Were Concordia University faculty consulted before the (alleged) firing of president Judith Woodsworth?
On Thursday morning, the university’s board of governors met for the first time since Woodsworth’s sudden and controversial departure in late December.
And while steps were taken to move forward, approving a plan to review the school’s governance structure, new questions were raised about what role faculty played in the process leading up to her departure.
Faculty representatives have universally condemned the process, blaming it on a secretive and powerful board executive committee acting without consultation or proper approval.
But according to Jean Freed, the part-time faculty representative to the board–a position that carries speaking but not voting rights–faculty members were consulted in the run up to Woodsworth’s departure.
“Every board member knew what was going on before Dec. 22,” she said.
Freed maintained that even though she doesn’t have a vote and is not a member of the “star chamber,” she had a say. “Every constituency was consulted.”
Freed said she is tired of people “pretending” that they didn’t know what was going on. “I think there are members of certain constituencies who’ve led their constituencies to believe this happened without consultation, without their knowledge and in my opinion that quite simply is not the case.”
Board chair Peter Kruyt had the support of a majority of board members, she said–even though no formal vote was taken–and that faculty had been outnumbered.
She added that the secrecy surrounding Woodsworth’s departure was due to the fact that it was a “matter of employment” and that board members were legally prohibited from commenting publicly, adding that Woodsworth was the only person who could have made the issue public.
“I can assure you that if your employer fired you you would not want that discussion in the papers,” she said.
Freed’s comments came towards the end of debate on a resolution to create an outside committee to review Concordia’s governance structure. If the university senate approves the plan Friday, interim president Frederick Lowy, along with the university senate, will be responsible for finding the committee members and creating their mandate. The committee would be composed of two or three experts from outside Concordia.
Throughout the meeting full-time faculty representatives criticized the actions of Kruyt and the executive, saying that their voices weren’t being heard.
When Lowy called for “people to talk to each other in a way that hasn’t been happening,” finance professor Lawrence Kryzanowski replied that, “it’s not a matter of talking it’s a matter of listening.” Kryzanowski comment was greeted with applause from around 30 professors and students who had come to watch the meeting. “People want a change in governance, there’s a real problem,” he said.
At times the meeting became tense. “It’s the chair and the vice chairs that have caused most of this problem,” said Kryzanowski,” again to audience applause.
“In your opinion,” shot back vice chair, Jonathan Wener, who was chairing the meeting.
Kruyt, arguably the most controversial member of the board was not in attendance. Wener said Kruyt was out of town on business. University officials played down Kruyt’s absence, saying it had been planed long in advance. According to one well-placed source, Kruyt is currently in China.
Throughout the meeting Lowy played the role of elder statesman. “We will overcome the current crisis,” he said. “The key activities of the university continue to perform well … academic activities in particular.”
Throughout the governance debate student representatives remained silent.
The university’s senate, the highest academic body, meets tomorrow.