Done With Donations

The Kornblatts have decided to stop donating to Concordia as they feel the university has grossly mismanaged funds. Photo Pierre Chauvin

On July 16, Jack and Judith Kornblatt wrote an email to Concordia staff titled “We will no longer donate.”

The Kornblatts came to Concordia University in 1974 as assistant professors. Though both are now retired, for the past 38 years they have been donating considerable amounts of money to the university.

According to Jack, almost all of the money, at least $1,000 each year, has been donated to the university’s scholarships and bursaries fund. In addition to the yearly donations that they give, the Kornblatts have also purchased a life insurance policy on Judith’s life, in which Concordia is a beneficiary.

“When I die the university gets $1 million, which is designated for scholarships and bursaries,” says Judith.

However, as of Monday afternoon, the Kornblatts cease to be donors. They say their reasons are simple.

“Concordia squanders money on administrator salaries and perks,” they wrote in the email, which was also delivered to outgoing president Frederick Lowy and incoming president Alan Shepard, among others.

“There was a time when we thought of this university in glowing terms,” the email reads. “Students were here to learn; faculty were here to teach; administrators and staff were here to smooth the interface between the students and the teachers. All the pieces of the complex puzzle fit together nicely. The puzzle has been disrupted.”

That disruption, they say, is the fault of the administration and the Board of Governors for the way in which they have chosen to run this university.

“I would like to see the university put more emphasis on teaching and less emphasis on money-grubbing and administration,” said Jack. “That’s all that the people at the top worry about. I’d like them to worry about education, and I don’t think they do.

“I would like to see that we cease these hollow sayings that [Concordia] is only striving for excellence and that we’ll only hire the best and all the other platitudes that go along with it. That is an excuse, I think, for paying the exorbitant salaries that we do.”

“When we see what the university administrators make, we’re chagrined,” said Jack. “Then when we see what they get in the form of perks, well that really bothers us—this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
— Jack Kornblatt, Retired Concordia Biology Professor

The choice to cease donations to the university was a long time in the making.

“This is the accumulation of [former president Claude] Lajeunesse, the accumulation of [former president] Judith Woodsworth, it’s the accumulation of [former VP Services] Michael Di Grappa,” said Jack of a slew of departing administrators over the past few years who left with considerable severance packages.

“It’s the accumulation of just about everybody that the university has gotten rid of.”

However, he explains that the decision was finally cemented by the recent news of VP External Relations and Secretary-General Bram Freedman receiving a brand new Lexus from the university.

“When we see what the university administrators make, we’re chagrined,” said Jack. “Then when we see what they get in the form of perks, well that really bothers us—this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

As angered as they have become about the way in which the university spends its money, and the direction in which Concordia has shifted, ultimately, the Kornblatts are saddened by what they feel is a need to distance themselves from an institution they can no longer get behind.

“The reason that it hurts is because all of our donations go to scholarships and bursaries,” said Jack. “We are of two minds, but we do not feel that we can support the university in this way any more.”

Though they have chosen to step away from Concordia in this way, Jack and Judith don’t rule out the possibility, or hope, for change.

“When we judge that a sense of reality has come back to the university Board of Governors, when we judge that our administration is no longer demanding top dollar for doing a job that is only reasonable, the Kornblatts will come back into the fold,” they wrote in the email. “In the meantime, it is not we who are holding education as hostage, it is the group at the top.”