Woodsworth gone from Concordia

Written by  //  September 5, 2012  //  Education, Judith Patterson  //  1 Comment

Concordia goes through senior administrators like Elizabeth Taylor went through husbands!

Peggy Curran blog University City . Her farewell column as she moves on to new challenges is a delight Eight long years. So where’s my honorary degree?
New president extends warm welcome as fall term begins
Alan Shepard says working together is key to strengthening Concordia’s reputation as innovative university
16 July
Done With Donations
On July 16, Jack and Judith Kornblatt wrote an email to Concordia staff titled “We will no longer donate.”
(Concordia Link) The Kornblatts came to Concordia University in 1974 as assistant professors. Though both are now retired, for the past 38 years they have been donating considerable amounts of money to the university.
“There was a time when we thought of this university in glowing terms,” the email reads. “Students were here to learn; faculty were here to teach; administrators and staff were here to smooth the interface between the students and the teachers. All the pieces of the complex puzzle fit together nicely. The puzzle has been disrupted.”
That disruption, they say, is the fault of the administration and the Board of Governors for the way in which they have chosen to run this university.
4 May
Alan Shepard named Concordia president and vice-chancellor
Shepard will come to Concordia from Ryerson University, where he has served as provost and vice-president academic, and chief operating officer since 2007. During his tenure there, Ryerson has built new strengths in experiential learning and innovation, and has undertaken a host of reforms, including changes to its academic structure, undergraduate curriculum and research environment.
Golden handshakes land Montreal’s Concordia University a $2-million fine
(Canadian Press via HuffPost) The Quebec government has slapped Concordia University with a $2-million fine for golden handshakes it gave senior personnel.
The high-priced severance packages totalled $3.1 million for six employees.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp said the Montreal university displayed a lack of rigour and had to face the consequences.
”I mentioned several times that I was concerned about the slew of departures from Concordia and their budgetary impact,” Beauchamp said in a statement Friday.


Governance update and call for Board nominations
(Concordia) … It certainly was busy for many Concordians, including those involved in governance issues following the receipt of the June 15 report and recommendations of the External Governance Review Committee (EGRC). Upon reception of the report, the Board decided to move forward with the report and to assess the implementation of its recommendations in the context of its overall governance review. … The Board is committed to implementing the recommendations of the EGRC report regarding the Board in a timely manner. … As we implement the recommendations of the EGRC report, we are also embarking upon a Board renewal process. In order to achieve this renewal, a phased approach is being taken to facilitate the transition to a smaller Board on June 30, 2012, and to address the impending retirements of some external Governors in the interim. We note – with disappointment – that this communication is signed by Peter Kruyt, who, in our view,  should have been long gone by now.
Report offers fine blueprint for governing Concordia
(Gazette editorial) The three outside experts hired by Concordia University to help guide the university out of its governance morass have produced a report containing a reform blueprint that deserves the support of the full university community.
16 June
Concordia University changes in the works
(CBC) The administration at Concordia University said it is open to making sweeping changes to its governing structure, following recommendations in a new report.
The report released Wednesday makes 38 recommendations, including a new power structure.
The report says academic decisions should be shifted from the university’s board of governors to the senate. It also recommends reducing the number of people on the board to 25 from 42, calling the current board “far too large.”
A spokesperson for Concordia’s part-time faculty association, David Douglas, said it’s a step in the right direction.
Concordia plagued by ‘culture of contempt’
(The Gazette) The rebuilding of Concordia University after the controversial dismissal of its second president in less than three years will require a pared down board of governors, a strengthened senate – and a lot less bickering from everyone involved in university life.
So says the report by the External Governance Review Committee, which has spent 60 days studying Concordia and determined it is a university plagued by “a culture of contempt.”
“The environment at Concordia appeared to us as unnecessarily and unproductively adversarial,” says the report, made public Wednesday by the committee, which was headed by Bernard Shapiro, the former principal of McGill University and Canada’s first ethics commissioner.
“We are convinced that all of those participating in Concordia’s governance bear a heavy responsibility … to gradually achieve a climate characterized by mutual respect and understanding.”
