Doctors, Lawyers and Business Executives,  OH MY!

Board of Governors to Welcome Three New Members

Concordia will see the faces of three new members added to its highest governing body for the first time this Thursday. While the new members will be warmly welcomed, the contentious issue continues to be the Board of Governors’ selection criteria.

Community-at-large representatives of the Board of Governors were approved in closed session on Nov. 17, the first appointments since the adoption of the recommendations in the Report of the External Governance Review Committee—the Shapiro Report.

In choosing its external members, the report says the Board should “strive for a reasonable balance among members with experience in business, non-profit organizations, the professions, fine arts, and the public sector.”

Undergraduate representative to the Board of Governors AJ West said the new Board members appear to be “very educated and involved people.”

“But the issue of diversity at the Board of Governors remains—especially considering the surprising number of external Board members who are literally rich,” he said.

“Which isn’t to say that being rich makes them inherently evil, but there is a fundamental problem with the representation of the community that we’re serving at Concordia as Board members.”

Of the three new members, all come directly from CEO positions.

John Molson School of Business alumna Joelle Berdugo-Adler is the CEO of fashion company Diesel Canada, Jacques Lyrette is the CEO of Jacma Management, and Tim Brodhead retired as CEO of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation—an organization that grants over $90,000 in Concordia graduate awards per year.

Despite the differences between their CVs and the Shapiro recommendations at first glance, the Concordia administration was quick to assure that the changes proposed in the Shapiro Report have been heard and will be respected.

“These are the first three; there will be more to come,” said Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota. “The nominating committee will consider [the EGRC’s report] and the recommendations, obviously, and take that to heart, but it’s still going to be a process that is going to take some time.”

Mota said the Board will be transparent in the steps taken to adopt suggestions from the Shapiro Report, such as reducing its size from 42 to 25 members.

“This is a whole new situation for the Board. We’ve never been renewing that many people that quickly, while also reducing the size of the Board,” she said. “I have no way of assuming how they’re going to do that, but they will make it public.”

After the BoG cut its student representation down to one undergraduate, one graduate student, and one alternate non-voting member, West said students are concerned their representation will be inadequate because they are part of a lower-income stratum of society, which, according to West, is often underrepresented.

“The students’ income bracket has historically been underrepresented,” said West. “Removing students from the Board is also emphasizing that, because not only were they representing student interests, but also the low-income people’s interests on the Board.”

Erik Chevrier, the Graduate Students’ Association representative, is the only student to sit on the Governance and Ethics Committee, of whom will pick potential governors.

“There were a number of people who were brought forward,” said Chevrier. “I was able to bring people forward myself. The process was quite fair in that I participated like all the other members of the committee. Unfortunately, the people I brought forward didn’t make it into the final list.”

“The board perceives itself to be more representative of the community than the community does.”
–AJ West Board of Governors
Undergraduate Representative

But West said there is still a disconnect between what students think a governor should be like, and the Board’s expectations.

“The board perceives itself to be more representative of the community than the community does.”

He said the criteria for selection are based on privilege and exclude a large part of the community, one of which being ‘previous board experience.’

To West, representatives of other income levels and interests have no way of getting their voices heard, and it’s unreasonable to expect them to have board experience.

“By their very nature they cannot,” he said. “I only have board experience because I was elected and they were forced to put me on their board.”

Despite his criticism of the Board as an institution, West said he doesn’t think the newly appointed members will misrepresent students only because they are not in the same income level.

“Maybe they were struggling students back in the day and now they’ve made it and now they’re going to be super supportive of not increasing tuition. I guess we’ll just have to see.”

Send BoG community-at-large candidates’ CVs and cover letters to danielle.tessier@concordia.ca.

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