The Most Awkward Job Interview

Presidential Candidate Calls in, Says Nothing New

Concordia Presidential candidate and current Ryerson Provost Alan Shepard. Photo Mohamed Omar (The Eyeopener)

At least there wasn’t a bullhorn.

As presidential candidate Dr. Alan Shepard addressed Concordia April 27 via conference call, there seemed to be one word that student politicos and reporters agreed most adequately summed up the conversation: boring.

Shepard began with a prepared statement where he spoke about improving his French, keeping dialogue open and generally supporting things that are good.

This followed with a question period from the senate, board of governors and pre-approved audience send-ins. Although the questions ranged from salaries to strikes, Shepard’s responses felt like he was reading the same Mad Lib over and over with slightly altered substitutes.

‘I can’t speak to Concordia’s handling of [contentious issue X], but I can say that I support [something students and faculty want to hear] while also valuing [whatever the administration thinks].’

Not super helpful.

I didn’t expect much else. After all, the man was in the most awkward job interview I’ve ever been privy to. As over 700 people tuned in, Shepard was trying to please two ideologically polar opposite employers simultaneously.

But Dr. Shepard could learn from CSU President Lex Gill, who said in a previous interview with The Link that a leader who attempts to make everyone happy makes no one happy.

Instead of taking a real stance on, well, anything, Shepard’s attempts to appease the masses fell flat. I found myself having Obama 2008 flashbacks. While I like the general gist, I worry that the man will waste too much of his time in power trying to please.

To be fair, his answers weren’t all terrible. Shepard did reference an ability to work well with unions at Ryerson, something Concordia desperately needs a hand with. He also referred to regular town halls he held back in Toronto. Let’s hope he would continue those here at ConU.

It was a nice moment when Shepard said that, like Concordia, Ryerson is an integral part of a downtown community, one that does not “hide behind ivy covered walls.” Suck it, McGill. It’s an easy shot to take but appreciated nonetheless.

Gill, for one, remains confident that the president will do better in person. “[Shepard] comes off very differently one-on-one or in a small group,” she said, adding that he “was in the hot seat and probably didn’t want to stick out too much in the front of the top level administration.”

It’s true, and he’s a breath of fresh of fresh air for Concordia. Shepard says he “doesn’t come from a family of privilege,” and is the first from his family to go to university. He’s openly gay and has two adopted kids with his partner. When he says it’s important to question societal norms, I believe he means it.

So here’s to a president that doesn’t look like he’ll run off with our money or use it to pay for a costly condo. Under Shepard, we might even fight off the PR nightmare that has left us the laughing stock of Canadian universities. And that’s something to celebrate, right?