‘There Will Be Losers’

Students Voted Off Board at Governors’ Meeting

Photo Julia Wolfe

Student representation is set to be slashed on the Board of Governors, the highest decision-making body at Concordia University, after a vote was passed to amend the membership makeup on Sept. 28.

By the end of this academic year, undergraduate students will have only one seat on the Board—going from 10 per cent voting power to four per cent. Immediately following the vote, the four undergraduate and one graduate student representatives walked out of the meeting in protest.

“The same people who have the ability to say how the university functions […] and make decisions that directly impact the lives of students are the same people who have explicitly stated and formed a motion saying they don’t want students at the table,” said Concordia Student Union President Lex Gill following the meeting.

“It’s about students having a massive stake in the university, and the university closing them out of the decision-making process,” Gill continued.

The point of contention with all student reps on the Board at the meeting was Article 23, which effectively breaks down the Board of Governors’ composition and limits student representation. An unresolved issue on various Board and Senate committees over the last month, student reps called for Article 23 to be debated further before being passed with the rest of the reforms.

Under the article, the Board will be cut from 40 members to 25 in an effort to make the body more manageable. Though the proportion of seats for non-university Board members will remain close to what it is at currently, there are other changes that are not as equitable.

Article 23 reads: “The composition of the Board of Governors must reflect the various segments of the community it serves.” The student representatives say, though, that this part of the article is not reflected in the new composition of the Board.

While undergrads will see a decrease from four seats to just one, faculty members will keep the same amount of seats they currently have. Given the overall decrease, their voting share rise from 15 to 24 per cent.

Alumni members will have their three seats cut down to one, and the Chancellor will no longer have a vote on the Board but will be allowed to speak. Throughout the meeting, the student reps put forward various motions to change or delay the passage of the article, but they were all voted down.

“Postponing is not a solution,” said Board member and member of the Ad Hoc Governance Review Committee, Rita de Santis, who presented a lengthy report on the urgency of the reforms. “We need to forge ahead to put these policies in place […] to immediately bring our governance [structure] into the 21st century.”

De Santis went on to explain that students should be thankful to have the proposed “alternate governor,” because other universities offer their undergrads even less power. The alternate will not have voting rights on the Board, but can participate fully on committees and speak at meetings.

“Your voice isn’t going down too much,” she told the student reps, “[but] there are going to be losers.”

Originally, the Ad Hoc Governance Committee made the recommendation that the alternate governor only be present at meeting, without speaking rights, but this was changed after the bylaws went through the Senate. The alternate governor will be allowed to vote in the absence of the regular undergrad governor.

“Having a voice in this forum makes more of a difference than having a vote,” said Frederick Lowy, of the alternate governor. He also noted he had never in his history on the Board ever seen an individual vote make a difference.

A minority of board members, though, did speak sympathetically of students, citing “certain logical failings” with the Ad Hoc Committee’s report.

Throughout the meeting, tensions grew between the Board executive, student reps and audience members. Immediately before the vote, undergraduate student Alex Matak—who ran as an independent candidate in last April’s CSU election—was vocal in her dissent.

“The fact of the matter is, [the Board] has sat here and said very eloquently that [they] care about students and care about the Concordia community and that [they] want to keep in mind the bigger picture,” she said.

“But Peter Kruyt has, throughout this entire meeting, policed student speech more than anyone else, he’s stopped them from talking and he’s been condescending to them.

“This whole morning has been [about debating] Article 23. Perhaps that’s an indication that there is something wrong with what you’re about to vote on. I’d like to let you know that as a student at Concordia, if you vote this through, I’m going to be very ashamed, and I think a lot of other people are too.”

Kruyt responded to Matak, saying, “What you are doing is a disservice to the students.” He then suggested, “Perhaps we shouldn’t have an audience [in the meetings] at all.”

The amendments were then passed through secret ballot, though Gill challenged the Chair as to why the vote—which she called the most important in Concordia’s governance history—wasn’t more transparent.