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Extension of term sought for Dr. Lowy

by Barbara Black

Wholehearted support has been expressed across the University for Rector Frederick Lowy in the wake of a suggestion that his term be extended. However, University Senate has questioned the process of granting such extensions, and is calling for a re-examination of the policies governing searches for senior administrators.

Last month, an appeal was
made in Senate and the pages of CTR (March 18) by Vice-Rector Institutional Relations and Secretary-General Marcel Danis to extend the term of Dr. Lowy by two years and nine months from when his five-year term would normally end, August 2000, to May 2003. The reason given was the unusually active state of many projects at the University, including the Capital Campaign, an ambitious construction and renovation plan, and academic planning.

While faculty and staff have been quick to endorse Dr. Lowy's leadership -- indeed, no objections to his continuing as Rector have been voiced -- doubts were raised in Faculty Councils and elsewhere that a precedent would be set by such an action.

Accordingly, Dr. Lowy addressed a special open meeting in the Concordia Concert Hall that preceded the monthly meeting of University Senate last Friday, and was publicized in CTR's issue of April 1 and on the Concordia Web site. At the meeting, the Rector
presented an overview of recent accomplishments, including im-proved morale and academic renewal, and challenges, including the intention to construct several new buildings, continued financial caution, and the pension lawsuit now before the courts.

At the regular Senate meeting, discussion focused on how to amend Concordia's search procedures, which have no provision even for an emergency extension of administrative terms. The current procedures, which were adopted in 1994, were the result of a task force chaired by Board of Governors Chair Reginald Groome.

The Groome Report was seen as a leap forward, partly because it made the search process more transparent by requiring shortlisted candidates to be presented to the University community at large before the Board made its final selection. As several senators noted last Friday, it also removed a step that called for an evaluation of the incumbent by an evaluation committee.

However, the current rules appear to be at odds with those in practice at many Canadian universities, which in many cases allow for longer terms (seven years rather than five) and some sort of evaluation before a widespread competition or search. The result has been, as senator Catherine MacKenzie (Fine Arts) put it, that twice in recent months, advertisements were placed in national papers, but only one candidate, the incumbent, was presented at the open meeting of shortlisted candidates. (These were for Dean of Fine Arts and Provost/Vice-Rector, Research.)

Longtime senator June Chaikelson (Arts and Science) suggested a way to resolve the present procedural difficulty while offering Dr. Lowy as much support as possible in a continued mandate. This would involve suggesting to the joint meeting on April 20 of the Senate steering committee and the executive committee of the Board that an advisory search committee be established for the post of Rector to conduct an internal search only.

Senators were urged to write their thoughts on the extension question to the secretary of Senate in time for the April 20 joint meeting.

At a future meeting, Senate will return to the subject with the help of questions in a document put forward by William Byers (Arts and Science), which addresses a future policy on the extension and renewal of administrative terms.

Copyright 1999 Concordia's Thursday Report.