Concordia’s media relations team was in damage control mode on Wednesday after a fake email was sent out indicating, among other things, that the university would be granting academic amnesty to all students who have been striking against tuition hikes over the past several weeks.
The email was sent around 8:30 a.m. by a person identifying themselves as Concordia media relations director “Christina Moto,” clearly a play on the name of Concordia’s actual spokesperson, Christine Mota. Three hours later, Concordia issued a statement saying that the email was fake, and that the university’s position on the strike and on the government’s planned tuition increases has not changed.
Mota herself said that the email was “unfortunate,” and said that the university had been fielding calls today from students who were confused with Concordia’s apparent change of heart. She said it was unclear how many people received the email. Asked on Wednesday if Concordia would conduct an investigation to find the source of the “Christina Moto” email, she said that the university’s first priority was to get the right information out to the public. In an email on Friday, Mota said that the university was “examining [its] options.”
In the fake email, the sender mentions an early-morning March 21 gala that was to be held at Concordia’s GM building, where the university would “celebrate the ongoing pursuit of accessible education in Quebec.”
The person then went on to describe ways that Concordia would “enhance its competitive position among world universities,” which would include: granting academic amnesty to student strikers, investing $3.1 million into student bursaries and scholarships (equivalent to the total sum of severance packages handed out to six former senior Concordia employees), calling on the government to pursue other methods of funding for universities, including progressive taxation, and finally, re-evaluating the composition of Concordia’s Board of Governors by having members of the Concordia community elect the community-at-large members.
Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill said that the CSU was not responsible for the email, and called it a “light-hearted” form of political satire.
“I feel that while this press release was cheeky, it drew attention to a lot of the things that are wrong with the university, things that students wish they would hear from the university,” she said, adding that she hoped no students were confused by the email. “It was publicized pretty early in the day that it was a hoax message.”
In the statement later sent out by the university, Concordia reminded members of the campus community that its position on the strike remains the same. It has already made clear that students who choose to strike must discuss their academic status with their professors, who may grant leniency if desired.
With regards to severance packages, Concordia announced in early March that it is hiring external auditors to review five severance packages totalling $2.4 million that were issued between 2009 and 2010. In terms of Board of Governors composition, the body will be reduced to 25 members as of July 1, with 15 members forming the community-at-large faction. The Shapiro Report, which looked into Concordia’s governance troubles last spring, called on Concordia to ensure that the incoming community-at-large members represent the diversity of the City of Montreal. The BoG has often faced criticism for the fact that many of its external members are from the corporate world.