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The summer is ripe for change

by The Concordian April 3, 2012
The summer is ripe for change

This summer, two all-too familiar faces will be leaving Concordia. Both Peter Kruyt, who has held on to the chairmanship of the Board of Governors for far too long, and interim President Frederick Lowy, who already did a 10-year stint at this university in a previous life, will be relinquishing their posts. There has never been a better time for Concordia to usher in a new era of openness—it all depends on who gets selected to fill Kruyt’s and Lowy’s positions.

To be fair, Lowy is an all-around pleasant gentleman, who at least gives off the impression that he cares about students; he might even wave to them on the rare occasion he ventures down from his perch on the MB building’s 15th floor. One notable example of Lowy’s openness was his decision to speak to students who staged a sit-in outside his office on April 2. He even went as far as indicating his interest in scheduling a further, much longer meeting. What a guy.

That being said, Lowy’s successor will have many challenges to deal with upon assuming office this August—including not getting fired, a fate that befell Lowy’s two predecessors. The new Concordia president will need to use their term to rebuild students’ confidence in their educational institution. Students have had it with the severance packages and high salaries, and want—and deserve—better.

Should Lowy’s successor truly care about this university and all of its many merits (because despite its less-than-flattering reputation lately, Concordia still has some merits), then perhaps they would be interested in a pay cut? Because let’s face it, at a time when universities are asking students to pay more money for their education because schools say they’re broke, it really isn’t the best time for university presidents such as Concordia’s to be earning $350,000 a year, right?

The new titleholder will also need to be much more visible on campus than those who have held the post in the past. It would also help to know what exactly Concordia’s president does to earn such a massive salary. This closed door policy on the movement and responsibilities of Concordia’s top administrator has to change. Advice to an incoming president, whoever that might be: approachability is your best friend. Take a page from Provost and active tweeter David Graham’s book, and make an effort to be visible in the Concordia community. Show students you care, or risk proving that you don’t.

As for BoG Chair Peter Kruyt, is there really that much to say? The man has shown nothing but contempt for student representatives on the board this year as they tried to push for more transparency at Concordia’s highest governing body. Watching him in action at a BoG meeting, particularly when dealing with student reps, is like watching someone’s extremely cantankerous uncle work his magic at a family dinner party, the magic of course being unpleasantness and downright hostility.

If Concordia is actually serious about moving ahead with good governance and a new era of openness, then it needs someone on the BoG who treats all of its members equally—and who doesn’t address the student reps by their first names while politely addressing the rest of the BoG crew as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” It must be proven to students that they are legitimate stakeholders in this university’s best interests, and what better way to show that than by having a welcoming and respectful chair at the Board of Governors?

Finally, this summer will also see a report released by a team of external auditors who have been tasked with reviewing five severance packages totalling $2.4 million handed out to senior employees between 2009 and 2010. Who knows what the report will actually say, but in reality it’s difficult to imagine why auditors worth $25,000 are necessary in the first place. The administration should know by now that they messed up with the severance packages, and should avoid handing out golden parachutes in the future as if they were fresh cupcakes given to please a grumbling child.

Hopefully with the added hours of daylight, Concordia’s top administrators will make the right decisions that will place Concordia on the right track to once again becoming an institution that isn’t the butt of all mismanagement of public dollars jokes in Quebec.

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