Concordia goes into damage control over president's departure

New statement from board of governors raises more questions than it answers

Concordia University seems to have gone into damage control mode over the recent and sudden departure of president Judith Woodsworth.

Today, the chair of the university’s board of governors, Peter Kruyt, issued an “open letter” purporting to provide some “context” to her departure.

But the letter raises more questions than it answers.

While Woodsworth has told reporters that she was forced out, in his letter, Kruyt wrote that Woodsworth resigned and that he’s standing by the university’s initial statement on the issue, which “was approved by both Concordia and Dr. Woodsworth.”

There are some passages in the letter that definitely invite further questions. For instance Kruyt wrote that: “In an extremely competitive market for students, professors, administrators and funding, it is essential that we have the right leadership in place.” Is he implying that Woodsworth may indeed have been pushed to quit? Well, there’s no way to find out because he’s not talking to the media about it.

There is one piece of new information in the letter, apparently Woodsworth’s departure does not have anything to do with misuse of university funds.

Concordia’s board has been taking a lot of flack over the Woodsworth situation from both inside and outside the university. Last week, stories ran in the Gazette and the Globe and Mail suggesting that Concordia’s board is really just a rubber stamp for a small clique of businesspeople who actually run the school. Popular local blogger, Steve Faguy has a post along the same lines that gives some good background.

But the big thing that’s missing here is students. Hardly any of the stories that have appeared in the non-student press have quoted any students and while Woodsworth has talked to the Globe, the Gazette and CTV, she’s so far refused to talk to either of Concordia’s student newspapers. Even today’s letter, supposedly addressed to the “Concordia Community,” was sent to the Gazette before it was sent to students.

But who is getting quoted is almost as interesting as who isn’t. In the Globe and Mail story there are several quotes from Enn Raudsepp, a former Concordia professor. While I think it’s a little strange that Raudsepp is quoted here because he retired before Woodsworth took over as president, what’s particularly interesting about his quotes is how they’re framed. When Woodsworth’s husband, Lindsay Crysler, became the director of Concordia’s journalism program in 1978, Raudsepp became the associate director. When Crysler retired in 1997, Raudsepp became the program’s director. This isn’t just a retired professor saying nice things about Woodsworth, it’s someone who worked closely with her husband for almost 20 years, however none of this is mentioned in the story.

So will today’s letter mollify Concordia students? I doubt it. While the letter talks about how well the board has managed the school’s finances, it’s hard to swallow coming from a group that’s constantly crying poor and who has now spent over $2 million in four years paying the salaries of chief executives who have been fired or pushed to resign.

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