The report makes no attempt to explain the departure of Judith Woodsworth, the president appointed in 2008 who abruptly left in December 2010, nor the equally mysterious departure of her predecessor, Claude Lajeunesse, who also left halfway through a five-year term. Woodsworth departed with $703,500, while Lajeunesse walked away with about $1 million.
It does say, however, that “the stated ‘personal reasons’ for the president’s departure hid, deliberately or not, much more than they revealed.”
And that “the depth and even the fury” of the response to her departure could only have arisen in a context where long simmering governance and communication problems had never been resolved.
The report makes 38 recommendations, including revising the university’s charter; reducing the board of governors from 42 members to 25 (15 external and 10 internal); stipulating the role of the board is to effectively manage the assets of the university and admonishing board members to resist the temptation to “insert themselves into day-to-day management”; strengthening the status of the senate; and allowing the president to chair the senate.
To avoid the recent fiascos with presidential appointments, the committee recommended changing its selection process, advising against a practice that has existed at Concordia since 1995 to present shortlisted candidates to the university community, as this kind of transparency could have “a chilling effect” on prospective candidates who may not want to compete in such a public race.
15 June
Concordia University releases report by External Governance Review Committee
(Concordia) In early 2011, Concordia University’s Board of Governors asked President and Vice-Chancellor Frederick Lowy to consider the governance of the university in broad terms.
Following discussions with the university community, an External Governance Review Committee comprised of three independent experts was formed to conduct a review of governance issues.
19 March
Former McGill principal to head Concordia review
frustration among academics; Committee created after angry fallout arising from Woodsworth dismissal
(Gazette) [Bernard] Shapiro, 75, who served as Canada’s first ethics commissioner after stepping down as McGill’s principal in 2004, will chair the three-member committee. The other members will be André C. Côté, former dean of law and secretary-general of Université Laval, and Glen A. Jones, associate dean academic and Ontario Research Chair on post-secondary education policy and measurement at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
18 February
Concordia sets up review committee
Concordia University’s two highest governing bodies will seek help from impartial outside experts to diagnose what’s wrong with the way the university governs itself and recommend a speedy remedy.
After two days of intense discussion, the university’s board of governors and the senate agreed to work with interim president Fred Lowy in setting up an external review committee. Tensions still high at Concordia over former president’s firing
5 February
Can Fred Lowy cure Concordia?
(Gazette)… if Lowy is serious about restoring trust and reversing the “demoralizing state of affairs,” he will have to show he is willing to stand up to the board, tell external members to stand down, and insist on a forensic audit of everything that has gone wrong since the day he left in 2005.
2 February
Martin Patriquin: Judith Woodsworth’s very short goodbye
The departure of Concordia’s president is one of several mysterious, high-level exits at Canadian schools
(Maclean’s) … news of Woodsworth’s resignation has travelled well beyond Concordia, with more than one well-placed observer believing her version of the story. “That the board . . . would announce and attempt to conceal the truth of this dismissal in such a clumsy and ham-fisted manner does little to inspire confidence,” wrote Torstar chair John Honderich, who knew Woodsworth from her days at Laurentian, in a letter to Kruyt earlier this month, obtained by Maclean’s. “In short, I am appalled.”
… The board recently brought back former Concordia president Frederick Lowy to serve as interim president. Like Woodsworth, Lowy has a reputation for kind words and a bendable ear. He may need both. Already, the university senate, the school’s highest academic body, passed a motion demanding a review of governance and a review of how board members are appointed—as well as the resignation of Kruyt as the board’s chairman. It echoed similar motions passed by various student and faculty associations. “I think it’s less about [Woodsworth’s resignation] than it is a manifestation of a larger problem,” says Concordia senate speaker Donald Boisvert.
21 January
Concordia University appoints Dr. Frederick H. Lowy President for an interim period
Dr. Lowy to take up his new post in the coming days
Concordia University’s Board of Governors has voted unanimously to appoint Dr. Frederick H. Lowy as Concordia’s President on an interim basis. He is expected to take up his post in the coming days.
