For Immediate Release
July 23, 2021
funscad – faculty union of the nova scotia college of art & design
Over a year ago, the Board of Governors of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) fired the President, Dr. Aoife Mac Namara. The President had been in her post for less than a year. There was no consultation with the University community and there are still no answers. FUNSCAD, the faculty and technician’s union, remain shocked and dismayed at the actions of the Board who made this decision in the middle of a pandemic and without transparency and accountability.
FUNSCAD members, along with our students, are outraged. Union members and members of academic senate, in separate polling, overwhelmingly voted NO CONFIDENCE in the Board of Governors. We want to emphasize that this vote was not taken lightly and was not merely symbolic. The real symbolism is in the massive screens of black ink on page after page of documents reluctantly released in freedom-of-information requests (The FOIPOP office had previously reprimanded NSCAD for unnecessary delays). Here we are a year later and we still do not have proper answers to why this happened and are calling on the provincial government to use its authority to:
a) demand clarity and transparency in the governance of taxpayer and tuition-funded public institutions;
b) use its authority to get to the bottom of questionable decision-making at NSCAD through a public inquiry or similar measure, and to order the full release of redacted documents;
c) strengthen freedom of information legislation so that members of the community, including students and their parents, employees, faculty, and citizens of Nova Scotia, know how decisions are being made; and
d) examine the process of appointing governors to all public institutions with the goal of ensuring accountability and community representation.
Today, Globe and Mail reporter Greg Mercer has published a follow-up to his previous June 7, 2021 report: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-e-mails-shed-new-light-on-ns-art-college-development-battle/
Mercer’s article is based on documents released under freedom of information requests, though heavily redacted, that further substantiate questions about Board conflicts of interest and the firing of the former president. The firing appears, at the very least, to stem from personality conflicts between and members of the NSCAD Board and the inappropriate involvement of Board members in operations normally within the president’s domain. These tensions occurred as Mac Namara was repeatedly raising concerns over conflicts-of-interest by Board members related to campus real estate. One email (March 11, 2020) has the subject heading “Conflict of Interest: Legal Opinion” and even that is fully redacted!
What we do learn from the FOIPOP materials is that from early in her appointment, Board members are urging Mac Namara to meet with Scott McCrea (Armour Group) on his proposal for NSCAD real estate. Mac Namara was simultaneously working to build bridges and restore trust amongst students, staff, and faculty, as well as in the broader community. Meanwhile, Board members appear to have been working to have Mac Namara removed even as she had gained the trust and confidence of the community. It also appears that not all members of the Board were involved in key decision-making, notably elected student, faculty, and alumni representatives.
Acting FUNSCAD President Darrell Varga says: “Faculty and staff stand with our students in having lost confidence in the Board of Governors and worry about the damage done to the school by its reckless decision-making. We know that President Mac Namara was working hard to secure new campus facilities but that her proposals were dismissed without proper consideration since they appear to conflict with vested interests. Over the past year, the Board’s decisions have been completely opaque, and their actions and the timing of their actions do not seem to be in the best interest of the community.”
FUNSCAD, representing technicians and faculty employed at NSCAD, call on the Board to commit to a full accountability of these matters and release all relevant information. If it is unwilling to do so, Board members should step aside so that the Nova Scotia government can step up.