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Lowy moves toward transparency with online contract

by Jacques Gallant March 1, 2011

The decision of Concordia interim president Frederick Lowy to post his contract online shortly after taking office last month has put him on the same level of transparency as his UdeM counterpart, and a step above McGill’s principal, whose contract remains relatively hidden from public view.

In keeping with his promise of a “new era of openness,” Lowy asked that his contract be placed on the official website of the president in early February. The 10-page document, signed by Lowy and Board of Governors chair Peter Kruyt on Feb. 2, reveals that the interim president’s salary of $350,000 is the same as his predecessor Judith Woodsworth’s. Other perks that come with the job, which is set to last from 12 to 18 months, include a $3,000 monthly housing allowance, a $1,200 monthly car allowance, and fees for membership in two clubs.

But the contract does not include a severance clause or the possibility of a paid sabbatical when he leaves. The document makes clear that the Board of Governors can terminate Lowy’s position at any time.

The contract also contains a special housing arrangement which will see Concordia purchase Lowy’s condominium for an unspecified amount. Lowy will then rent back the condo from the university. Concordia has explained that this agreement was necessary because Lowy was planning on selling his condo and leaving Montreal when he was asked to come out of retirement to take up the reins at the university. The university will sell the property after Lowy completes his term.

Lowy’s decision to make his contract public follows that of UdeM rector Guy Breton, who asked that his hiring contract be posted online upon taking office last June. The document indicates that Breton, whose term expires in 2015, makes $365,000 a year to manage a university with 55,000 students. Additional benefits include a club membership and a car allowance carrying a maximum of $10,000 a year.

At Université du Québec à Montreal, no actual contract has been placed online because rector Claude Corbo was not hired by the university’s board of governors, but rather by government decree, indicated UQAM spokeswoman Jenny Desrochers.

“Because UQAM is a member of the Université du Québec network, which is regulated by the government, the rector’s salary is available to the public,” said Desrochers, who confirmed that Corbo’s salary for running a university of 32,000 students was $181,310 as of April 1, 2010. Many of the benefits and conditions related to Corbo’s position are online however, as they are included in the Université du Québec’s “Protocole des cadres supérieurs.”

But things remain far different at McGill, where the contract and even salary for principal Heather Munroe-Blum remains partially shrouded in mystery.

“The contract has never been online, but we will make it available when it has been requested through the proper channels,” indicated McGill spokeswoman Julie Fortier. To be clear, ‘proper channels’ means making an Access to Information request.

According to an article published in 2009 in Le Journal de Montréal, Munroe-Blum’s base salary at the time was $358,000 for leading a university of more than 30,000 students. But add on to that a bevy of other benefits, including housing and car allowances, and that salary suddenly inflates to $587,000, or as the article points out, three times the salary of Quebec premier Jean Charest.

The documents attained by Le Journal de Montréal also indicate that between Jan. 2008 and Sept. 2009, Munroe-Blum was reimbursed $160,000 for various reasons, including $132,000 for travel alone. But McGill chose not to reveal the exact nature of the trips to the newspaper, claiming it had revealed all that it was required to under the law.

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