Trosow: Time to do some things differently

Geoff Robins // Special to Western News

Sam Trosow, a Western Law and Faculty of Information and Media Studies professor, begins his four-year term on Western’s Board of Governors on July 1, the same day incoming Western President Alan Shepard assumes his role on campus.

Sam Trosow is “walking on air” following news of his appointment to Western’s Board of Governors. The Law and Faculty of Information and Media Studies professor begins his four-year term July 1, the same day incoming Western President Alan Shepard assumes his role on campus.

“I have to spend some time getting acclimated to what’s possible,” Trosow said. “I have a lot of work to do – I want to go through all the back minutes to get a handle on what the Board has done but the timing is really good, with the new president (coming in). I sense there will be somewhat of a mood on the Board that it might be time to do some things differently.”

Having served as a member of Senate for two terms, Trosow is well aware of the occasional moments of tension between the university’s bicameral governing bodies.

The University of Western Ontario Act sets out specific roles and responsibilities for both Senate and Board, he explained. The former is often tasked with matters pertaining to academic policy. The problem is, as Trosow sees it, is the Act doesn’t clearly define what constitutes “academic policy.”

The potential for conflict that arises from this ambiguity is one of the matters he hopes to address during his term.

One of the issues that has come up at Senate has been the relationship between the Senate and the Board. Two years ago, Senate felt the Intellectual Property Policy, and now, the Freedom of Expression Policy, were matters of academic policy that needed approval from Senate, he said.

Such policies should require more than recommendation from Senate, Trosow stressed.

At the November 2018 Senate meeting, Senators unanimously recommended and approved the Freedom of Expression Policy. At the same time, some voiced concerns that Western’s structure of governance might mean the Board could make changes that wouldn’t come back to Senate for approval.

The Board sought input from internal and external counsel and determined the policy was a “Board matter of approval,” Andy Hrymak, Provost & Vice-President (Academic), said at the time.

The UWO Act can be within the jurisdiction of both the Board and Senate, Trosow continued, but there needs to be a collegial process in place that would resolve tension in an instance where the two bodies didn’t agree on policy matters.

“We would try to avoid that (tension) from arising. In the case of the Freedom of Expression Policy, there was a consensus that the work of the committee was good and both bodies approved the same language. The more consultation you do in front, the more likely it will be that things work out. But if there was a difference, a joint committee to resolve (the issues) needs to be set up,” he noted.

Trosow also hopes to nudge the Board to a more transparent and open approach to governance. Much of the work the body is done is closed session, he said, and this has resulted in criticism in the past. He hopes to see more discussion take place during open session. Contract, personnel and litigation matters are perhaps the only issues that still need to be done in camera.

“I’d like to see the Board work out a clearer set of rules and guidelines for what goes into open session and what goes into closed session. I am saying we can have a more frank and open (environment) and you have to allow the public to observe – unless it’s one of the specific exceptions like you are getting advice from a solicitor,” Trosow said.

“I know there might some resistance. But with new members on the Board, I hope we can do this. The university needs to be more outward looking with its relationship with the city and the public.”

The separation of ‘town and gown’ is not always the fault of the university, he continued, and the issue of Broughdale student gatherings is an example of a situation in which the city and Western need to come together.

“Broughdale has gotten pretty bad. This is not something the university can solve on its own. The city will need to be more affirmative in enforcing bylaws around campus. For the city to suggest to apply the student code of conduct off campus – that won’t solve the problem,” Trosow said.

“I would like to see the university be more mindful of its effect on surrounding neighbourhoods. I’d like to see the new president and members of the Board hear from neighbourhood groups once in a while.”

Arriving at Western in 2001, Trosow has been involved in campuswide discussions on matters of copyright and academic freedom, among others. He holds a joint appointment in the Faculty of Law and Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

He previously taught at the Golden Gate University School of Law, in the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University, in the School of Information Resources and Library Science at the University of Arizona and at the People’s College of Law in Los Angeles.

He is a member of the California and United States Supreme Court Bars, and was previously engaged as a sole-practitioner in Los Angeles and Berkeley, California, in general civil litigation with an emphasis on tenants’ rights law. He served as a Staff Attorney/Clinical Instructor in the housing unit at the Berkeley Community Law Centre.

Trosow was also a librarian at the Boalt Hall School of Law (University of California, Berkeley). His doctoral work in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA focused on information policy issues.

He has been an active member of the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA), a role he will not continue after assuming his positon on the Board.

Trosow received more than 46 per cent of the vote in being named to the Board, representing the faculty. Wade Boye, a Communications Specialist with Human Resources, edged Melanie Molnar to be named to the Board, representing the staff.