'Secure leadership' needed at UPEI, faculty association says

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Michael Arfken, president of the UPEI Faculty Association, says the lack of permanent staff in high-level positions 'presents a real problem for accountability and transparency.' (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
Michael Arfken, president of the UPEI Faculty Association, says the lack of permanent staff in high-level positions 'presents a real problem for accountability and transparency.' (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

The UPEI Faculty Association is raising concerns around the number of senior administrative positions at the university filled on a temporary basis, including many of the university's deans and the office of the president.

The union representing professors at UPEI says the university's board of governors needs to lay out an open, transparent process for appointing a new university president, and wants the position filled by the fall.

"We're opening a number of new faculties. We're embarking on a number of new initiatives. All the campus unions are currently in negotiations to negotiate new collective agreements," said Michael Arfken, president of the UPEI Faculty Association, in an interview with Island Morning host Kerry Campbell.

"It's really important to have secure leadership in there. And the fact that this hasn't happened, the fact that looking over the reports from the meetings of the board of governors, we don't see any movement on this since the departure of the last president is really concerning."

Former president Alaa Abd-El-Aziz resigned back in December, after an allegation of harassment was filed by an employee.

A third-party review is underway into that, along with the university's use of non-disclosure agreements following similar allegations brought forward almost a decade ago.

Waiting on review

In an email statement, Pat Sinnott, chair of the UPEI board of governors, said the university is waiting for the independent third-party review of the former president to be completed before initiating the search for a new president.

As for other senior roles, he said some hiring was placed on hold due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions. He noted a new vice-president, academic and research, took office on May 2 after consultations with the university community, including the UPEI Faculty Association.

The search process is also underway for other permanent positions, including associate vice-president, research, and dean of graduate studies, dean of nursing and dean of medicine, he said.

Arfken would like to see the process sped up.

"People have been occupying some of these temporary positions for one, two and in some cases three years," he said.

"And because those people occupy those positions without a proper search or scrutiny and significant input from stakeholders, we think it presents a real problem for accountability and transparency for the governance structure at our university."

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