University governance is everyone’s business: A profile of two Board of Governors members

Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Kafia Barkat and Marianne Saikaley

Photo: Kafia Barkat and Marianne Saikaley

Different groups handle leadership and good governance at the University of Ottawa, including the Board of Governors, which makes financial decisions and establishes the rules necessary for sound management at uOttawa. In 2022, Kafia Barkat and Marianne Saikaley were elected to the board to fill the two vacant support staff positions.

They discuss what motivated them to run and what they intend to contribute to the board.

An open, inclusive discussion space

Barkat and Saikaley are both enthusiastic about the board as a space for discussion and sharing of different points of view.

For Barkat, communication not only ensures mobilization but also the expression of diverse voices. “We have to stay informed, learn from each other, express ourselves and ask questions,” she says. Working with the special adviser, antiracism and inclusive excellence, she’s been able to see the influence the University community can have, particularly when it speaks up and becomes active through petitions, open letters and calls to action. She knows from experience that activism can change things.

As for Saikaley, what motivated her was the 2020 SSUO strike as well as the pandemic, two periods of uncertainty that left support staff with very few options to meet and discuss what was going on. With communication very difficult, she felt she had to act.

Saikaley quickly created a Facebook group to maintain and facilitate exchanges within her community. This experience wasn’t only educational, but it also encouraged her to get more involved. “I’ve been working at the University for nearly 15 years and I really want to see it grow and succeed ... so when the Board of Governors launched the call for nominations, I felt it was time for me to run.”

Diverse voices in the decision-making process: An essential element

Comprised of up to 32 members, including two full-time support staff, the board governs and oversees business management at the University. For example, it approves the annual budget, sets tuition fees, adopts policies and defines the mission, vision and values of the University. With their strong knowledge of University issues, Barkat and Saikaley intend to contribute to different aspects of the Board’s work by pursuing the objectives they set for themselves when they ran.

Saikaley would like to improve communication with support staff concerning major decisions and initiatives, to represent her colleagues and to have their voices heard so as to strengthen employee participation in decision-making processes. As for Barkat, she would like to offer a vision of diversity and raise the board’s awareness of questions affecting the University community, to further transparency and rigour within the board.

After their first meeting, they both feel that the position requires conscientious work. They also feel that the board is welcoming and well-organized, and supports its members.

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