At yesterday’s board-meeting, the University of Bergen had to decide if the university should continue to have an elected rector, who is also Chairman of the Board or if the rector should be appointed and the board have an external chair. Management models at the faculties and departments were also on the agenda.
– The last time this happened (in 2008) there was a very clear endorsement of the elected rector model. This is the most used model in the university and high school sector. I consider it appropriate that we continue to use this model, said University Director, Kari Tove Elvbakken.
Support and opposition
Board member, Gro Theresa Lie, who represents the academic staff, agreed with her.
– This issue has been thoroughly discussed by the board on previous occasions, and has been and still is, a matter of debate at the university. I believe that our earlier decision was based on a sound foundation, and I think we are still standing on safe ground. I am very comfortable with this proposal, she says.
But not everyone agrees. Johan Fredrik Odfjell, who is an external member of the board, was the first to oppose.
– This is the most important issue that the board will discuss during its elected period and I do not agree that that University board has in fact examined this issue thoroughly, he said.
– Exceptionally weak
Odfjell mentioned that he very often praised documents that were presented to the board, but not on this occasion.
– I think this is an exceptionally weak document. We were supposed to prepare for a management discussion. Instead we are to vote for a proposal. As far as I can see, the documents do not contain any attempt to describe the alternative model (with an appointed rector and an external chair) and its consequences. I think we deserve a much more comprehensive document than the one that we have been presented with, and I don’t feel that the case has been examined properly. I propose that the matter be deferred until a later date.
Gry Kibsgard, who represents the technical and administrative employees seconded Odfjell’s proposal.
– We aim to be an international research university. So it is natural to look at how other universities, both in Norway and elsewhere, do things. Perhaps a broader debate might persuade the government to change the law. I support the proposal to postpone a decision until the case has been more thoroughly examined and a document that can show the possibilities and limitations of both models is prepared, she said.
Rector disagreed and meant that the case had been thoroughly discussed.
– There has been a considerable amount of discussion concerning this question - since the year 2000, said Rector Sigmund Grønmo, and pointed out that three national committees have discussed the issue of elected versus appointed rector
– I do not believe that we are unfamiliar with the characteristics of the two models. I think that we have a responsibility as a board and as board-members regarding this matter and that we cannot plead insufficient grounds, as a reason for delaying a decision.
– Seriously underestimated
This was the day’s lengthiest discussion, and several board-members agreed that the alternative model could have been explained more thoroughly – but the majority felt well enough informed to be able to make a decision.
There were arguments both for and against election and appointment, and Odfjell was the one who argued most strongly in favour of the alternative model, according to both Rector Sigmund Grønmo and external representative Oddny Miljeteig.
– Johan Fredrik (Odfjell) has argued most strongly in favour of introducing the alternative model. More clarification is unnecessary, and I think it a serious underestimation of the rest of the Board. I don’t think it necessary to postpone this matter, whether we like the proposal or not, said Grønmo.
Odfjell was allowed to reply immediately.
– I don’t think it fair to claim that some members of the board underestimate other board-members. I was in favour of postponement to begin with, but it became apparent that it wouldn’t happen. I then chose to mention some points that I thought should be clarified. It might look as though I have taken a stand, but I haven’t, he parried.
Nine against two
Odfjells alternative proposal of postponing the matter was finally voted on. The proposal lost with three votes to eight.
As the matter had already been discussed at length, it did not take long until the University Director’s proposal was put to the vote.
The first proposition, which read “The University Board confirms that the present management model will continue at institutional level, […] with an elected rector in 2013”, was carried with nine votes to two. A change would have needed a 2/3 majority.
The second proposal, of elected Dean as the main model and appointed Dean as the alternative model, was unanimously adopted.
The proposal that appointed and elected department leaders should be regarded as equivalent was also unanimously agreed on, but that it must be the same arrangement for the departments at each faculty.