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September 27, 2001 Board still strongly supports Rector Lowy



by Laurie Zack

Rector Frederick Lowy set the tone for the year at yesterday’s first Board of Governors meeting, with a frank overview of both the positive developments that have strengthened the university, and recent negative publicity that threatens to damage the institution’s reputation.

On the positive side, he pointed to a continued increase in our student population and improved retention rates, closer to the goals set by the performance contract with the Ministry of Education. Sixty-five new professors have been hired since Jan. 1, 2001, and in the next two years, another 65 to 70 will be hired each year.

Over 90 per cent of our professors now hold PhDs. There are now 44 classrooms that are Internet-ready; there will be 94 by next January. The accumulated debt of $38 million in 1995 has been eliminated, and we continue to work with a balanced budget.

Our research profile and success with granting agencies have improved, and the internationalization of our student body and international agreements with other institutions are expanding.

Speaking of ongoing tensions on campus linked to the Middle East situation, the rector announced a proposal for a Concordia “dialogue committee,” an initiative to be led by Provost Jack Lightstone and Dean of Engineering and Computer Science Nabil Esmail.

The rector then spoke frankly about disruptive events that have resulted in many calls to his office from concerned parents and university supporters in the community. He read several excerpts for the CSU agenda, Uprising 2001-2002, including attacks on the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, accusations that the university supports genocide and the encouragement of illegal activities such as stealing and non-payment of rent. He also read excerpts from The Unabridged, a CSU publication, that have led some companies to pull out of student job fairs.

A long discussion of recent CSU activities followed, culminating in a motion of strong support for the actions and leadership of the rector. Several board members added details about an ongoing petition in Engineering and Computer Science, informal and formal gatherings of business and graduate students, and a CUFA council meeting where recent events were discussed and the negative impact of recent CSU actions were denounced.

These actions included accusations against the rector in the exclusion of two CSU representatives and a set of CSU proposals advocating the repeal of the student capital campaign contribution and the banning from campus of several companies.

Lightstone said that the executive group at the CSU had a defined ideological position that neither reflected the broad mass of Concordia students nor lent itself to open, critical debate of valid issues. He accused the CSU of lending its political and financial support to the forwarding of a sole point of view, and misrepresenting and smearing the valuable work being done at the university.

Mirroring these comments, William Byers questioned whether the CSU actions constitute a direct threat to the openness and academic freedom that the university cherishes.

Community-at-large representative Alex Potter insisted that the CSU must be held responsible for its publications and declarations that damage the university.

Student representative Patrice Blais, who voted against the motion supporting the rector, appealed for the opportunity to tell his version of the events that he witnessed which led to the exclusion of the two CSU individuals, and pointed to certain provisions of the University’s fact-finder proposal that he found unacceptable.

Vice-Rector Services Michael Di Grappa concluded by asking for a clarification about a statement made to him by a CSU executive that he interpreted as a veiled threat to either himself or the university. CSU president Sabrina Stea was asked to look into the matter.

Pointing to the small number of votes cast in the last student election (1,855 out of 21,000 eligible voters) and the fact that only 853 voted for the current CSU slate, community representative Jonathan Wener expressed the hope that more students would now get involved in their student government.