Court victory for Capilano faculty reinforces importance of faculty input

Over a year ago, FPSE began supporting the efforts of the Capilano Faculty Association’s fight against unilateral actions by their senior administration. The university’s administration was determined to push through major program cuts without first developing an education plan or seeking the input from the university’s Senate over the details of the proposed cuts.

Proper consultation is not simply the right way to make program changes like the ones contemplated at Capilano University – it is a requirement under the University Act. And it was on that basis that FPSE supported the Capilano Faculty Association’s court challenge of their administration’s move to drastically change programs and course offerings at Capilano. 

On April 28, the BC Supreme Court handed down its decision on the issue. The court was unambiguous in its assessment of our legal argument that in making the program changes in the manner they did, the administration at Capilano University violated Section 35.2 of the University Act. In particular, the court rejected the university’s assertion that they met the test of consultation by referring the issue of program cuts to their Senate Budget Advisory Committee. But in rejecting that assertion, the judge noted that there was no evidence to support the claim. Moreover, the judge noted that none of the Senate’s Committees “has a mandate to develop education policy, or more particularly, address issues regarding the cancellation and discontinuance of programs and courses.”

The court relied on another important post-secondary education case, this one involving Vancouver Community College in 2005. Like Capilano, the VCC administration attempted to end-run their Education Council and push through program cuts at that institution. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the faculty association in that case and stressed the importance of meaningful consultation prior to major changes in programs and course offerings. The VCCFA precedent provided an important plank in the legal arguments advanced in the Capilano case.

While the good news from the court has reinforced our view that unilateral actions by administrators are unacceptable, the response from the President of Capilano University to the court’s decision is troubling to say the least. The President has not conceded on the court’s verdict and is considering an appeal, a move that not only wastes valuable resources, but also reflects a combative approach to post-secondary governance. A better approach would be to recognize what the court is saying about the importance of meaningful consultation and work with faculty and students to develop an education plan at Capilano that enjoys the full support of all stakeholders. It’s an approach that every post-secondary institution needs to adopt. It makes for good public policy and, moreover, has the full support of the BC Supreme Court.

About FPSE

The Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC is the provincial voice for faculty and staff in BC teaching universities, colleges and institutes, and in private sector institutions. FPSE member locals, represented by Presidents' Council and the Executive, represent over 10,000 faculty and staff at 18 public and 12 private sector institutions.