Board Member Discusses Woodsworth Firing

The student closest to the board members who fired Concordia President Judith Woodsworth is offering his perspective on why the decision was made.

Amine Dabchy, the only student who sits on the executive committee of Concordia’s Board of Governors, told The Link that the board began losing confidence in Woodsworth shortly after the former president “pushed” VP Alumni Advancement and Relations Kathy Assayag into resigning in September. During her time as Concordia’s top fundraiser, Assayag’s department thrived, winning six awards and increasing revenue from the school’s alumni.

A few weeks after Assayag’s resignation, longtime VP Services and architect of Concordia’s modern image Michael Di Grappa announced he would be leaving the university to pursue a similar job at McGill.

“Di Grappa was the superstar of the team […] For many of the board members his departure was unacceptable,” said Dabchy, adding that Woodsworth’s poor leadership and communication skills alienated a number of other senior administrators at Concordia.

Di Grappa was the third senior administrator to resign during Woodsworth’s short time in office. VP Finance Larry English also stepped down in 2009. Dabchy said another Concordia VP had considered resignation because of Woodsworth’s contentious leadership style.

Dabchy also suggested that the fallout from Woodsworth’s dismissal of the university’s two auditors might have sealed the former president’s fate. In 2009, Woodworth fired two auditors for violating the university’s policy on meal reimbursements. When the auditors brought Woodsworth before Quebec’s Labour Review Board on Nov. 1, the former president admitted to having violated the same policy on at least five different occasions.

“She fired the auditors just 10 days before they were going to audit her,” said Dabchy. “When they sued her, she never told the board. Many of the board members found out about it through the media. It was an embarrassment.”

On Dec. 1, Dabchy, alongside fellow student board representatives Heather Lucas, Abdulah Husen and Stephanie Siriwardhana, met with board chair Peter Kruyt and demanded drastic changes from the Woodsworth administration. Less than a month later, the president resigned. Last week, Dabchy wrote a letter to various Montreal media outlets celebrating Woodsworth’s departure and claiming that Concordia students had lost confidence in her ability to govern.

Concordia Student Union councillor Ethan Cox isn’t buying Dabchy’s claim.

“I think Dabchy is trying to write a piece of revisionist history by saying ‘Oh yeah, look: this is how great the board is; they did what students asked them to do,’” said Cox. “That’s just nonsense. Students were calling for Woodsworth’s dismissal because of her stance on tuition, which might be one of the only things she and the board of governors agree on.”

During last Wednesday’s CSU Council meeting, Dabchy defended his support for Woodsworth’s dismissal, while the union’s executive remained virtually silent. In the end, Cox said Dabchy’s charisma and political influence quelled a motion that called for the resignations of 23 board members.

“It was an orchestrated move,” said Cox. “Council brought Dabchy in, sat back and let him do the heavy hitting.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 19, published January 18, 2011.