Concordia's board: 'modern-day star chamber'

Faculty up in arms over president's departure

Faculty members at Concordia are calling for a total review of the way the university is run in the wake of the alleged firing of university president, Judith Woodsworth. Some have gone even further, calling for the university’s entire board of governors to resign.

While Woodsworth’s departure certainly brought the situation to a head, tensions between the university’s faculty and its board of governors, the majority of whom come from outside the university, have been simmering for years.

On Monday, the department of sociology and anthropology called for the resignation of the board.

The head of the part-time faculty union told the Montreal Gazette, “They are going to have to resign … Nothing else will do.”

Over 200 of the university’s professors, lecturers, librarians and staff signed an open letter condemning the board’s actions and calling for a review of its powers.

According to the letter, written by journalism professor Mike Gasher, “the Board appears to have assumed the role of a modern-day star chamber, acting according to its own dictates, accountable and answerable to no one. It is an abuse of power.”

The letter adds that the announcement of Woodsworth’s departure, “sought to deceive the university community and the public by stating the president resigned ‘for personal reasons’ when we now know her resignation was forced by the Board.”

Lucie Lequin, the president of the Concordia University Faculty Association, which represents full-time professors, has issued a similar statement, calling for faculty to “take back our University so that it remains a University dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and not to more concrete and more bureaucratic cliché-mongering.”

Lequin also criticized the abruptness and secrecy surrounding the departure of Woodsworth; her predecessor, Claude Lajeunesse, who left under similar circumstances; and five vice presidents who have left in recent years.

Both Lequin and the staff letter also criticized the high cost of these departures.

“Is the proliferation of golden parachutes doled out to senior administrators, often, if not mainly, without explanation, an appropriate use of what are largely public financial resources?” Lequin wrote.

The staff letter also criticizes the make up of the board of governors, which has long been a controversial issue at the university.

“Twenty-three of the 40 members of the board represent the ‘community-at-large,’ but in fact represent a very narrow segment of that community given that the vast majority are from the corporate sector. At its upcoming meeting in February, the Board seeks to cut faculty membership–from six to four members. Five external Board members sit on the all-important Executive, Nominating and Senior Salaries committees, constituting an elite clique within the Board itself.”

It is widely believed at Concordia that this clique is behind most major decisions made by the board and forced Woodsworth out.

On Monday, board chair Peter Kruyt issued an open letter in what seems to be an attempt to calm the situation, instead the letter, which failed to answer any of the major questions, appears to have fanned the flames of discontent.

The Gazette has reported that the board has hired an outside public relations firm and is soliciting letters of support, in an attempt to salvage their tattered reputation, however this has been denied by the university.

Both the university’s student newspapers have also weighed in, with editorials criticizing the board, the lack of transparency surrounding Woodsworth departure and the high cost of her severance package.

UPDATE: Students’ union supported removing Woodsworth

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