“Dr. Lowy’s extensive interest in the university and its culture will assure a smooth transition and provide continuity and stability during the search for a new president,” says Peter Kruyt, Chair of Concordia’s Board of Governors. “His experience as a university administrator, his leadership style and his commitment to this institution make him the ideal person to oversee Concordia in the months ahead.”
Building on excellence in education, research, creative activity and community partnerships is something that Dr. Lowy is known for and he will continue to support this mission of the university. A key element of his mandate is to carry on with the implementation of the university’s Strategic Framework. He will also oversee the process leading up to the launch of a capital campaign.
… An experienced educator and academic administrator, Dr. Lowy was President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia University from 1995 to 2005. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2008. He served as Interim Executive Director of the Sauvé Scholars Program (2007-2008) and was elected to the Board of Directors of the Sauvé Scholars Foundation in May 2008. He is Senior Advisor to the President of the Trudeau Foundation.
Peggy Curran: Fred Lowy pledges cooperation, openness as Concordia’s interim president
Concordia senate calls for Peter Kruyt to resign
Concordia University’s senate has passed a unanimous motion calling on board chairman Peter Kruyt to resign.
Saying they are angry, demoralized and confused, faculty members also called for a special committee to review the way the university is governed.
20 January
Eight Concordia unions call for inquiry, resignations
The stage is set for fireworks when Concordia’s Senate meets Friday afternoon, with the circumstances leading to the departure of president Judith Woodsworth paramount on most people’s minds.
Concordia’s unions and associations have just issued a statement calling for the resignation of Peter Kruyt, the chairman of the board of governors, and vice-chairs James Cherry, Annie Tobias, Jonathan Wener and Brian Edwards. Rumour is that Kruyt and other members of the board may be on hand for what’s expected to be a wild ride.
18 January
Faculty continues to push for changes at Concordia
(CTV) Despite an announcement this week that former rector Dr. Frederick Lowy could soon become interim president, many faculty and staff at Concordia continue to call for change — and some resignations.
Maria Peluso, president of Concordia’s part-time faculty association, told CTV Montreal it’s no longer about whether or not the last president Judith Woodsworth was dismissed or not.
“I don’t want to question that,” she said. “I question the frequency of the departures; I question the number of the departures.”
Peluso says even the return of a former and well-regarded rector wouldn’t be able to pick up the pieces.
Journalism Professor Mike Gasher agreed, saying the culture of the board needs to be changed.
Concordia board looks to Lowy to rebuild confidence
(Gazette) But professors say university’s governance needs a serious review
Sociology professor Daniel Dagenais calls the crisis at Concordia “a coup d’état.”
Geologist Judith Patterson worries about “systemic rot” that will fester unless the university clears the air with an external inquiry.
Religion professor Michael Oppenheim speaks of a clash of cultures between academics and board executives schooled in the secrecy and protocol of the corporate world.
On Monday, Concordia scrambled to mend rifts and resentments arising from the abrupt dismissal of president Judith Woodsworth before Christmas.
In a letter sent to members of the university community, board chairman Peter Kruyt confirmed Concordia is looking to Fred Lowy, who was Concordia’s rector, then president, from 1995 to 2005, to serve as interim president until a new leader is recruited. (CBC) Concordia chooses interim president
The Board of Governors has been busy: L. Jacques Ménard named Concordia University’s new Chancellorthe only problem is this is old news.
Rift widens in Concordia Student Union over Amine Dabchy’s role on Board of Governors
Members of the Concordia Student Union council are lashing back after claims by Amine Dabchy that he and other student representatives were instrumental in pushing the university’s Board of Governors to push Judith Woodsworth out of the president’s office.
In a statement today, Ethan Cox, Melanie Hotchkiss, Joel Suss, Michaela Manson and Paul Gillett “regrettfully express” their lack of confidence in the university’s board, as well as the majority of their own student union representatives– with a special nod to Amine Dabchy.
Justin Giovannetti & Christopher Curtis: ‘We’re all mobilized all of us’
(The Link) In the weeks since Concordia President Judith Woodsworth was dismissed, the university’s political landscape has been upended.
… On Monday morning, the university’s typically cautious faculty association issued a damning message to the board’s chair and his entourage: resign. The faculty association’s strong statement was the last in a series of escalating demands from groups at the university.
