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“We’re in a profound crisis of governance” – NSCAD students and activists respond to Board of Governors statement

The Fountain Campus. Photo NSCAD

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A response by the NSCAD Board of Governors (BoG) after it abruptly fired president Dr. Aoife Mac Namara is not convincing members of the Nova Scotia arts community who continue to call for the dissolution of the current board.

The BoG posted its response on the NSCAD website on August 11.

“The Board has been disappointed by the amount of misinformation circulating online and, in the media, and has been disturbed by some of the personal attacks,” the response states..

In the statement board chair Louise-Anne Comeau affirms the Board’s commitment to fight systemic racism at the school and its support for the new Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery under Dr. Charmaine Nelson.

Comeau rejects any suggestion that a backroom deal was in the works to facilitate the sale of the Fountain Campus on Granville Street. There was an informal proposal that was forwarded to the administration, but for the Board that was the end of it, she writes. 

Karin Cope, a long time NSCAD teacher and Friends of NSCAD spokesperson, takes issue with the board’s response.

“We’re in a profound crisis of governance. 95% of the faculty, the majority of the Senate, and many students, alumni and others have expressed no confidence in the board,” says Cope. “Yet the board continues as if this is not a problem. Any government, any governing body, faced with this much of a divide would fall. The provincial government is really remiss not to step in and recognize that there’s a crisis,” she says.

Fighting systemic racism takes more than words, and the board’s statement only illustrates the extent to which it is disconnected from realities on the ground, Cope argues.

“This illustrates the board’s failure to understand that what is involved in structural change entails really, truly addressing how we offer our courses, how we open our doors, how we participate in the community, who stands for NSCAD and who is welcome at NSCAD,” says Cope. “Meanwhile, Dr. Mac Namara engaged in all these conversations, she was building change from the ground up, not from the top down.”

In terms of a conflict of interest at the board level, nobody knows what goes on at its meetings, Cope says, and that’s part of the problem.

“It’s very difficult for any of us from the outside to know what exactly happened. This is because there’s no oversight. The NSCAD board is in a rather extraordinary position where virtually all of its committee meetings, the majority of its most important deliberations are off the record. Even though they have oversight over a great deal of public money, the public has no insight into their decisions.”

Meanwhile, in a story published yesterday in All NovaScotia, Armour Group developer Scott McCrea makes no secret of his desire to buy the downtown campus and construct a new campus on the waterfront to be leased by NSCAD. Board vice chair Sean Kelly is a lawyer with Stewart McKelvey, where he represents the Armour Group.  

On Instagram SUNSCAD, NSCAD’s student union, has come out strongly condemning the Board’s statement.

“Diversity and inclusion lip service, promises via email and advertisements, are not anti-racist actions. Their main functions are superficial at best but also act as automated absolution from taking any necessary actions,” the union states.

“A lawyer with Stewart McKelvie is on the Board, a concrete supplier, a member of a real estate investment trust, and Emera (which owns NS Power). This is a clear conflict of interest,” FUNSCAD responds to the Board’s efforts to distance itself from a potential Fountain Campus sale.”

See also: Starving for change: NSCAD students and faculty rally in support of fired president

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