Cutting the Board

Concordia’s Board of Governors Proposes Slashing Its Size

Student representation on Concordia’s Board of Governor’s could be cut in half, while faculty would see four of their six board representatives cut. Photo Christopher Curtis

Tensions were visible as Concordia’s Board of Governors, the university’s highest governing body, debated cutting 26 of its 40 seats during the board’s first meeting of the academic year on Sept. 30.

“Big is not necessarily more beautiful,” said Rita Lc de Santis, a lawyer who sits on the board as an independent member. “Bigger boards are often less efficient, bigger boards are lesser performing and bigger boards have fewer engaged persons.”

Written by an ad hoc committee of nine board members, the reform proposal calls for a 24-person board with 16 members from the community and eight from the university.

Students would see their representation cut in half, as only two undergraduates and one graduate would sit on the smaller body.

Despite the heavy cut to student representation, the university’s faculty would fare worse. Four of the six faculty members sitting on the board would be cut, while a representative for the part-time faculty would be added.

“There are close to a thousand professors at the university,” said Johanne Sloan, a professor of art history. “I would like to remind you what we do, which is teaching, which is research, which is a tremendous amount of administration that we are responsible for.

“It’s not like we are doing something separate from running the university.”

Representing fine arts students on the board, Sloan raised her concern that her faculty might not have representation on the new board. While Concordia’s four faculties are represented on the current board, only two would retain a voice under the reform.

“You need to remember that without the faculty this place is a collection of fancy buildings and 45,000 individuals looking for an education,” said Shimon Amir, a professor of psychology. “The faculty is the heart of the university.”

Representatives from each of the interests on the board moved to defend their positions.

“The alumni represents 160,000 people, so our constituency is not a small constituency, and also, you said teachers are important to the university, well without the alumni you don’t have the building you are sitting in now,” responded Robert Barnes, a representative for the Sir George Williams Alumni Association.

The proposed change to the university’s governance comes at the prompting of the Quebec government.

Tabled in the National Assembly on June 16, 2009, Bill 38 would reduce the size of the boards of Quebec’s universities to between 13 to 25 members with at least 60 per cent external members and 25 per cent university members.

Despite all the talk in the board, the possibility of Bill 38 being passed over the next year is small.

“My understanding from a source close to the premier is that 38 is not only on ice, but on a very thick piece of ice,” said Peter
Stoett, a professor of political science. “The likelihood of it being introduced over the next year is slim.”

Stoett asked if the reform was being introduced as a contingency for Bill 38 or as a change independent of the government.

“We propose that the board consider these reforms whether or not the bill becomes law,” said de Santis as she presented the committee’s proposal.
Debate on the reform package is set to continue at the next board meeting on Dec. 9, 2010.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 08, published October 5, 2010.