… With the exception of the university’s alumni association, which came out in support of the board, the lines of conflict have been drawn; the board is facing the university’s students, faculty and staff.
The final showdown is expected on Jan. 21 at a meeting of the university senate, Concordia’s highest academic body.
If the senate approves a motion of non-confidence, the board will officially be found to be operating against the university’s best interests.
14 January
Peggy Curran: Concordia names new chancellor, CSU, Peter Kruyt stir the pot, again
Curiouser and curiouser.
Amidst all the commotion over the firing/resignation/gracious stepping down of president Judith Woodsworth, Concordia never got around to telling its community that L. Jacques Menard, the chairman of BMO Nesbitt Burns had been named the new chancellor, replacing David P. O’Brien, who was still around to hand out the diplomas at fall convocation exercises.
Latest twist in Concordia saga: Student reps wanted Woodsworth out
(Gazette) In whose best interests were chairman Peter Kruyt and fellow members of the executive committee acting when Concordia’s board of governors fired Judith Woodsworth midway into her five-year term as president?
Did the board respond, with startling alacrity, to demands of students troubled by what they call Woodsworth’s “acrimonious management style”?
Or did the small circle of business leaders who run the board seize on student discontent to send Woodsworth packing after a key fundraiser left, an embarrassing court case, and a bid to convert the Faubourg Ste. Catherine into a student centre went bust?
12 January
Concordia staff demands governance review
Peter Kruyt didn’t know what hit him.
The embattled chair of Concordia’s board of governors paid an impromptu visit to the university’s senate steering committee yesterday, part of the campaign to smooth ruffled feathers over the dismissal of president Judith Woodsworth and move on.
Instead, Kruyt got an Arctic blast from faculty members who see Woodsworth’s firing as a symptom of a chronic ailment, one that won’t be fixed until the university’s administrative structure is overhauled and the high-powered members of the board’s executive who have been calling the shots move on.
11 January
Peggy Curran: Searching for new Concordia president: What’s the rush?
Judith Woodsworth was midway through her five-year term as president. She’s 62. When the time came to renew her contract, there would have been no shame in seeking younger blood.
Instead, Concordia’s board of governors opted for self-mutilation, embarrassing Woodsworth, confusing students and faculty, and infuriating alumni, donors and Quebec taxpayers. Why?
Board Mum on Firing
‘What More do you Want the Board to Say?’ Asks Student Union President
(The Link) With one columnist writing about a “leadership crisis” at Concordia, the first week of classes after the firing of President Judith Woodsworth on Dec. 23 was not a pleasant one for the university’s board of governors.
New details surrounding the former president’s dismissal have emerged—including her testimony to CTV on Jan. 5 that she was fired and did not resign as claimed in the university’s official statement.
“I was told that some members of the Board had lost confidence in me,” Woodsworth told CTV, adding that she was “shocked” by the firing.
With the board having fired its second president in three and a half years, students and other members of the Concordia community, including both faculty associations, have demanded explanations from the board, which is composed overwhelmingly of business leaders.
Concordia breaks silence on president’s exit
“In an extremely competitive market for students, professors, administrators and funding, it is essential that we have the right leadership in place,” board chairman Peter Kruyt says in an open letter to the Concordia community that aims to quell criticism arising from the mysterious departure of yet another president.
10 January
This is the message that truly ignited the fires. The bafflegab is insulting.
Message from Concordia Board of Governors Chair
… We are determined to build on this solid foundation and have established ambitious yet attainable goals for ourselves through our Strategic Framework. Our commitment is to focus on Concordia’s strengths, striking a balance between our tradition as a welcoming and engaged university, and our mission of building on excellence in education, research, creative activity and community partnerships. We aim to rank among Canada’s top comprehensive universities within the next decade and to be a first choice university for students and faculty in Canada and internationally in defined fields, or “signature areas.”
It was in this context and following discussions with members of the Board during the month of December that Dr. Woodsworth made the decision to resign. It is widely known that Dr. Woodsworth did not choose to resign.
