Concordia Senate Backs Down
Senate Softens Stance Against Board of Governors
Just weeks after demanding that the chair of the Board of Governors resign, the faculty and students on Concordia’s Senate softened their tone last on Feb. 19, agreeing to defer an investigation of the university’s leadership crisis to a committee of experts.
In the wake of former Concordia President Judith Woodsworth’s Dec. 22 dismissal, a wave of unrest swept through the university. Every major faculty and student union on campus ordered mass resignations at Concordia’s Board of Governors for its role in the firing of a second university president in just over three years.
In an unprecedented move, Senate unanimously expressed a loss of confidence in Concordia’s Board and called for a series of reforms to the university’s system of governance. At a Jan. 21 meeting, Senate recommended the formation of a commission—comprised of 10 Senators and 10 Board members—to appoint future Board members and review the university’s governance crisis.
On Feb. 19, Senate agreed to outsource the investigation to a committee of three external experts in university governance. Concordia Interim President Frederick Lowy said a smaller committee would be able to make recommendations quickly so that the university could begin the process of “moving on.”
The Senate pushed for the committee to have at least one current or former professor on it, but its findings and recommendations will not be binding.
“I think this thing is a bit of an exercise,” said Robert Sonin, who represents graduate students on Senate. “If we’re going to have people who are going to do this investigation and ask things and make recommendations only to have this thing deposited to the Board of Governors and they thank us and that’s it. I don’t see the point of it.”
Lowy repeatedly defended the idea of a non-binding committee, ultimately winning the approval of Senate.
“I’m not recommending that an outside group of experts tell us how to run the university,” said Concordia President Frederick Lowy. “What I would welcome is to have a group of experts take a look at what we’ve done, take a look at what we could do to make governance better and give us some advice, which we could take or not take.”
Ironically, most of the controversy over Woodsworth’s dismissal surrounds the undue influence wielded by the Board’s executive committee—largely comprised of businessmen from outside the university.
While Senate took no further action against the Board on Friday, much of the tension exhibited by Senate at the Jan. 21 meeting remained. Senator David Douglas had strong words for Lowy, openly questioning where his loyalties lay.
“The Board decided not to meet with [Senate] and instead chose to designate [Lowy], which makes [Lowy] their de facto representative,” said Douglas. “You were selected by the internal committee of the Board of Governors so I think there is some confusion as to who you’re representing here.”
This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 24, published March 7, 2011.