Members of the Arts and Students Federation of Associations council have expressed confusion, and displeasure upon finding out that they no longer hold a seat on the faculty’s Honorary Degrees Committee, a committee which is no longer operational according to the Dean’s office.
“The work of the faculty’s Honorary Degree Committee has been suspended for over a year,” Heather Adams-Robinette, executive assistant to the dean of the faculty of arts and science wrote in an email. “The Dean took this decision when changes to the process at the university-level made meetings of this committee unnecessary.”
Most councillors only found out about the change during the first ASFA council meeting of the year last Thursday. The announcement by ASFA President Aaron Green that appointments to the Honorary Degrees Committee were no longer mandated and needed to be stricken from the agenda roused immediate questioning from some of those in attendance.
Green was made aware of the change when he was emailed the list of committee appointments by the office of the dean in August. The Honorary Degrees Committee was not included in the email, but was mistakenly kept on the council meeting agenda.
“I definitely feel that it is of the utmost importance that students are well-represented in the arts and science faculty committees,” Green said, “and I definitely feel that that sentiment was resonated by numerous councillors on ASFA council.”
Upset about the change and passionate about getting a student on that committee, Jasmine Stuart, VP external affairs and council representative for the Women’s Studies Student Association, motioned to have Green look into the matter, which was passed unanimously by the council.
“Concordia presents the awarded Honorary Degrees at convocation ceremonies, our last student experience,” Stewart wrote in an email. “It is my opinion that student input in this matter is just as important and valuable as the other committees we appointed arts & science representatives to.”
Following through with his mandate, Green attempted to contact the office of the dean the following day, but received no response until late Monday evening. Only then was he made aware of the suspension of the committee.
“It is a priority for us to find out why the university removed this committee. (The council) mandated me to find out and that’s what I’m doing,” Green said, adding that he would “stop at nothing” to get answers from the faculty.
Despite Adams-Robinette’s statement that the committee’s work has been suspended for over a year, ASFA councillors were appointed to that committee in mid-September of 2009. Then-VP finance of ASFA Audrey Depault and chief electoral officer Colby Briggs were elected to the committee as council representative and student-at-large, respectively.
Judging by the minutes of the council meeting in Sept. 2009, when appointments to that committee took place, the position was one of interest for the simple fact that many students genuinely care about who receives these honorary degrees. According to Arndell Leblanc, ASFA’s VP communications at the time, the ASFA student representatives who sat on the committee could not recommend candidates, but gave input on those brought up by the faculty.
At least one student in attendance during last year’s meeting also called some past choices by the faculty of award recipients “questionable.”
While Adams-Robinette could not elaborate at the time on the exact changes that made the committee unnecessary, she did assure students that, “should the decision be taken to start meeting again, then ASFA will maintain the same representation as it had in the past.”
“The Faculty has always been committed to representation by its graduate and undergraduate students on our committees,” Adams-Robinette concluded.