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Would-be president makes impressive debut

by Archives February 26, 2008

Concordia got its first look this week at the woman who wants to be the school’s next president, and while Concordia’s faculty applauded, she got mixed reviews from students at her current university.
On Monday, Judith Woodsworth spoke at an open meeting of the senate and the board of governors, before taking questions from the public.
Woodsworth who is the outgoing President of Laurentian University, is a former member of Concordia’s French studies faculty, where she taught from 1980 to 1997.
According to Woodsworth, she was excited at the prospect of returning to Concordia.
“I want to come back; I want to lead this institution . . . Concordia is the kind of innovative place, that allowed me to be innovative, creative.”
Students at Laurentian University, however, were less than convinced.
“You won’t be getting an innovator in Dr. Woodsworth. She’s not about to rock the boat at Concordia,” said Sébastien Perth, President of Laurentian’s Students’ General Association. “[I] can’t think of anything that would warrant her consideration for the presidency of such an institution as Concordia.”
Ashley Thomson, Director of communications for the faculty association at Laurentian was much more positive.
“She’s very committed to students,” he said, noting that she once took in four students, who were kicked out of their apartment, and let them live with her for three months. “I’m very sorry she’s leaving.”
An inevitable question was the issue of university finances. “As of this fiscal year.the university is in a position of deficit.our ongoing costs exceed our ongoing revenues,” noted Andrew Fernandez, a student senator. When asked what she planned to do about it, Woodsworth responded with a joke. “Just my luck right? I was told when I was applying for this job that the university had been without a deficit for seven or eight years and then as I’m getting closer to being offered the job they told me about this small problem, the deficit.”
According to Alex Taylor Editor-in-Chief of the Lambda, Laurentian’s student paper, if Woodsworth had stayed at Laurentian she’d be facing a deficit there too. Taylor said this year the school is looking at “a deficit of at least $12 million dollars.”
Woodsworth became president of Laurentian in 2002. In 2003, the university lost $86,000. With the influx of students from the “double cohort” in 2004 Laurentian recorded a surplus of $5,430,000. But since hitting that high point Laurentian’s revenues had dropped to $3,685,000 the next year. By 2007 the university’s surplus fell to $227,000. But Woodsworth defended her record. “We’ve been spending the money that we had. You don’t want to have a surplus at the end of the year because the board doesn’t like that. The board doesn’t like you to have a shortfall but they don’t like you to have excess money.”
While Woodsworth’s predecessor, Claude Lajeunesse, was a strong advocate for increased tuition, she sees the issue in less absolute terms. “It’s a very complex question,” she said. But she does support increased tuition fees. “Quebec has the lowest tuition in all of Canada and probably could stand to be increased somewhat,” she said. Woodsworth said that any increases need to be balanced with financial aid for students from both the university and the government.
“If I had my way, there would be no tuition anywhere and university would be free the way primary education and high school education is free. However I won’t necessarily get my way because public policy in this country has determined that the individuals who benefit from an education should contribute in some way.” Woodsworth raised tuition at Laurentian last year. According to Taylor the increase was as high as eight per cent for some programs.
Woodsworth said she sees one of her main roles as president ensuring that “there is a harmonious relationship” between the university’s senate and board of governors. Concordia’s two highest governing bodies have frequently been at odds in recent months. “It would be my responsibility to be the hinge between the senate and the board,” she said.
The board of governors will meet Feb. 29 to decide if Woodsworth will be Concordia’s new president. She is currently the only candidate.

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