The Empire Strikes Back

Concordia Board Nominates Former President to Return

Frederick Lowy oversaw a vast expansion of Concordia’s security aparatus while he served as president.

In 1995, Concordia was in a state of turmoil after poor management and severe turnover had devastated the university’s senior administration.

Frederick Lowy was flown in to restore the university’s reputation and governance structure. He ruled over Concordia until 2005.

A decade and a half after he was first tapped for the job, Lowy is being asked to return to Concordia for a repeat performance. With the university in a leadership crisis after both of his successors failed to inspire confidence in their management, the board of governors’ executive committee is asking the full board to approve Lowy, 77, as interim president.

Selected from a pool of 21 candidates, Lowy could be confirmed and take up the post of interim president before the end of the month—he could stay seated in the president’s office for up to a year and a half.

While writing in support of Lowy’s appointment, Board Chair Peter Kruyt stressed that rebuilding the Board’s relationship with the Concordia community would be one of Lowy’s first priorities.

“Clearly, there is some work to be done in this area as a result of recent events,” wrote Kruyt.

Some in the university community are relieved with the move.

“I think he means well and I think he is a healer,” said Concordia University Part-Time Faculty President Maria Peluso. “He understands us and he understands that we’ve had the same problems since when he left.”

Two years before Lowy retired from the presidency in 2005, Concordia adopted a corporate model of administrative governance, changing the head of the university’s title from rector to president.

While Lowy might be tackling problems he is familiar with, the former president’s methods are still remembered by many, especially among former students allied with left-leaning student unions, as heavy-handed.

After the Netanyahu protest in 2002, when students demonstrated against a speech by former and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the first day of school and clashed with police, Lowy oversaw a vast expansion of the university security apparatus.

“It was an era marked by the implementation of draconian security measures,” said a current Concordia student on the condition of anonymity.

The student fears reprisals by Lowy, who was also responsible for the expelling of student activists on minor violations and exaggerated charges that were often overturned in outside courts.

During Lowy’s time as president, a secretive Risk Assessment Committee was created that was responsible for vetting and approving all on-campus events. To this day, only one member of the committee, former VP Services Michael DiGrappa, has been revealed.

The controversial committee made headlines when it blocked book readings about sensitive topics on campus.

“Him and the people he surrounded himself with acted as if Concordia existed on a different planet,” said the student.

Lowy’s time in office also marked the university’s clear turn towards a more corporate campus presence, as fast food outlets were welcomed and university support jobs were outsourced to the private sector.

—with files from
Christopher Curtis

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 19, published January 18, 2011.