Board Mum on Firing

‘What More do you Want the Board to Say?’  Asks Student Union President

Former Concordia President Judith Woodsworth told CTV she was ‘shocked’ to find out Concordia’s board of governors lost confidence in her. Photo Jonathan Dempsey

With one columnist writing about a “leadership crisis” at Concordia, the first week of classes after the firing of President Judith Woodsworth on Dec. 23 was not a pleasant one for the university’s board of governors.

New details surrounding the former president’s dismissal have emerged—including her testimony to CTV on Jan. 5 that she was fired and did not resign as claimed in the university’s official statement.

“I was told that some members of the Board had lost confidence in me,” Woodsworth told CTV, adding that she was “shocked” by the firing.

With the board having fired its second president in three and a half years, students and other members of the Concordia community, including both faculty associations, have demanded explanations from the board, which is composed overwhelmingly of business leaders.

All groups except for one notable exception, the representatives of the university’s 35,000 undergraduate students: the Concordia Student Union.

“We haven’t put out a press release, we are waiting to get all the details, and we are working on finding things out ourselves,” said CSU President Heather Lucas, who is one of four undergraduate students sitting on the board. “I don’t want to go ahead with a press release and give the university a bad reputation due to a blind comment.

“The rumours and speculation are not healthy.”

While Lucas said she hoped for proper accountability measures in the process of the appointment of an interim president—expected to happen as early as this week—she was unwilling to call for the board to explain why the president was fired.

“According to the press release, she left for personal reasons,” said Lucas, who was then informed of the president’s statement to CTV. “Yeah, she did say that. What more do you want the board to say?”

What has emerged in the past week is that the decision to fire Woodsworth was made by the board’s executive committee in November while the president was away on university business in Quebec City.

The executive committee, a subgroup of the board composed of eight governors—including the board’s chair, Peter Kruyt—and undergraduate student and former CSU President Amine Dabchy, met on Nov. 2 and Nov. 23.

“I am a member of the board, but I am not a member of all the committees. I tried to be in the Executive Committee, I put forward my name, but unfortunately I couldn’t,” said Graduate Student Association President Adnan Abueid, the only graduate student on the board. “I have spoken to Amine about what is going on in the committee, but he cannot tell me everything, even though I am a member of the board of governors.”

At the GSA Council meeting on Jan. 27, Abueid said that a decision was forthcoming on what position would be taken with the board. He said he was confident that the council will give him a mandate to demand an explanation for the president’s firing at the next board meeting on Feb. 17.

Despite the position of graduate students, Lucas said she could not speak about her thoughts as a board member.

“I can’t talk to you as a board member because what happens sometimes is confidential, that’s just how the business is.”

With the board not expected to speak for a month and Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota unable to comment on the situation beyond the university’s official position, students might need to wait until mid-February for answers.

While an interim president may be named soon, the quest to find a new president might take much longer.

“Who would want to come here? I don’t know,” said a faculty member who requested anonymity. “We need clear explanations from the board. Why are they doing it? What is in it for them? There are a couple of people who seem to think that they can run things as a personal business.”

Dabchy, the student representative on the executive committee, was not available for comment before press time.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 18, published January 11, 2011.