Not All Press is Good Press

Once again, the all-seeing eye of the media is focused on Concordia. Unfortunately, the theme of today’s programming is a familiar one for the school: dysfunction.

As is too often the case with our fine institution, we only seem to get people to notice us when we’re doing something wrong. The “voluntary departure” of former President Judith Woodsworth has led to The Gazette’s cartoonist Aislin mocking the image of our university. Similar coverage is being carried out in news outlets across the province and the country.

While Woodsworth’s apparent firing hasn’t been adequately explained, the former president hasn’t exactly helped along the process of transparency. If she was getting pushed out, wouldn’t it have benefited her to at least bring the matter to a vote or at least identify the members of the board that wanted her out?

Based on the fact that Woodsworth went to the national news after her dismissal and refuted the official line, the $703,500 was not hush money. Why then didn’t Woodsworth head to the public and let the light of transparency attempt to save her? That would have been a better, although perhaps more bruising, form of political survivalism.

Indeed, there are far more questions than answers in the wake of the departure of virtually the whole top of the administrative power structure at Concordia. Who on the board decided that they had “lost confidence” in Woodsworth, and why? Who is the board accountable to? Why, for a school that loves to cry poor, is Woodsworth getting paid hundreds of thousands to not-so-quietly go away?

This last point is especially galling, particularly in light of the increasing desire for tuition hikes from the administration under Woodsworth. It seems students are being asked to fund administration real-estate projects, like the student centre, as well as rich severance packages for the revolving door of senior administrators. All this without even being granted the courtesy of an explanation from the shadowy board pulling the strings from behind the curtain.

Indeed, Concordia’s Board of Governors, created by the National Assembly, sees no reason to explain to Concordia students or the outside world why Woodsworth was pushed out the door. With no real accountability system in place, the Board has been able to do whatever it pleases, all the while petitioning the students to fund its ConU comedy of errors.

Clearly, Concordia’s Student Union has failed in whatever minimal watchdog role they could potentially have inhabited. They have refused to criticize the Board for the decision, essentially taking them at their word. Of course, with several former members of the CSU power structure being members of the board, it’s hard to expect pointed criticism from our so-called student leaders.

Who, then, to turn to?

It seems one of the only options available to Concordia students and faculty is to directly petition the Premier or the National Assembly to put our board of governors on ice. Depending on how the board acts over the next few weeks, either selecting another applicant as interim president or asking the Concordia community for help, the provincial government may have to put our board in trust and start from scratch.

—Diego Pelaez Gaetz,
Copy Editor

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