UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reclaiming the public through the establishment of a senate in a nascent university McGillivray, Judith


This thesis is an attempt to respond to the governance challenges created by the establishment of five new "teaching-intensive" universities in British Columbia in 2008 with particular reference to Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Like each of the other new universities, Kwantlen had a substantial institutional history, in Kwantlen's case as a college, then university-college; becoming a university invoked new values, new traditions that were, ironically, anchored in centuries old conversations about what it means to be a university-and who made decisions about what. To reflect its new status, Kwantlen's governance structure was changed overnight from unicameral, centralized and hierarchical to one that aimed to be bicameral, devolved and egalitarian. As provost of Kwantlen Polytechnic University I can testify that the lived experience of the transition was not so swift. The clash of governance approaches provides an opportunity to consider the purpose of university governance-and of universities themselves.The history of Western and Islamic universities is one of struggle for intellectual independence, with concern for faculty primacy in academic decision-making and institutional autonomy from church and/or state, leading to a complex and symbiotic relationship between universities and democracy. To better understand the connection between the university as a democratic institution and bicameral governance, I turn to one of the most influential democratic theorists of the 20th century, Hannah Arendt, and her diagnosis and suggested remedies for current problems of democracy. Arendt argues that democracy depends on a robust public space where people can appear to one another and debate how they can live together-a space that has been "darkened" by the incursions of a social-bureaucratic space that creates "rule by nobody." Her remedy is the creation of new public spaces, which, ironically, depend on a parallel development of private spaces in which to prepare for the agonal public. I attempt to take advantage of Kwantlen's transition from college to university to "think what we are doing" (Arendt, 1958, p. 5) by appropriating Arendt's ideas to understand how a new university can govern itself more democratically.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International