Former student rep speaks out against President Hall
On May 8, both the undergraduate and graduate student representatives on UVic’s Board of Governors (BoG) resigned, citing discontent with the university’s leadership. With less than two months left in their year-long terms, Jonathan Granirer and David Foster, the former undergraduate and graduate student representatives respectively, have taken stands on issues they have alleged seeing within UVic’s governance during their tenures.
The final Senate meeting of the academic year was held on May 6. Foster, who also served as a student senator this academic year, spoke at the meeting to UVic’s President Kevin Hall and the Senate about alleged concerning conduct he witnessed from Hall as the chair of the Senate. This speech was met with audible signs of disapproval from some senators.
Following that meeting, Foster resigned from his position on the BoG. Granirer stepped down on the same day.
“Dr. Kevin Hall has shown himself unfit to lead this institution, and it does not appear to me that this Board is able to hold him accountable for his poor leadership,” reads Foster’s resignation letter that was sent directly to the Martlet.
Foster’s resignation letter brings up several alleged issues. Primarily, he alleges that Hall has created unsafe spaces for students and faculty through not enforcing masking or social distancing on campus. He also claims that Hall interpreted the Senate Rules and Procedure unjustly by not allowing senators to attend Senate meetings remotely when he did not agree with their reasoning to do so.
Currently at UVic, masks are encouraged indoors but are not mandatory. That mandate was dropped at the university in March in accordance with the province’s own mask mandate removal. This decision by the university was the topic of a special Senate meeting called on March 24. After a vote by secret ballot, the Senate passed their recommendation to the BoG that it approve reinstating masks on UVic’s campus until the end of the winter semester.
The BoG later voted not to reinstate mask requirements on campus.
“Dr. Hall acted in an apparently biased manner by choosing to hold the March 24 special meeting of Senate in person without masks or social distancing when he knew that senators wishing to challenge the UVic executive’s decision to remove the mask mandate considered these conditions for an in-person meeting to be unsafe,” reads Foster’s resignation.
The Martlet reached out to UVic to respond to the allegations put forward by the former student representatives. In an emailed statement from Kirsten Lauvaas, the associate director of public affairs, the university did not comment directly on Hall’s alleged conduct but stated that UVic has diligently followed B.C.’s public health orders and recommendations, including in their Senate meetings.
“As guidance from the PHO recommended a move to face-to-face classes for post-secondary campuses, Senate was held in person,” reads the statement.
“Currently, the PHO strongly recommends masks, and Senators are also strongly recommended to continue mask use during Senate meetings. Senate members who were, without choice, restricted from attending a Senate meeting due to the pandemic were accommodated, along with members with medical accommodations or those restricted from travel to Victoria; these members received a link to attend Senate remotely.”
Foster alleges that a senator was denied virtual access to Senate meetings because Hall did not agree with their reasoning to attend remotely, although Foster said that perhaps too much focus has been given to that alleged incident.
“I think what’s more to the point in the larger scheme of things, is that the University Act doesn’t give the President the power to make these kinds of decisions, to say that some people can attend via Zoom and some can’t,” he said.
Currently, UVic’s Senate Rules and Procedure do not specifically address whether virtual attendance is allowed at in-person Senate meetings. The Rules state that the Senate Committee on Agenda and Governance is responsible for making recommendations on rules and procedure that is not covered within the document itself. Hall sits as the chair of that committee.
To address this gap, Foster moved a motion at the last Senate meeting that would have allowed senators to attend meetings virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee on Agenda and Governance recommended that the Senate not pass that motion. The motion failed.
“Accommodations related to the pandemic will continue in accordance with university guidelines, as necessary, and until more permanent remote participation principles are established,” reads UVic’s statement.
The former undergraduate representative Granirer said in an interview with the Martlet that although his resignation came at the same time as Foster’s, his was the result of feeling like his efforts advocating for students with disabilities and immunocompromised students during his term on the BoG have been futile. According to Granirer, he had already been considering resignation for that reason and thought that resigning alongside Foster would be timely.
“Our university’s leadership, including the BoG, has shown itself to be unwilling to address the rampant ableism at UVic, which is unacceptable and frankly shameful considering the ease with which many ableist barriers at UVic could be addressed,” reads Granirer’s resignation.
“UVic believes higher education is for everyone and actively works with its campus community to create an accessible, inclusive setting,” reads UVic’s statement.
“UVic is committed to providing quality, equitable and accessible education for students who need academic accommodations, those with disabilities and chronic health conditions and we strive to keep UVic accessible for all levels of mobility.”
According to Foster, Hall offered to schedule a phone call with him after his resignation. Foster declined the offer and said that he did not feel a phone call would be productive.
“I told [Hall] that if there was something he wanted to say to me, he could say it in writing,” said Foster.
Foster has posted his resignation letter publicly in the hopes that it will bring attention to the alleged issues.
“I’ve certainly heard people who have felt that I did the right thing in bringing these concerns up,” said Foster, who added that people will have varied opinions.
“I think it’s important that we have scrutiny of people who are running our public institutions,” he said.