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Take it slow and steady

by The Concordian September 13, 2011
This past week Senate proposed inviting members of the Board of Governors to form a bicameral committee to suggest recommendations for the Shapiro Report by November.
The Shapiro Report, of course, is the report stemming from the external governance review committee which offered up a bevy of recommendations to mend Concordia’s serious governance issues.
The Board of Governors and the Senate are, of course, the two bodies that need fixing.
Several firings (or “resignations due to personal reasons”) of senior administrators and millions of dollars in severance packages later, it is relatively comforting to know that both the Board of Governors and the Senate are ready to work on moving forward, or to quote from the Shapiro Report, work on moving away from the “culture of contempt” at Concordia.
The road will probably be more than a little bumpy, but hopefully the end result will be one that can at least be considered satisfactory by the campus community.
The Senate voted on Friday to endorse the spirit of the Shapiro Report’s recommendations, but wants to take more time to look at the finer details. This approach is in stark contrast to that of the Board of Governors’ ad hoc committee on governance, which is ready to tell the full Board that it endorses all of the report’s BoG-related recommendations.
The Senate’s way of doing things seems, at least on paper, to be more reasonable, and the BoG would be wise to follow suit. The Senate needs to take the necessary time to carefully study the legal framework in order to reach the point when it can truly claim that it is the supreme authority on academic affairs at Concordia, rather than a “subservient creature of the Board of Governors” as provost David Graham put it at Senate.
The BoG, meanwhile, would do well to take the necessary time to look over some of the more contentious recommendations that its ad hoc committee was quite enthusiastic to support, notably the recommendation to reduce undergraduate representation on the board. At the moment, undergrads have four representatives, but the Shapiro Report recommended reducing that number to one. The ad hoc committee then tweaked the recommendation to include one undergrad rep with speaking and voting rights, and one undergrad rep with speaking rights only.
Neither the Shapiro Report’s nor the ad hoc committee’s recommendations make the least bit of sense when it comes to undergraduate representation, and the Concordia Student Union has already called them out on it. In an open letter sent to the ad hoc committee, the CSU reminded the members that if it is to maintain the current level of undergrad representation on the BoG, “theoretically there would be 3.125 student representatives, or one student for every 14,000 students.”
At 30,000 strong, the undergraduates represent the largest segment of the campus community, and deserve to be adequately represented on the BoG.
There are, of course, some recommendations that do appear to be a solution to Concordia’s long malfunctioning governance system and that would be wise to implement, even if they must be modified. For example, a smaller Board of Governors could prove to be more efficient and reduce in-fighting, especially if internal members—the ones who actually work at the university—could gain a higher status on the BoG.
Nonetheless, it has become clear that both the Board of Governors and Senate need to take more time in order to avoid doing anything that could be later described as irrational. The university community needs to be given more time to voice its opinion on Concordia’s governance system, something that it is already doing by making suggestions via online survey as to the best person suited for the job of president and vice-chancellor.
After the PR nightmare that Concordia and those who study and work here went through this past year, it is obvious that a solution is needed sooner rather than later.
But at the same time, it is important to remember that the full cost incurred by the university for the Shapiro Report was $78,000, money that could have been easily spent on student awards, for example.
It is therefore all too rational for the Board of Governors and Senate to mull a little further over the recommendations and come to a solution that will prove to be sensible and not require such an exorbitant sum of money to be spent on a governance report ever again.

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