A report released this week by the external governance review committee calling on Concordia to conduct a major overhaul of its governing bodies has drawn generally positive reviews from student and faculty associations, while at the same time giving them cause for concern for some of their own powers.
Concordia Student Union president Lex Gill described the report as ”pretty damning,” saying it validated much of what students had been saying all along about leadership issues and adversarial cultures on campus.
”A lot of us have been talking about governance for a long time, and I was generally satisfied with what the committee members had to say,” she said, mentioning that she was especially pleased with the report’s recommendation that a greater effort be made to bring more diversity to the Board of Governors’ external members.
”I think everybody has a stake in the university, but when we’re talking about diversisty, we want real diversity, so not just alumni, but it would also be nice to see a concerned parent of a student, or an artist” she said. ”There’s a cultural disconnect between some of the stakeholders right now. So let’s get a BoG that represents a multiplicity of experiences around campus.”
But Gill’s primary concern is with the committee’s BoG recommendation on internal membership, which the committee says should include five full-time faculty, one part-time faculty, two students, and one staff member. There are currently five students on the Board “ four undergrads and one graduate student” which would probably be reduced to one of each under the recommended system.
”If they do reduce the BoG to 25, I would suggest lowering the number of undergrad student representatives to three, because at least then we would have the same proportion of student representation we have now,” said Gill, who sits as one of the undergrad representatives on BoG, and who indicated that any decision regarding who should represent the undergrads in the event of a seat reduction should be left up to the CSU council.
At the Concordia University Faculty Association, which had been one of the most vocal groups calling on the BoG’s external members to go following the ousting of university president Judith Woodsworth, CUFA president Lucie Lequin said she was particularly satisfied with the committee’s recommendation that more powers be awarded to Senate.
”At a lot of universities, senates have a lot more power than our Senate,” she said. ”There was a time when our Senate was really involved, but I think maybe we weren’t paying enough attention, and Senate gradually lost power. But Senate must be the real academic power at the university.”
But it is the recommended selection process for the university president that has Lequin worried. The external committee members describe the appointment of the president as ”the single most important responsibility of the Board of Governors,” saying that in the past the BoG was unable to make an appointment in full confidence. Therefore, it recommended that the presidential search committee be chaired by the BoG chair and ”be comprised of a majority of Board members, internal and external.”
”This recommendation gives much more power to the Board, but what about faculty? Students? It doesn’t specify that faculty will even be sitting on the search committee,” said Lequin, who is also upset with the recommendation that the short-listed candidate for president no longer be presented to the university community before their appointment. ”The Board participated in the past two presidential selections, they are the ones who hired the presidents and then they fired them. So what does the Board want? What are the qualities they want? I am on the current presidential search committee and I will be asking the Board members this question.”
But the big question now is whether the Board of Governors is interested in adopting the recommendations put before them.
”If we all take responsibility for the report, we will indeed see many, if not all, of its recommendations implemented,” wrote professor David Douglas with the Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association in an email. ”Make no mistake, there is still important work to do here to put Concordia on the path we all wish to see it on, but at least we now see that path.”
Douglas expressed his hope that if the governance issue is finally corrected at the higher levels, ”perhaps we can collectively take the lead and responsibility to extend the principles learned there to the lower levels of departmental governance.”
The report, which was already presented on June 15 to a joint meeting of the BoG’s executive committee and the Senate’s steering committee, will again be presented to the full Board at its June 23 meeting.
Concordia’s interim president, Frederick Lowy, will be hosting a public meeting to go over the report on June 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the J.A. de SÃ¨ve Cinema. In a statement issued to the university community, Lowy said that it is difficult to imagine a culture of contempt existing among Concordia’s students, faculty, and staff, but indicated that ”this fall, the appropriate bodies of the university will make decisions as to the changes that will help us improve our governance culture and facilitate the pursuit of success.”
The report can be consulted on the website of the VP Institutional Relations and Secretary General. Comments on the report should be sent by July 31 to Andrea Renaud at firstname.lastname@example.org.
”There are some excellent recommendations in this report, but it all depends on implementation,” said Gill. ”There is an incredible opportunity for change here, but it will take a lot of courage to implement and adopt these recommendations.”