Open Letter to Peter Kruyt
(The Link) In light of the unexplained and arbitrary dismissal of Concordia University president Judith Woodsworth, we the undersigned members of the Concordia community demand a thorough and public review of the governing structures of Concordia University, with particular attention to the constitution and the powers of the Board of Governors. In light of a series of dismissals and departures from the university’s senior administrative ranks – specifically, the firing of two university presidents in three and a half years and the resignation of five vice-presidents in six years – the Board appears to have assumed the role of a modern-day star chamber, acting according to its own dictates, accountable and answerable to no one. It is an abuse of power. As evidence of the Board’s cavalier governing style, the press release announcing Dr. Woodsworth’s departure was released on Dec. 22, just as the university was to close for the Christmas holidays, and sought to deceive the university community and the public by stating the president resigned “for personal reasons” when we now know her resignation was forced by the Board.
These dismissals and departures cost money that faculty members, staff and students are constantly told the university does not have. They hurt Concordia’s reputation within the academic world and in the eyes of the public at a time when we are supposed to be building that reputation. They hurt the chances of recruiting future leaders; who would want to be a senior administrator at Concordia knowing the rug can be pulled out from under them at any time and with no explanation? And these decisions run the risk of rendering cynical and jaded the university’s front-line workers — staff, students and faculty members alike — who work in so many ways to make this institution one we can be proud of.
Peggy Curran: Concordia faculty react to departure of Judith Woodsworth
The Concordia University Faculty Association has reacted to the sudden departure of President Judith Woodsworth on December 22. Here’s the letter, posted on the CUFA website.
8 January
No meeting, no vote, no formal decision. Is that kosher?
Who are we to believe? And whose face is Concordia trying to save?
Judith Woodsworth says she was told she had lost the confidence of some members of the board and was asked to leave.
Concordia University’s board of governors, speaking through the intermediary of media envoy Chris Mota, says the president stepped down for personal reasons.
… How was the decision to let Woodsworth go made? Was there a vote?
“There was no meeting, and therefore no vote,” was the official reply on Wednesday, shortly before Woodsworth confirmed the obvious: She’d been dismissed.
When was Woodsworth informed?
“There was nothing to inform her of. She resigned.”
Who was present?
“There was no decision made by any administrative body, therefore no one was present,” Mota says.
5 January
Woodsworth refutes Concordia’s explanation of her departure
Former Concordia University president Judith Woodsworth told CTV Montreal on Wednesday that she did not leave her position just prior to Christmas for personal reasons, but that she was asked to leave by the school’s Board of Governors.
Peggy Curran: Concordia faculty react to departure of Judith Woodsworth
The Concordia University Faculty Association has reacted to the sudden departure of President Judith Woodsworth on December 22.
Here’s the letter, posted on the CUFA website.
We have to take back our University so that it remains a University dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and not to more concrete and more bureaucratic cliché-mongering. We do value new buildings, but they will never constitute a University.
4 January
Justin Giovannetti: Editorial Transparency Needed at Concordia’s Board
(The Link) The fall semester claimed a final victim before students returned to university this week, clearing out the last of Concordia’s big names.
First Kathy Assayag, the fundraising whiz, departed under a cloud. Then Michael DiGrappa, the master builder, was lured away, and now President Judith Woodsworth’s chair is empty.
For the second time in three years, Concordia is without a president.
With the senior administration gutted and VP External Relations Bram Freedman keeping the president’s chair warm for whoever can be convinced to take the post, the university’s board of governors has never been so powerful.
A club of successful businessmen and cultural elites, the 40 members of Concordia’s board sit at the apex of the university’s power structure. While the board has the power to manage and oversee all decisions affecting the university, this power is normally tempered by the presence of a president and a capable administration. All internal checks on the board’s power have now been swept aside.
29 December 2010
Deja vu as Concordia loses second president in a row
Unanswered questions surround apparent firing of Judith Woodsworth
(Macleans) For the second time in three years, Concordia university has abruptly lost its president half-way through their term.
While the university is claiming Judith Woodsworth left for “personal reasons,” CBC, the Montreal Gazette and the Concordian have all quoted anonymous sources saying she was fired.
The big question, of course, is why.
