Quebec inter-university organization continues rebranding effort

New name change reflects impact of 2012 student strikes

It flew largely under the radar of the McGill student body but as Claude Bédard, the new interim director general of the Conférence des Recteurs et des Principaux des Universités du Québec (CREPUQ), explained, the changes occurring last week at Quebec’s foremost inter-university lobby were a direct result of the 2012 student strike.

On January 10,  CREPUQ announced that it was changing its name to the Bureau de coopération interuniversitaire (BCI).

The changes come as part of an ongoing overhaul of the organization and have included the removal of the organization’s role of lobbying on behalf of universities, as well as the firing of its former director general Daniel Zizian.

 “In the aftermath of the red squares in spring 2012, universities were pointed at, quite vigorously, by students and the press,” Bédard told The Daily.

“There were all kinds of blames being levelled at universities [and] university administration.”

 Bédard explained that as part of CREPUQ’s former mandate as an advocate on behalf of university administrations, it attempted to “intervene” in the discourse directed against the schools.

“Some interventions were judged as being inadequate by some rectors [chancellors],” he continued. “That whole situation eventually ended up in CREPUQ being blamed openly by some rectors in spring 2013.”

CREPUQ’s troubles gained some prominence in May with various media outlets reporting that several member universities were threatening to leave the organization.

Olivier Marcil, McGill Vice-Principal (Communications and External Affairs), painted a slightly different picture of the internal strife CREPUQ encountered in the spring.

“There’s been some conflicts of interest between members,” Marcil told The Daily.

 “Some institutions felt that CREPUQ was a tool [that no longer was good] a tool that was not still a good tool to defend their own interests.”

Despite an article that appeared in La Presse which claimed otherwise, Marcil refuted that McGill was attempting to form a competing organization in collaboration with the province’s other “private charter” universities – typically those outside of the Université du Québec system established by a private charter.

“It’s never been on the table that the charter universities would create a kind of CREPUQ of their own.”

 Bédard explained that the ongoing changes are designed to make CREPUQ more amenable to increasingly disillusioned universities.

“Eventually the board of CREPUQ, which was made of the heads of all the university establishments in Quebec, had to decided to make major changes to CREPUQ and the way CREPUQ operates,” he noted.

“It’s following up all those discussions and the turmoil [in the spring].”

Bédard noted that the largest change to CREPUQ’s mandate was that it now no longer lobbies on behalf of universities.

“Having CREPUQ to lobby on behalf of McGill was not the best idea on earth,” Marcil told The Daily.

“McGill is totally free to lobby for ourselves, keep our own position, make some alliances with different universities.”

Despite the change at CREPUQ, Marcil stressed that McGill’s administration was satisfied with the role the organization played in the past.

“McGill University always thought that it was better to work with that kind of body that will gather all institution[s] and try to keep some common position […] and would have preferred to keep the CREPUQ,” he noted.