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Canada: Concordia University to lose $2 million in funding

Education Minister Line Beauchamp is cutting $2 million from Concordia University’s budget as a penalty for the $3.1 million in severance packages it paid to former president Judith Woodsworth and five senior administrators.

“I have expressed on several occasions my concerns about the series of departures from Concordia University and the resulting impact on its budget,” Beauchamp wrote in a letter to Peter Kruyt, chairman of Concordia’s 42-member board of governors.

“Concordia University has shown a lack of control and should face the consequences,” she continued in a news release about the letter.

“Today, I am sending a signal to all the administrators of our universities. Healthy management is synonymous with transparency and efficiency. I insist that our universities be administered efficiently and with rigour.”

In a statement, Concordia interim president Frederick Lowy said he shares Beauchamp’s concerns and noted that the university’s board adopted a resolution on March 5 calling for a review by an external audit firm of the university’s practices when senior staff leaves before their contracts end.

Lowy said the university “take(s) note of the minister’s decision and will act in accordance with our responsibilities” and added that “Concordia is committed to prudent fiscal management.”

Woodsworth, who left midway through her contract in December 2010, was given a $703,000 severance package.

The five other administrators got $2.4 million between September 2009 and September 2010. In addition, Concordia paid $1 million to Woodsworth’s predecessor, Claude Lajeunesse, who left for undisclosed reasons two years into his five-year term.

Woodsworth has since been re-hired by Concordia as a professor of French translation. Marie Malavoy, the Parti Québécois post-secondary education critic, questioned the timing of Beauchamp’s letter – with about 130,000 CEGEP and university students striking against planned hikes in tuition fees.

“Why today?” Malavoy asked in an interview on LCN.

“Why just Concordia? Today she pulls this out of her minister’s hat, like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.”

Malavoy noted she has been asking Beauchamp “for months” about Concordia and other universities where compensation and perks for administrators are rising while students are being asked to pay more. The PQ also has been critical of botched construction projects by Quebec universities using provincial funds – notably the Université du Québec à Montréal’s $510-million Îlot Voyageur campus. Between September 2009 and September 2010, Concordia paid five managers who left for mutually agreed reasons after working for the university between six and 30 years:

* $605,000 to former internal audit director Ted Nowak;

* $639,000 to former internal assistant audit director Saad Zubair;

* $700,000 to former vice-president of advancement and alumni affairs Kathy Assayag;

* $332,000 to former chief financial officer Larry English;

* $129,000 to former security director Jean Brisebois.

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