When Woodsworth’s predecessor, Claude Lajeunesse, stepped down in 2007 by “mutual agreement,” in other words he jumped before he was pushed, there was little question as to why. Lajeunesse managed to alienate almost everyone at the university. But Woodsworth was hardly a polarizing figure. She may not have been an inspiring leader but she certainly wasn’t divisive. In fact, she hardly seemed to be present at Concordia, she had very little contact with students, rarely spoke to campus media and seemed to spend more time promoting Concordia in China and India or meeting with alumni in British Columbia and the United States than actually running the university.
24 December
The Gazette – Editorial – Concordia owes us an explanation
Once could have been bad luck. Twice is looking like an unfortunate inability to run a university.
… Peter Kruyt, chairman of the board of governors, owes Montrealers and the Concordia community an explanation of what has gone wrong and how he and the board intend to fix the problems they believe the university faces.
22 December
Concordia President steps down
The Board of Governors of Concordia University announced today that, for personal reasons, Dr. Judith Woodsworth will be stepping down as President and Vice-Chancellor of Concordia University as of December 22, 2010.
“I am deeply grateful to Judith and wish to recognize her leadership, achievements, and commitment over the past two and a half years,” said Peter Kruyt, Chair of the University’s Board of Governors. “Concordia has thrived under her direction, with significant progress and an enhanced reputation on the local, provincial, national and international scenes.”
During Dr. Woodsworth’s administration, Concordia adopted its first-ever strategic framework following an intensive year of public consultations via town halls, world-cafés, Presidential panels and other discussions. The plan reaffirmed Concordia’s strategic commitments to academic quality, an outstanding student experience and community engagement, along with actions to enhance communications and administrative practices.
Dr. Woodsworth leaves Concordia as one of the province’s only universities with a balanced annual budget and with one of the smallest accumulated deficits. Her efforts on behalf of Quartier Concordia have transformed the university’s footprint and have revitalized the neighbourhood.

From the archives:
21 September 2010
Concordia Alumni Relations Boss Quits
(The Link) The woman responsible for raking in contributions from Concordia’s alumni for the past five years has called it quits.
Kathy Assayag, the university’s VP Advancement and Alumni Relations, also served as president of the Concordia University Foundation—the body that oversees Concordia University and eConcordia. She cited personal reasons for stepping down.
Assayag’s departure came as greater pressure was bearing down on her department. As part of her strategy to limit tuition increases and continue funding the physical expansion of the university, Woodsworth called for greater alumni contributions.
“We as a university need to raise money privately from our donors,” she said during an earlier interview with The Link. “We have done well raising money for bursaries and scholarships, but we need more, especially for graduate students.”
Despite the growth in contributions from alumni under Assayag’s watch, Woodsworth nonetheless identified what she called “a cultural problem” with private-based investment.
“In Canada, fundraising is much newer. When we phone our graduates we are told, ‘You expect me to give you money when I paid for my education?’ We get that attitude,” said Woodsworth.
Part of Assayag’s campaign to secure more alumni funding was through the establishment of alumni chapters around the world. New chapters in Dubai and Amman, Jordan were established over the summer.
19 September 2010
Kathy Assayag leaving Concordia University
(Concordia) “Over the last five and a half years, Concordia’s advancement and alumni operations have matured and the generosity of our friends and supporters has grown,” said President Woodsworth. “Under Kathy’s guidance, our outreach to local, national and international alumni has resulted in greater recognition of Concordia. Several new initiatives were implemented during her tenure including the launch of the Adopt-a-Student program, student outreach programs, commemorative alumni certificates, endowment reporting, and high visibility events such as Hitting the High Notes.”
29 February 2008 Judith Woodsworth named new Concordia President and Vice-Chancellor
Concordia University is proud to announce the appointment of Judith Woodsworth as Concordia’s President and Vice-Chancellor for a term beginning on August 1, 2008 and ending on June 30, 2013.
19 September 2007
Concordia president forced to resign
(Fagstein) Concordia President Claude Lajeunesse has resigned, just two years and change after taking office. The reason? Everyone hated him.

One Comment on "Woodsworth gone from Concordia"

  1. victor July 9, 2011 at 6:16 am ·

    Enjoy the article.

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