Home CommentaryOpinions There is a governance crisis at concordia

There is a governance crisis at concordia

by Archives September 2, 2008

It has been known for some time that Concordia’s Board of Governors (the highest decision making body at our university) does not work properly. Concordia’s Board is charged with making all the major non-academic decisions that affect our school such as increasing tuition, hiring administrators and setting the overall path of our university. Over the past year major problems within the Board and the dysfunctional and even undemocratic way in which it operates have become increasingly clear to the university community and to the public. Last September Concordia’s new President Claude Lajeunesse departed the university abruptly after he was forced to resign by Concordia’s Board of Governors Executive Committee and Chairperson Peter Kruyt. Lajeunesse’s resignation was surprising not only because it came only two years into his five year contract, or for the millions of dollars in severance pay he was provided with, but because his departure has never been fully explained. Following Lajeunesse’s firing/resignation, a number of Board members quit the Board because they felt it was being run in a secretive and undemocratic manner which had the effect of harming the university.
More recently, new concerns about the way in which the Board operates have come to light after the Concordia Student Union won a Quebec Court injunction against the Board after it attempted to increase student tuition at an illegally held teleconference meeting (the meeting was illegal because it violated the Quebec Companies Act). The teleconference meeting was most likely held to prevent students from staging a protest at the meeting which at earlier meetings had contributed to defeating the same tuition proposal. The tuition proposal itself was advocated by members of the Board such as James Cherry (the CEO of Montreal’s two airports. He has no connection to Concordia) to prevent the university from being in a deficit position which was caused by firing Lajeunesse and paying him millions of dollars to not talk about his departure.
Before fully exploring the problems that exists within the Board, it is important to recognize the important role the Board plays at our university. The Board of Governors is Concordia’s highest decision making body and is tasked with making all of it’s non-academic policy decisions. The Board decides on tuition increases, it hires university administrators and deans, and it oversees the fulfillment of the universities mission statement.
Unfortunately Concordia’s Board is fundamentally broken and is no longer – if it ever was – producing results for students and other university community members and is not furthering the mission statement of our university. And, maybe that’s no surprise given that out of the 40 members that comprise the Board only 5 of them are students and 6 of them faculty. 23 members come from what is called the “community at large” which effectively is code for CEO’s and Vice Presidents of influential North American corporations like Hydro Quebec, Power Corp and the Molson Coors Brewing Company. These individuals have no connection to Concordia and are completely out of touch with the needs of students and faculty and yet comprise a majority of the Board effectively giving them the ability to do whatever they want.
As if the idea that a small group of society’s elite are given the power to set the direction of an academic institution wasn’t offense enough, the process by which they are selected lacks even the faintest hint of transparency. The Board’s nomination committee – which puts forward candidates to fill all of the community at large seats on the Board – is comprised only of these external members, with no input from students or faculty. This begs the question, whose interests is the Board here to serve?
Far from being the standard, Concordia is one of only five universities in Quebec where members external to the university community control a majority of votes on its Board of Governors. To further exemplify this disparity is the fact that the part time faculty, who teach roughly forty percent of the classes at Concordia are not given a seat on Board (they have one observer with no vote).
It’s time that students began challenging the Board’s undemocratic and unrepresentative nature. Concordia’s Board of Governors is not working for students, faculty or alumni and its time to put an end to the irresponsible direction that has been taken by the “community at large” Board members who really should not be on the Board to begin with.

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