Concordia's Thursday Report

Vol. 28, No.10

February 12, 2004


Senate Notes

Senate Notes

A regular meeting of Senate, held Feb. 6, 2004.

New vice-rector: Rector Frederick Lowy said that a modified search process is required for the new post of Vice-Rector, Advancement and Alumni Affairs, because the position is a major fundraising challenge; the best candidates will come from the private sector and would be unwilling to subject themselves to the open process required of senior academic administrators.

Harvey Shulman (Arts & Science) said he was troubled by the lack of consultation on the process. As only two faculty members would be on the search committee, three of the four faculties could be unrepresented. Shulman said the search committee had disproportionate representation by the Board.

Maria Peluso, president of CUPFA, the part-time faculty association, was given speaking privileges. She spoke of the proposed search process in terms of inconsistency, lack of vision and insecurity. The Board should not abuse its power, or erode that of Senate. “I don’t accept the argument that these committees are so cumbersome, or that I’m less intelligent than a corporate person. No one told me I was going to lose a representative, or that [the position] was going to be at the level of vice-rector.”

Dr. Lowy agreed with Peluso that the matter should be discussed again at the March meeting, but he regretted any perceived conflict between the Board and Senate.

“It would be a mistake to misconstrue the intentions of the Board,” he said. “The new executive is more familiar with a different model of decision-making, but their motivation was purely practical, not a power grab. Several universities in Quebec are in trouble in their fundraising because they don’t have the right people. We don’t want that to happen here. Let’s come up with constructive proposals that [emphasize] flexibility.”

Legislative committee: Dr. Lowy said that the standing education committee of the Quebec legislature, a bipartisan committee chaired by West Island MNA Geoff Kelley, begins hearings Feb. 17 in Quebec City on the nature, quality and funding of the province’s universities. These hearings, which are held annually, will be more comprehensive and significant than any in recent years. The government is aware that the resources available to Quebec universities are falling behind those in other provinces by an estimated $375 million.

CREPUQ is making a case for the sector as a whole, insofar as unanimity exists; the member universities are also presenting briefs. Individual and other groups can present, and so far more than 100 requests to appear have been received.

Quebec taxpayers shoulder a disproportionate burden of the cost of universities compared to other provinces, 72 per cent as compared with an average outside Quebec of 55 per cent. Quebec students pay less of the cost through their tuition, 16 per cent, as opposed to 31 per cent on average in the rest of Canada.

The member institutions of CREPUQ disagree on how the financial shortfall should be made up. Dr. Lowy said that it is unrealistic to think that the government will increase funding, but it is important to maintain the high level of access to the public system.

Provost Jack Lightstone gave some specific information about how the revenue shortfall has affected Concordia. From 1995 to 2000, universities not only lost 25 per cent of their operating grant, but they lost indexation; as a result, they lost nearly 37.5 per cent of their operating revenue, a loss to Concordia of between $50 and $55 million.

The government instituted a three-year reinvestment program that provided about $20 million, but a loss of $30 to $35 million remains.

Add to this the change in the funding formula. While it promised that every activity would be funded in proportion to its cost, the result was that the universities only got 70 per cent of what they expected, an estimated $13-million shortfall. Concordia requires 318 new full-time faculty members over the next five years, 290 of whom have been hired so far. Only about 80 will replace retired professors and will thus inherit their salaries. We will need between $40 and $45 million to undertake this hiring, Lightstone said.

Full indexation should be restored, he continued. We need another $25 million to increase support staff, and $6.2 million over five years to maintain physical infrastructure. We are looking at $400 million in capital expenditures.

This is Concordia’s share of the $375 million shortfall for Quebec universities when compared to other Canadian universities, and we will hit the wall next year, Lightstone said. However, Lowy added, we are in a relatively good position because we have no debt except for the long-term bond issue, and we have had the most growth and therefore the most income.

As for the suggestion from some quarters of CREPUQ that research-heavy institutions should receive more funding than mainly undergraduate universities, Lightstone said that is nonsense; all students deserve to be treated equally.

Next meeting: March 19.

Editor: The Montreal International organization and the heads of Montreal's four universities have released a report that shows the tremendous role universities play in the city's economic vitality. Learn more on or visit the Montréal International website,