University of Regina president avoids non-confidence vote by narrow margin
REGINA -- University of Regina president Vianne Timmons will not face a vote on her leadership.
A motion to hold a non-confidence vote against Timmons and Tom Chase, provost and vice-president of academic, was narrowly defeated at a special meeting of the university council Friday. The motion was defeated 135 to 134 with one spoiled ballot and three abstentions.
Timmons stood in front of nearly 300 people at the special meeting and said the result was not a win.
"I'm not joyful about this," said Timmons.
"I'm deeply troubled and deeply concerned about the state of our campus, about the anxiety I've heard today, about what I've been hearing, so for me, this is no victory. To me, this is a very sad day for the University of Regina."
"And as your president, I am not proud to president of a divided campus and if I have 134 people who are concerned enough to move forward a vote of non-confidence, that is deeply troubling and it gives me serious reflection," she added.
The meeting was called after some faculty members started a petition questioning the ability of the president and academic vice-president.
They claimed non-academic positions have increased while teaching jobs have been cut, that education is being hurt and that donor funds are being mismanaged. They also said there are questions of transparency over how money is spent.
"It is a grave matter which brings us here today, one which cuts to the heart of the university's present fortunes and its future," Susan Johnston, associate professor in the English department, told the crowd.
"Colleagues, you have heard the question. It is at its heart -- do you trust the president and the vice-president?"
Johnston, who was one of the leader's of the petition, called for the university budget to be made public "line-by-line."
The University of Regina has been struggling to balance its budget, it faced a controversy involving a carbon capture centre and there were questions over how it overpaid two staff members nearly $380,000, but kept the details from the province.
The school had hoped to see an operating increase of between four and five per cent in the budget tabled by the Saskatchewan government in March. It got about two per cent.
Timmons said at the time that there would be "some tough slugging ahead."
In May, Saskatchewan's auditor told the University of Regina to fix its policies for research projects.
The university asked Bonnie Lysyk to do the review in large part because questions were raised about how more than $2 million was spent at the International Performance Assessment Centre for the Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide, commonly known as IPAC-CO2.
An internal IPAC memo said the greatest part of the money billed for IT services was "spent for no acceptable business reason."
The centre was based on the university campus until the province cut funding earlier this year and it wound up operations.
On Wednesday, Timmons and Chase held a news conference to explain how the university knew a year ago that two employees had been overpaid nearly $380,000 over the course of 11 years. The school's administration didn't tell the Saskatchewan government or the provincial auditor until this month when the story came out in the media.
Timmons said the payments were discovered in September 2012 and immediately halted. She said there was no need to tell the Ministry of Advanced Education because the school felt it had dealt with the situation.
Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris called the situation unacceptable and has asked the Ministry of Justice for a review.
Johnston said after the vote Friday that she agreed with Timmons that "it is a sad day" for the university because it shows "a campus deeply divided."
"I don't think it's a victory for anybody," said Johnston.
"Many of my concerns about transparency and accountability still exist, but you know, I believe it ought to be possible for us to work together," she added.
Lee Elliot, chairman of the university's board of governors, said in a written statement that the board is still confident in the ability of the president and senior administration. Elliot said the board also recognizes "how imperative it is for senior administration to address the concerns held by our campus community."
Timmons promised Friday to be more transparent and hold a public meeting within the next month. She also said if faculty want a line-by-line budget, it will be produced for them.
"I've got some work to do in the university to bring the campus together," said Timmons.