A regular meeting of the Concordia University Senate, held October 15, 1999.
Death of Reginald K. Groome: The meeting began with a unanimous expression of regret at the death last month of the Chair of the Board of Governors.
Throne speech: Rector Frederick Lowy hailed as "marvellous news" the federal government's intention, announced October 12, to substantially increase funding to its research granting agencies, establishing 1,200 new academic chairs. Since the funding of this five-year program would be distributed according to current research activity, Concordia should get between 1 and 2 per cent of the new money for salaries and research support, freeing up its equivalent for other operating needs.
Food services contract: Student senator Pierre Blais attacked the exclusive contract enjoyed by Marriott, saying that it restricts the variety of food offered to students, prevents groups from serving their own food at special events, and leads to such exorbitant charges as $25 for a pitcher of water for an invited speaker. Vice-Rector Services Charles Emond explained that Marriott remits a substantial portion of its sales to the university, and is entitled to make a fair profit. He said that when conflicts occur, he deals with them on a case-by-case basis.
Capital Campaign: Student senator Mistie Mullarkey asked why, since the Capital Campaign has ended with its goal more than achieved, students continue to pay into the campaign through their student fees. Lowy said that the university's needs are still great, and that if the fee were abolished, services to students would suffer. Another student said that "miscellaneous" fees charged to students have increased far beyond the costs they are ostensibly for, and are an illegal way of circumventing the tuition fee freeze. Lowy said that the Quebec government is well aware of these administrative charges, and their legality is a matter of interpretation.
Budget for 1998-99: Chief Financial Officer Larry English presented the latest figures on the academic year past. He noted that the accumulated deficit had been virtually halved through money from Quebec, saving about $750,000 in interest payments. He explained a number of specific items, e.g., a rental loss on the Faubourg Tower is not likely to be repeated now that it is fully occupied; bad debts (mainly unpaid tuition) amounted to more than $400,000. The deficit for 1998-99 was $4.1 million.
Budget for 1999-2000: English presented a number of reallocations within the budget that were presented last spring. A $2.7-million deficit is projected for this year. He also gave an overview of Concordia's finances in relation to other universities. Most provinces showed a substantial (as much as 10 per cent) rise in tuition fees last year; only British Columbia and Quebec have frozen tuition. In terms of accumulated debt, Concordia and McGill have gone in a few years from being among the most indebted to among the least indebted universities in Quebec; Laval tops the list, with a debt of $81 million.
The student senators, however, were unimpressed, and repeated their call for totally funded tuition; they denounced corporate representation on the Board of Governors, and invited the administration and faculty to join them in a student strike on November 3. The Rector said that breaking with the rest of the Quebec universities to mount a public protest would not be wise. He added that if he could find more volunteers from the corporate world to sit on the Board, he would; these people had been enormously helpful to the university when it had nowhere else to turn. To a student who talked of "selling out academic freedom," Lowy said, "I challenge you to find a single case where our academic freedom has been compromised."
Compiled by Barbara Black
Next meeting: November 5