Members of the Concordia community have welcomed returning rector Frederick Lowy as interim president, but this has not quelled their fervent demands for the Board of Governors that appointed him to just step down.
A unanimous Board of Governors decision Friday morning named Lowy to replace an ousted Judith Woodsworth until a final successor is named.
Lowy made an appearance at the afternoon senate meeting, where members used the 45 minutes of time allotted to fill him in on their frustration and scathing anger over the Board’s decisions over the past few years. So many people, many of them media, came for seats that there was an overflow room with a streaming version of the meeting.
Lowy was given the floor at the start meeting, and spoke for about 10 minutes. “I welcome the opportunity to be here,” he said, calling his return “a new old situation.”
He readily admitted in opening remarks to the senate that he was not fully aware of the concerns and issues at Concordia, as he had just returned from outside the country. But he said he could not resist “a very considerable pull” to come back to the university he enjoyed working at up until five years ago. “The university needs some help, and it seems I could help.”
Lowy said he addressed the Board earlier in the day, and went on to present his view on how the university higher administration should operate. “It is not the job of the Board of Governors to be involved in the actual management of the university, and senate shouldn’t do the Board’s job.”
Over a period of 45 minutes allotted to the airing of opinion, several professors, and four students, spoke out. While they took the time to welcome him Lowy, they made it clear that they expect action in the form of an investigation of the Board of Governance.
Graduate student and former Graduate Student Association VP Erik Chevrier asked for a clarification of the circumstances of Woodsworth’s departure.
Maria Peluso, a longtime faculty member, senator and president of Concordia University Part-time Faculty Association, offered “Fred” a warm welcome, but was blunt in her assessment of the decision: “I’m confident the Board means well, but doesn’t do well.”
In no uncertain terms, senator and faculty member William Lynch called the decision to oust Woodsworth a “decapitation,” and worse than her predecessor Claude Lajeunesse’s exit. Professor Christopher Ross found the incident was a symptom of how the Board functions. “The Board ignores us, and we are the university, not the buildings. […] How many Board members have ever visited a classroom?”
Marvin Coleby, one of two undergraduates to speak, echoed Ross’ sentiments, and affirmed that students are aware that there are problems with the Board.
The senate ultimately passed three motions to be sent to Board: a call for board chair Peter Kruyt to step down, a committee be struck to examine governance at Concordia, and committees for appointing new board members be composed of half board members and half senate members. The call is similar to the letter issued earlier in the week by a group that represents eight worker’s unions at Concordia, some of whom are represented on the senate. It called for a review of governance and for the chair and vice-chairs to resign.
Members of the Board were invited to attend the senate meeting, but a message issued by Kruyt on Thursday declined the invitation, saying the Board had to meet to approve Lowy’s candidacy. “In view of this priority, rather than attending this upcoming Senate meeting, I think it would be most productive to invite Senators to a future meeting of the Board of Governors before the end of April, 2011,” the message read. This meeting, he said, would “provide an effective forum in which to foster an open and constructive dialogue on the issues.” The next Board meeting is Feb. 17.
Kruyt said he had made “concerted efforts to reach out to the Concordia community” over the past two weeks but his public communication to students has consisted of mass emails.
Speaking after the senate meeting, Chevrier was optimistic about senate’s work. “I’m happy that the motions did pass. I think that it’s just a stepping stone. I think there was other remedies that could have been more extreme to be taken but I think this is just the beginning.”