Queen's University — Since 1873
25th March 2011

Day not over

Principal Woolf says University Council has no power to remove rector

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Though AMS members voted to recommend the removal of Nick Day, the recipients of this recommendation don’t quite know how to do it.

Twenty-six per cent of AMS members voted in the Special Student Vote on Tuesday and Wednesday—3,803 voters out of an eligible 14,244. Seventy-two per cent of them voted in favour of an AMS recommendation to the University Council to axe Day from office.

“The University Council has no power to remove the rector,” Principal Daniel Woolf said yesterday following a University Senate meeting. In section K of the University Council by-laws, there are instructions on the election of the rector, but not the removal.

Woolf sits on the University Council along with the University Chancellor, members of the Boardof Trustees and Senate.

“As soon as we discovered that the referendum was indeed being planned, we obviously wanted to find out … the possible courses depending on the outcome of the vote,” Woolf said. “The only way a rector leaves office is when another one is elected and the process of calling elections is very much a student matter.”

University Secretariat Georgina Moore was in touch with AMS officials after the council investigated possible courses of action. She contacted AMS Chief Electoral Officer Rob Lee to inform him of the policy gap surrounding rector removal.

“Like us, they’re kind of going into uncharted waters,” Lee said. “The only thing we had was that we could make a recommendation to University Council.”

The question posed in the referendum was excerpted from section 13.02.05 of the AMS constitution, which details a successful referendum and subsequent recommendation as the only instruments available to the AMS when looking to remove a rector.

The motion calling for a referendum was passed at the Mar. 10 AMS Assembly after controversy arising from an open letter Day addressed to Federal Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff. The letter, which Day signed with his rector title, denounced Ignatieff’s stance against Israeli Apartheid Week and was posted to Facebook and Rabble.ca.

AMS officials said votes cast in favour of recommending Day’s removal outnumbered the votes that won him the rectorship last year. Day won the rector election last year with 2,508 votes. However over 2,700 AMS members voted to recommend the rector’s removal.

AMS students only make up a portion of the electorate, though. Members of the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) also vote in rector elections. At the SGPS annual general meeting on Tuesday, members voted in favour of supporting Day.

The SGPS voted to sign a petition written by the organizers of ‘Support Academic Freedom and Queen’s University Rector Nick Day’ and send a signed letter to the principal, provost, chair of the Board of Trustees, chair of Senate, AMS president and chancellor. 99 students voted for the motion with 42 students against.

Approximately 3.5 per cent of eligible SGPS voters attended the assembly.

This followed the failure of a motion which, if passed, would have placed two questions on the ballot in an SGPS referendum. The questions were: “should Day be removed from office, left in office or censured?”; and should the SGPS officially sign a petition in support of Day. There were 84 students in favour and 110 against.

Another motion had called for the SGPS to sign a letter which recommended Day’s impeachment. It failed with 120 students against and 50 in favour.

SGPS President Jawad Qureshy said the SGPS will not take any action against the AMS referendum.

“Both societies respect each other’s students, procedures and policies,” he told the Journal via email. “The SGPS has no stance on the AMS vote that I am aware of. Many SGPS students feel that the issues raised by the actions of the rector and the reactions of the Principal to his actions fall within the rubric of academic freedom.”

Over the past week, supporters for impeachment posted photos of Day on Facebook with slogans like, “I accused Israel of genocide on behalf of all of us. That cool?” Qureshy said reactions to Day’s letter created an unsafe environment on campus.

“I hope there is some action taken to also improve the way these issues get debated rather than just thinking about who should hold the office of the rector at this time,” he said. “I know that SGPS student advisors have already responded to some serious complaints and I hope that the Principal and Provost would do more to improve the environment on campus over this issue as well.”

Confusion surrounding the next step for the University Council is furthered by the discrepancy in SGPS and AMS positions on the issue. Secretariat Moore said with the council’s by-laws unclear, the apparent disagreement among the body that elected Day make any action more difficult.

“We’re in a position where the AMS conducts an election for the rector for all students,” Moore said, adding that the section of the AMS constitution about the referendum only applies to AMS members. She said it wasn’t updated to include SGPS students when the graduate student population split from the AMS in the 1980s.

“There’s absolutely no statement or guidance at all about what the University Council could or couldn’t do,” Moore said.

“The by-law is silent, that’s all I can say. I guess I can’t predict what the council may or may not do. We have received the result of the referendum, they’ve published it and sent it. And we are aware that the SGPS passed a motion,” she said. “It would be those two differing position to the council. The first step would be putting it to the [University Council] executive committee as to what, if anything, could anybody do.”

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