadian parliament … when they show up we put on our Sunday finest, mind our Ps and Qs, try to stay awake when they deliver a speech and, after they’re gone, go back to what we were doing before they showed up.
The chancellor is a figurehead. There’s nothing wrong with having a chancellor, but we’re overstating the importance of the role.
I get it that the faculty association wants to forget the former Conservative government’s attack on science and higher education and that Moore, who was a key part of that government, represents those dark years. I get it. Journalism didn’t have a place in former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s New World Order either.
The Conservatives also vindictively punished those who disagreed with them. It’s disappointing that aspect of the 10 Dark Years has endured.
It should also be pointed out that Moore was appointed chancellor because he is a politician who happens to be Conservative, not because he is a Conservative politician. In other words, it’s not a political appointment.
The chancellor is selected through a process that includes a call for nominations issued by the Alumni Association of UNBC, consultation with the Senate, and appointment by the Board of Governors. It’s not made by the PMO.
Rather than get in a huff over Moore’s appointment, maybe we should be focusing our attention on the fact that, shortly before he called the election last August, Prime Minister Harper made 49 future patronage appointments. When the writ is dropped the government goes into caretaker mode, which prevents it from, among other things, stacking government boards and agencies with party cronies.
So, according to iPolitics, Harper did just that, just before the deadline … 49 times. In some cases, contracts that weren’t up for another year, were renewed. Some of those were for five years. Many carry six-figure salaries.
That is 1,000 times more insidious and repugnant than a university appointing a former Tory cabinet minister to a figurehead position that pays nothing.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at email@example.com