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Marcel Danis presents his case for a vital university

Vice-Rector Marcel Danis has called for the deregulation of tuition fees in Quebec, and expressed admiration for a system of tuition repayment that seems to be working well in Australia and New Zealand.

The suggestions were part of a wide-ranging presentation Danis made on Monday morning as the only shortlisted candidate and thus the incumbent for a second term as Vice-Rector Institutional Relations and Secretary-General.

"Australia does not demand up-front payment," he explained. "Instead, students can defer their fees, with the government paying their contribution.

"Students repay what is essentially an interest-free loan through the tax system. After they get a degree, and are employed with a taxable annual income over a specified amount, the government rewards up-front payments with a 25-per-cent discount."

Danis said that the hardest part is the start-up costs, but the Australian experience indicates an almost perfect repayment rate.

In his address, Danis emphasized the success with which Concordia has handled the past decade of budget cuts, early retirements and other challenges. The university's accumulated deficit is $12 million, considerably lower than most other Quebec universities. The capital campaign has brought in pledges of $100 million to date, and a building campaign will be launched immediately.

Danis said he is a strong supporter of "value-added skills," such as critical thinking, numeracy, communication and language skills and the use of information technology. He would like to be able to reward successful students -- those with a full successful year behind them and a B average -- with a laptop computer.

Concordia support staff have been reduced by 10 per cent by the recent cuts, yet they must serve approximately 1,500 more students. A recent review of several sectors indicates that even with recent increases, staff earn, on average, 4 to 11 per cent less than their counterparts in the public and para-public sectors.

Danis also indicated a broad range of salaries among faculty, relative to their Quebec peers. The lowest 10 per cent of faculty earn $8,000 less on average, while the top 10 per cent earn $18,000 on average more. While the latter is a good move in a competitive environment, he said, the lowest-paid faculty should be paid more.

The number of collective bargaining units at the university have been reduced from 16 to 11, he said, and his goal is to get that number down to eight. A tentative agreement has been reached with CUSSU, the large support staff union, and he hopes to be able to add medical insurance coverage to the benefits enjoyed by CUPFA (part-time faculty) members. JEP, the Job Evaluation Program, will be redesigned in consultation with stakeholders.

Danis, who is a practicing lawyer and an active teacher in the Political Science Department, said he has enjoyed 32 years at Concordia, and considers it a privilege to teach here. "I see no reason that Concordia cannot be considered one of the leading universities in Canada," he said.

Danis was appointed Vice-Rector, Institutional Relations, in 1996, and named Secretary-General in 1998, when the two offices were merged. He is responsible for the University Advancement Division (Advancement, Alumni Relations), Communications (Public Relations, Marketing Communications, Translation, Information Services), Government Relations, Governance (Legal Counsel, Office of the Board and Senate, Archives) and Human Resources and Employee Relations.

- Barbara Black

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