Concordia’s Senate unanimously passed a resolution to hold an independent inquiry of the university’s governance on February 18. The review comes after dozens of departments passed motions expressing non-confidence in Concordia’s Board of Governors (BoG) as a result of the surprise resignation of the university’s president, Judith Woodward, in December 2010.
Woodward is the second president in the last three years to leave the University before serving half their term. A number of other senior administrators have also abruptly resigned from their positions at the University over the last two years.
After her resignation Woodward stated that it was not her choice to leave. This has raised concerns that the Concordia’s BoG is violating Concordia’s bylaws. The bylaws state; “The Board of Governors shall have a superintending and reforming power.”
However, many students and faculty fear that the BoG is inserting itself in the day-to-day affairs of the university. A committee of at least three people will be formed to investigate these concerns over the next few months. Media Relations Advisor at Concordia, Fiona Downey, said that the personnel of the Committee and its mandate are not yet finalized. None of the Committee members will have any links with Concordia.
Student and faculty groups led the calls for the inquiry after becoming frustrated with the BoG’s lack of transparency.
Robert Sonin, a Concordia student activist, called the inquiry a “very small step in the right direction,” and added that many of the problems have been caused by the “total failure” of the BoG to adhere to the principles of collegiality, openness, and fairness.
“We do not know what the actual reasons for the departures have been, though it appears that the departures of senior administrators has cost us over $10 million,” Sonin said.
Sonin was also skeptical as to whether the BoG will even adhere to the Committee’s recommendations, as Board members are seen to “feel entitled to play with the University as if it were their toy.”
He argued that the Boards’ priorities are “drawn from the corporate world” with the BoG’s priorities being “overtly hostile to all other functions [of a University].”
“The problem is as much a set of bad habits and reflexive postures as it is bad structures,” He continued. “No one can have an opinion worth anything because nobody knows what actually went on [during the dismissal of Woodward].”
Sonin would like to see the Committee investigate the situation to determine which board members pressured whom, and how. He would also like extensive student, faculty and staff consultation during the process.
However, Downey told The Daily, “The Committee is not meant to be a representative committee of the different constituencies but rather a committee of experts.”