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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2011

Questions over Concordia President's Exit

Interim president Frederick Lowy. [Photo: Concordia University]
Interim president Frederick Lowy. [Photo: Concordia University]
Concordia University president Judith Woodsworth resigned from her post in December, only halfway through her term, becoming the school’s seventh high-level administrator to resign in the past few years.

The board of governors cited “personal reasons” as the motivation for Woodsworth’s resignation, but many observers suspect the board had a hand in her sudden exit.

Concordia professor Lucie Le­quin, president of the faculty association, has been widely quoted in the news media as criticizing the move and calling the board’s behaviour “arrogant.”

In the ensuing brouhaha, board chair Peter Kruyt declined to answer questions about Woodsworth’s departure, although he did disclose in an email message to the university community that Woods­worth wasn’t fired for “financial misappropriation.”

Kruyt’s comments refer to a spending scandal that plagued Woodsworth over the previous year, after she revealed to Quebec’s Labour Review Board that her husband had travelled with her on official business at university expense.

The faculty association has asked for external auditors to review the severance packages and “other salary elements” paid to senior administrators in recent dismissals or resignation, which total several million dollars. Woodsworth has received a severance package worth more than $700,000 from Concordia, and former president Claude Lajeunesse, who abruptly resigned in 2007, received more than $1 million.

Along with the external audit, the faculty association also voted in a special meeting Jan. 17 on a series of motions calling for the chair and the vice-chairs of the board to step down and asking the senate to form a special committee to review the university’s governance structures.

Concordia’s senate has since voted unanimously to form the governance committee and echoed the faculty association’s call for Kruyt to resign, while more than 20 faculty and departmental councils have passed votes of no confidence in the board.

Woodsworth’s resignation — whether by choice or by board fiat — “is not an isolated event,” wrote Lequin in a public letter to her colleagues. “It is part of a pattern of the last few years and it is part of governance.”

According to Lequin, instability within the senior administration is an academic matter, “which ought to be of grave concern to each individual faculty member and librarian” and “should be raised and debated in every academic forum.”

Late last month, the board appointed Frederick Lowy as interim president. Lowy, 77, was president and vice-chancellor of Concordia from 1995 to 2005.

Kruyt has refused to stand down.