When school resumes in a little more than one week, one familiar face will be missing from Concordia. Judith Woodsworth stepped down Dec. 22 as president and vice-chancellor, posts she held for slightly more than two years, effective immediately.
The reasons for her stepping down are personal, according to a university-issued statement that was emailed to students.
“Dr. Woodsworth loved the students, and got to know many of them despite the sheer size of the student body,” the statement reads. “She was approachable, and was indeed approached [by students] in the library, in Le Gym, in elevators and hallways, in coffee shops around the campus and even out on the street. Convocation was her favourite time of year, and she exuded her characteristic warmth as every student crossed the stage.”
Despite the affectionate and appreciative statement, some university staff members have said Woodsworth was forced to leave. One university employee told the Concordian that she had been let go a few days before the statement was issued.
Woodsworth has declined to comment for the moment, according to her husband and former chair of Concordia’s journalism department, Lindsay Crysler. He told the Concordian she had been into work earlier in the week, including Dec. 22, the day of the announcement.
Woodsworth served less time than is needed to complete a bachelor’s degree at Concordia, for a period of just 28 months. She had two years remaining in her contract, and will receive a severance just over $700,000, the equivalent of two years’ salary.
Her successor will be the third president to serve Concordia in five years.
Prior to Woodsworth, Claude Lajeunesse served only two years of his five-year contract before walking away from the job in 2007, amidst reports he was disliked.
Despite the abrupt news, the doors will apparently remain open to the former president: “Dr. Woodsworth will be welcomed back to the Faculty should she avail herself of that option,” said Peter Kruyt, chair of the Board of Governors. Woodsworth was a member of Concordia’s DÃ©partement d’Ã©tudes franÃ§aise in the “80s and “90s.
The sudden departure comes shortly after two of the university’s vice-presidents vacated their jobs this fall. VP external Michael Di Grappa took a position at McGill, and Kathy Assayag stepped down from her post as VP of advancement and alumni relations.
But Concordia dismisses this trend as a symptom of anything serious. “There’s comings and goings,” said communications officer Fiona Downie. “We actually don’t feel that there have been more departures than there are at other universities of senior administration.”
Vice-president of external relations Bram Freedman will be filling in as acting president over the holidays, and an interim president is to be named in January. The search for a new president will also begin shortly, Downie said.