Concordia University’s Board of Governor’s (BoG) is set to meet on September 28 to vote on the implementation of recommendations by an external governance committee.
The external committee was created in February 2011 in response to the growing concerns of Concordia’s faculty and students over the role of the university’s BoG.
Disconnect between the Concordia community and the BoG began to develop three years ago, with the dismissal of a number of Concordia’s managerial staff. The reasoning behind the dismissals, which cost the University $11 million in severance packages, was not immediately made public.
The dismissal of former Concordia President, Judith Woodsworth in December 2010, led to further questioning of the BoG’s role, leading to the release of an open letter published on January 10. Signed by over 180 faculty members, the letter demanded a full review of the governing structures of Concordia “with particular attention to the constitution and the power of the BoG.”
In response to the tense situation, Concordia’s senate and BoG agreed to appoint an external governance review committee made up of three independent experts to evaluate the current situation at Concordia.
The review committee put forward a report on June 15 analyzing university management, highlighting a lack of transparency from the BoG and a lack of effective communication between the BoG, the senate, and the president. Its proposed solutions were to modify the university’s charter, increase senate and community participation, and increase communication between all governing bodies.
The most significant change proposed by the committee concerned the BoG, whose size would be cut from 42 to 25 members.
In an interview with The Daily, Lex Gill, president of the Concordia Student Union (CSU), said that undergraduate students would be “losing out significantly” if the BoG’s size were reduced. Concordia’s undergraduates would lose 60 per cent of their voting power, she said.
Currently, four undergraduate student representatives sit on the 42 member board; the proposed reduction of the BoG to 25 members would contain only one undergraduate representative.
Gill said that while the university has traditionally empowered student participation in governance, this change in the composition of the BoG is clearly a step in the wrong direction.
She further explained that, at Concordia, “there was a sense that the university valued the student voices.” However, with the new model, “it is clearly no longer the case.”
In an attempt to address these concerns, the ad hoc governance committee proposed adding an “alternate member” on the board, able to vote in the absence of the other student representative.
“But in the end,” Gill said, “this is not really an acceptable offer. They are acknowledging the problem, and doing something about it, but not doing enough.”
The committee’s recommendations also included stricter term limits for governors on the BoG and increased internal community participation in the board.
Lucie Leguin, President of the Concordia University Faculty Association (CUFA), told The Daily that the recommendations were a move in the right direction.
“By June 1, 2012, if the changes are approved there will be a very different board,” he added.
Although Gill recognized that some of the recommendations, if passed, would positively impact the university, she stated that the CSU was still skeptical.
For Gill, a collective effort is needed to regain a trusting and collaborative atmosphere within Concordia’s administration. “The BoG is unwilling to treat students as equal partners,” she said.