Senate Calls for Kruyt to Resign

University Governance ‘Extremely Unstable:’ Senator

Peter Kruyt (centre) has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the departure of a second Concordia President in three years. Photo Erin Sparks

After weeks of instability and sniping across the university, the vote was unanimous and the debate was short last Friday, as Concordia’s Senate demanded the resignation of Peter Kruyt, chair of the university’s Board of Governors.

Leading into Friday’s Senate meeting, the Board’s decision to dvismiss former Concordia President Judith Woodsworth on Dec. 22 ignited van upheaval within the university. Nearly a dozen associations and unions representing Concordia’s 40,000-plus students, faculty and staff drafted letters and passed motions denouncing Woodsworth’s firing and calling for a series of resignations on the university’s Board of Governors.

After the drama was played out throughout the university and the national media for weeks, the issue of Woodsworth’s dismissal was finally brought before Concordia’s Senate, the university’s highest academic body.

“The loss of a second president in two and a half years and […] having the senior administration of this university more-or-less decapitated is extremely unstable,” said Senator and Concordia professor William Lynch.

“We have to do something now so that going forth we don’t have the same situation repeat itself.”

In 2007, former Concordia President Claude Lajeunesse was fired midway into his first term of office. As was the case with Woodsworth, the university’s Board of Governors provided no explanation as to the nature of Lajeunesse’s dismissal. Both former presidents signed confidentiality agreements in return for severance packages in excess of $1.5 million.

“We’re told that any agreement between the president and Board is confidential and yet we’re using public money to pay these severance packages,” said Senator William Simms. “It seems to a lot of people that the use of public money means we should have more transparency […] I think that has a lot to do the current unrest at Concordia.”

Some senators spoke of the friction caused by a growing disconnect between Concordia’s academic mission and the corporate structure of its administration and Board of Governors, calling the Board’s governing practices unsustainable.

Since 2005, five of the university’s VPs have resigned. During Woodsworth’s two-and-half years as president, three VPs and a number of high level administrators stepped down or were fired with severance packages.

According to Maria Peluso, the head of Concordia’s part-time faculty union, the university has handed out $10 million in settlements to 45 departing administrators since 2000.

“This way we would come to come to a compromise on who governs Concordia,” said June Chaikelson, a psychology professor who proposed the motion.

“How many Board members have ever visited a classroom and seen us in action?”

–Christopher Ross
Concordia Senator

“How many Board members have ever visited a classroom and seen us in action? How many board members have ever visited a lab outside of when there’s a donation to see what happens on a day-to-day basis?” asked Senator Christopher Ross. “The fact that there is not a single board member in attendance today is to me a sign of the Board’s attitude.”

After a 45-minute discussion period, professor Jason Camlot presented Senate with a motion calling for Kruyt to step down as Board chair.

“In view of the loss of confidence expressed uniformly across the university, for the good of the university and for the necessary healing to take place, we strongly urge that the chair of the Board of Governors step aside immediately,” said Camlot.

Despite the university-wide call for his resignation, Kruyt told reporters he would “not walk away” from his duties as chair of the board at a press conference held just a few hours before Senate met.

Perhaps the most groundbreaking motion adopted by Senate during Friday’s meeting was the approval of a new nomination process for community-at-large members of the Board of Governors.

Twenty-three of the 40 people who sit on Concordia’s Board of Governors are community at large members, most of whom are corporate executives that have been accused by students and faculty of not representing the diversity within Montreal.

The Senate’s new policy would require that the nomination of potential Board members be made with the approval of a committee consisting of an equal amount of representatives from the Senate and the Board.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 20, published January 25, 2011.