With his term scheduled to end on Aug. 31, 2015, President Andrew Petter is asking the SFU board of governors to reappoint him for another term.
At the time of his appointment, Petter’s primary goal was “to build on SFU’s incredible diversity and combination of strengths as one of Canada’s leading universities.” With his reappointment up for discussion, Petter reaffirmed his goals in a speech to the SFU community last Thursday in the SFU Theatre.
“When I became President, I made it very much my priority upon coming to SFU first to get to know the institution, to get to know the students and faculty and staff, the culture of the institution,” said Petter. “There was a pent up desire within SFU for a dialogue around who we are and what we wish to do going forward in the future.”
After outlining some of the successes of his term — which included greater national and international recognition, improved student services and community outreach, greater fundraising and research grants, and a vision of sustainability — Petter continued with his thoughts for SFU’s future.
“First of all, a major priority from my point of view is to continue to build, based on the vision, goals, and principles,” said Petter. “In terms of engaging students, I have on this year’s goals for myself and the university that we really need to tackle the issue of course access. For students who aren’t able to access the courses they need to complete their programs, I know this is a great frustration.”
During his speech, Petter also expressed his desire for greater teaching support, the creation of blended courses, more support for ESL students, an online education strategy, and further efforts to increase student engagement on campus.
The review process will include the Committee meeting with Petter and consulting with the vice-presidents and deans across the university.
On the research front, Petter hopes to find a new vice-president of research, as Mario Pinto’s term is coming to an end. He also hopes to bring more funding to the university and update the strategic research plan to meet needs of the community.
Petter continued his speech, speaking to the Burnaby campus specifically. “I think one area of priority that I see is this campus. This campus’ connection with the Burnaby community is not nearly as strong or as dynamic in my view as it should be, and maybe that’s because we’re on top of a mountain. Maybe a Burnaby skybus as I call it, or gondola as others of you call it, would be helpful in that regard, and certainly I think that’s something we should push for.”
After his speech, Petter opened the floor to questions from students, staff and faculty. However, not everyone was satisfied with his answers.
“Petter completely dodged two crucial questions, one about sessionals another about labor relations,” said TSSU member Killian Kleffner-Canucci in an email to The Peak. “Petter provided false information about what sessionals gained from the last round of bargaining . . . The major problem, is that his response suggested SFU admin worked for those changes, when in reality they worked as hard as they could to prevent those meager improvements. This insinuation from Petter is an outright lie and very insulting to the TSSU bargaining committee who were the ones fighting with admin (including Petter) for those changes.”
Kleffner-Canucci was similarly upset about Petter comments on budget tightening: “Something doesn’t add up. Budget aside, there are many non-monetary improvements that can be made to the collective agreement in order to improve working conditions for sessionals in particular, which their bargaining team rejected last year. It would be nice if Petter followed up on claims he has made that he wants to provide more for sessionals in the upcoming bargaining (if reappointed).”
Petter was unavailable to respond to these comments before time of press.
Petter became SFU’s ninth president and vice-chancellor in 2010, replacing Michael Stevenson after an international search. Following Petter’s declaration of interest in a second term, the board has established a Committee to Review the President Prior to Reappointment, as authorized by board policy B10.06.
Members of the Committee include Brian E. Taylor, chair of the Board of Governors, Jon Driver, VP academic & provost, John Pierce, dean of the faculty of environment, and additional representatives from the board of governors, the student body, and staff members, among others.
– Andrew Petter, SFU President
The review process will include the Committee meeting with Petter and consulting with the vice-presidents and deans across the university, and with “appropriate external constituents,” according to the policy. Although Committee members Taylor, Driver, and Pierce declined to comment or failed to reply, as deliberations are confidential, Judith Osborne, university secretary, said that students, faculty, staff and some external stakeholders have been asked to provide the committee with their views.
If the committee is satisfied with the results of the review, it will recommend reappointment. If the review does not find Petter to be a suitable candidate, a Presidential Search Committee will be formed as provided in the same board policy that governs the review.
For Petter, the reappointment process is one he welcomes with open arms.
“I really welcome the opportunity both to reflect upon where we’ve come in the last few years at SFU and where we’re headed in the future, and to explain a little bit about why I would welcome the opportunity to continue to play a leadership role in the future development of what I regard as a truly extraordinary institution,” said Petter.