The Academic Board appointed the first administrative University Board for the new University of Tampere on Tuesday, October 23rd. The composition of the new Board has already generated considerable discussion, which the top brass of the University should address.
The discussion on the composition of the new University Board has focused mainly on the question of gender equality, and Tampere University Researchers and Teachers pointed out this particular matter immediately after the new Board was appointed. Five men and two women were appointed to the Board, in obvious contrast to the Finnish legislation on gender equality. According to the Ombudsman for Equality, in a Board with seven members, a representation of at least three women and three men should be the norm. In addition, of the six recently-appointed faculty deans, only one is a woman. In a situation where the University has only recently been found guilty of gender discrimination, this cannot be regarded as a good start for the new foundation University.
Also, with the exception of one student member, the University Board consists entirely of people from outside the university community. This decision, based on a resolution reached in June, is highly problematic for the university autonomy. Furthermore, the Board composition is heavily dominated by professors, and lacks representation by researchers, teachers and other staff, even though these people make up the majority of the university personnel. Consequently, the University Board will not be able to benefit from their perspectives.
Due to the above-mentioned reasons, Hanna Kuusela, a member of the Academic Board representing researchers and teachers, suggested that the nomination process of the University Board should be re-started. She also submitted a dissenting opinion on the appointment, as the only member of the Academic Board.
-- My suggestion to re-start the process was not directed against the appointed Board members, but instead was intended to highlight what was missing from the Board composition, Kuusela comments. -- The wealth of intellect, know-how all that silent knowledge possessed by the people who work at our university; all that is without representation in the new Board. Without a wide representation of the community, there cannot be any university autonomy.
In her dissent, Kuusela pointed out that the appointment of the University Board does not reflect the spirit of the 123rd paragraph of the Finnish Constitution, which guarantees autonomy for universities. Neither does the process reflect the spirit of the university legislation, given that the Board does not have representation from all three groups of the university community, as stated in the 15th paragraph of the University Law. -- This appointment marks a significant transfer of power away from the university community, Kuusela emphasizes. -- I am disappointed, that the Academic Board decided to give up the fundamental principle, also guaranteed by the law, that a university should govern itself.
Kuusela has also brought up the role of the nomination committee, which was responsible for the preparatory work on the appointment of the new Board. The committee was assembled on the basis of the controversial university regulations, the legality of which is still under review by the parliamentary ombudsman. Neither can the process be regarded in any way transparent. Most probably the role of the committee had an impact on the various problems in the eventual composition of the University Board, such as the lack of gender balance.
Chief shop steward Sinikka Torkkola has asked an opinion on the matter of gender imbalance from the Ombudsman for Equality, and the Ombudsman is expected to weigh on the question. Tampere University Researchers and Teachers supports this action, and requires that aside from resolving the matters of gender inequality, the University Board should also have representation from researchers and teachers. Demands for representation by the university community itself will also not be given up.
The present model of "independent" University Board with no representation by the community itself is not a practice dictated by law, but instead it has become a norm in foundation universities as a result of a series of ad hoc decisions. This model was established in the Tampere University of Technology as a result of lobbying and pressure by private funders, and as a result of the Tampere3 process, the same has now happened in the central campus. The tide must be turned in the future, and the university community should take back its autonomy.