The fallout from the departure of Concordia president, Judith Woodsworth has student politicians finding some strange bedfellows.
Today, Amine Dabchy, a former student union president and current member of the board of governors sent an email to several media organizations, including Maclean’s, supporting recent moves by the board and writing that “the Concordia Student Union leaders supported Woodsworth’s departure wholeheartedly.”
At the same time the faculty, who have traditionally found themselves on the same side as students when it comes to issues of university governance, are calling for members of the board of governors to resign.
Dabchy suggested that Woodsworth’s departure may have even been triggered by student action, writing that the student members of the board “expressed our discontent with Woodsworth to the chair of the board, Peter Kruyt, and cited a number of flagrant examples that exemplify her lack of leadership. We stated unequivocally that the students had lost confidence in this administration.”
He adds that “it was obvious that the vast majority of the Board did not support her. I surmise that she decided to resign to avoid embarrassment.”
But faculty members of the board seem to have been blindsided by her sudden departure. The Montreal Gazette reports that “the six professors who sit on the board, elected to speak on behalf of their respective faculties, say that no formal meeting of the board was called and no formal vote was taken before Woodsworth was let go.
Today, 25 of the university’s department heads voted unanimously “to a motion of non-confidence in the Officers of Concordia University’s Board of Governors, and in the process that led to the President’s departure.”
They are also calling for a review of the board’s powers and increased faculty representation on the board.
The school’s alumni associations have also waded into the fray, issuing a statement today coming out in support of the board and reiterating the debunked claim that Woodsworth resigned “for personal reasons.”
Dabchy’s email also comes as a surprise, given that the student union didn’t make any public statements expressing a lack of confidence in Woodsworth prior to this. Certainly, there had been criticism from time to time but nothing that would indicate a real discontent with her leadership.
In fact, with the exception of Dabchy’s email, the student union has yet to make any public statements about Woodsworth’s departure.
While Dabchy claims “that students had lost confidence in this administration,” that’s certainly not the sense that I have. My general feeling, and this is shared by other members of the student press corps at Concordia, is that most Concordia students were rather indifferent to Woodsworth.
“What’s pissing people off is the money she walked away with,” said Sarah Deshaies, editor-in-chief of the Concordian (full disclosure: I am an editor at the Concordian). That’s certainly the sense that I have as well.
Deshaies said that she thinks Woodsworth was pushed out because she was seen as not being “corporate enough” for the board. “I get the feeling that the student’s concerns weren’t a big deal.”
According to Dabchy one of the CSU’s concerns was that “Woodsworth’s stance on tuition increases and her desire to emulate the ‘American university model’ was very alarming to the student body and demonstrated her lack of commitment to accessible education.”
In response to that, Gazette columnist Peggy Curran, who has been covering this story very closely, wrote that “the notion that the board of governors would fire Woodsworth because students weren’t happy with the idea of higher tuition fees, a decision which is completely outside the university’s control is, frankly, preposterous.”