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NOSM faculty troubled by draft regulations for newly created university

They say the regulations would essentially mean NOSM’s senate would report to its board of governors
NOSM-WinterSized
(File)

A representative of faculty and staff with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) University is raising concerns about the Ontario government’s draft regulations for the newly created university.

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine opened in 2005 through a partnership between Laurentian University in Sudbury and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, where the medical school has campuses.

However, with Laurentian declaring insolvency this past winter, NOSM has become an independent institution.

Dr. Brian Ross, president of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine Faculty and Staff Association (NOSMFSA), said his organization is troubled by draft regulations for the new university’s structure. 

Comments are being accepted by the government on the regulations until Dec. 2.

Universities in Canada generally have bicameral governance, meaning a board of governors responsible for financial matters, and a senate responsible for academics.

However, the draft regulations for NOSM University lists a number of powers that would be held by the university’s senate, but says these powers are “subject to the approval of the board” (meaning the board of governors).

“The way the university should work is a so-called shared governance or bicameral governance, where the faculty have control over the curriculum and teaching, and the board over various things like finance,” said Ross, who is based out of Thunder Bay.

“The way the draft regulations have been written, the senate essentially reports to the board, and is losing its authority. We think that is very divergent from the way things work across Canada.”

More than simply being at odds with what Ross said is common practice, he said it could be problematic.

“It could damage the reputation of the new university. It’s also a requirement that the faculty control the curriculum as part of accreditation of some of the programs. So it’s a very worrying thing.”

The NOSMFSA is strongly recommending the Ontario government amend the draft regulations for NOSM University to ensure it has a governance structure consistent with other universities, where senate decisions are subject to approval by boards of governors only with respect to the expenditure of funds.

Asked why he thinks this kind of language has been included in the draft regulations, Ross said he doesn’t know.

“We’ve been asked to comment,” Ross said. “We really hope the province will listen and make the change that we want.”

Asked what he thinks of the creation of NOSM as a separate university, Ross said as long as the medical school focuses on its mission, it shouldn’t have any major impact on the education it provides.

Northern Ontario School of Medicine Faculty and Staff Association invites individuals and organizations interested in making their own submissions to the province in support of the NOSMFSA to obtain a template by writing to office@nosmfa.ca.

The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA) has also put out a press release on the matter, making similar points to NOSMFSA.

“The wording used in the senate section of the NOSMU regulations would undermine the fundamental principle of shared bicameral governance at the new university, by subjecting the senate’s power to ‘determine and regulate the educational policy of the University’ to the board of governors’ approval,” said the OCUFA press release.

“This language is inconsistent with what exists in the other Ontario public university acts where the board’s approval is only sought with respect to the expenditure of funds.”

OCUFA has made a submission to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities recommending an amendment to the NOSM University regulations. 

The amendment limits the board’s approval power over the senate’s decisions on the educational policy of the institution to matters related to expenditure of funds only.

Sudbury.com reached out to NOSM University, asking for an interview on the matter with university president Dr. Sarita Verma, but was instead provided with a brief written statement. 

It is as follows:

“NOSM supports freedom of opinion and the Ontario Government's consultation process related to the NOSM University Act, 2021,” said the statement.

“We are pleased with the regulation summary document and look forward to the NOSM University Act coming into force pending proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.”

We also reached out to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, which also provided a brief written statement.

“The document posted on the regulatory registry is a summary of the proposed regulation, which uses simplified language to ensure ease of readability,” the statement said.

“The ministry is accepting comments on the regulatory registry until Dec. 2, 2021. The comments received will be considered when finalizing the proposed regulation.”



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