Di Grappa new acting President

Michael Di Grappa, Concordia University’s Vice President Services, doesn’t know how long he’ll be needed in his new position as the university’s acting President. “It could be just 6 hours,” he jokingly told The Concordian in an interview last Friday, the day after his appointment by the Board of Governors on Oct.

Michael Di Grappa, Concordia University’s Vice President Services, doesn’t know how long he’ll be needed in his new position as the university’s acting President. “It could be just 6 hours,” he jokingly told The Concordian in an interview last Friday, the day after his appointment by the Board of Governors on Oct. 18.
He said he had not sought the position but was approached about a week ago by the Board’s Chairman, Peter Kruyt, if he would consider filling in “on an acting basis” if the Board couldn’t find an interim president by Nov. 1, the date after outgoing President Claude Lajeunesse’s departure. “I said I would be honoured to serve and help in any way that I can,” said Di Grappa.
“The intention now is for [Di Grappa] to move us forward for the next few weeks, possibly a month, before an interim [president] is appointed . . . But we are still recruiting actively an interim president, someone who would really take over the role of the president until a permanent one is brought in,” explained the university’s spokesperson, Chris Mota.
As acting President, Di Grappa said he will likely not be called upon to make major decisions on the university’s behalf that would have “long-term impact” – reviewing the bylaws of the university, or major decisions regarding academic matters, for example. He said he will consult with acting Provost Louise Dandurand and the Faculty Deans to make decisions.
Di Grappa, who has worked as VP Services since March 2000, could be one of the university’s longest serving administrators. His ties with Concordia began more than twenty years ago when he came as a student in 1981. When asked what changes he has seen the university undergo in his 26 years at the school, Di Grappa responded diplomatically, “Obviously, there have been a lot of ups and downs,” without elaborating.
Asked how he would describe the administration’s relations with the student unions, Di Grappa said they had “a very good relationship with the [Concordia Student Union]. We may not agree on all the issues, but we have a dialogue.”
As for the Graduate Student Association (GSA), he said the GSA had some “internal issues they need to resolve” that he “hopes they overcome.” The GSA’s Executive virtually imploded last year as members accused one another of abuses of power. The Executive had to be dismantled and administered the rest of the year by the Dean of Students.
Di Grappa said he would like to see the student associations work together with the administration for the goals they have in common, such as accessible education.
Back in the day, said Di Grappa, when he was Chair of the Concordia University Student’s Association (CUSU) in 1983, the association went with the school’s rector to Quebec City to deliver petitions to the Minister of Education asking for government financing. “That’s an example where the student association worked with the administration. That’s the kind of thing that I think we should encourage.”
Di Grappa seemed to take somewhat of a different position than current President Lajeunesse, who has argued in the media and before the Quebec National Assembly’s Parliamentary Commission on Education that the government should end the tuition freeze, and deregulate tuition fees.
“I think that it’s about time that there was more money into the overall education budget of this province. The government . probably needs to inject more,” said Di Grappa.
“We have a tremendous accessible system that we should be proud of and that we need to maintain accessibility to. The issue though is, can we continue to provide the quality of education that students demand and require for Quebec society?”
He didn’t say if he thought students should bear the brunt of the cost for their education but added that “any discussion of that has to be matched by an infusion into scholarships for bursaries for students who cannot pay those increased tuition fees.”
When asked if students would be granted academic immunity if they vote to strike at the Special General Assembly on Oct. 29, Di Grappa couldn’t comment. Mota answered for him, saying that because it was an academic issue, the Provost will decide if immunity will be considered. “I think it’s fair to say it will still be business as usual, classes will be taught,” said Mota.
Di Grappa graduated in 1984 from the Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs before going to Columbia University for his Master’s of Public Policy and Administration.
His first position at Concordia was Assistant in the Office of the Rector in 1986. He moved into the Physical Resources Department in 1988 and became its Executive Director in 1997.
Di Grappa will continue his work as Vice President Services and said he didn’t foresee any problems doing both. “If this acting position is only for a few weeks or a month, I will do my best to do both. If it gets any longer than that, then I’ll have to look at what I can do, but I have an exceptional team of people who work in the services sector,” said Di Grappa.

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