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Board of Governors and Senate highlights: October-November 2023

Graham Carr explains Concordia’s efforts at managing the recent hot-button issues
December 20, 2023

At the university’s Board of Governors meeting of October 26, Concordia President Graham Carr focused primarily on two ongoing issues, which were not addressed in his written report.

  • The Middle-East conflict:
    • All universities are facing challenges to manage the related campus tensions.
    • The university’s role is to be a place for the peaceful exchange of ideas.
    • While there is an expectation that Concordia declare a political position, it is not the university’s role to editorialize on the topics of the day; therefore Concordia is taking a measured approach in its public statements.
    • The university must speak to the entire community with compassion for all its members, which is difficult when issues are so polarizing.
    • The university’s core responsibility is to ensure that exchanges on campus are peaceful and respectful, and that students, faculty and staff feel safe on campus.
    • Carr recently attended the national meeting of university presidents in Ottawa, where these concerns were discussed.
    • He thanked the many staff who have been working day and night on this issue and on responding to the concerns of the community.
    • Regarding the protest organized on campus the day before, October 25, Carr reported that while some community members were not happy that the protest was held, it went off peacefully and it was preferable to allow it to proceed rather than to provoke a counter-reaction.
    • North American campuses are like a pot with boiling water on a stove — while they cannot turn off the heat, they must ensure the boiling water doesn’t overflow.
  • The Government of Quebec’s announcement to nearly double out-of-province tuition fees:
    • This will have a significant impact on the university and its revenues, hampering diversity and enrolment; it will disproportionately affect Bishop’s, McGill and Concordia.
    • It will have an impact on Montreal’s brand as one of the world’s great university cities, and on Quebec’s image as a welcoming place.
    • Carr has met with Pascale Déry, minister of Higher Education, who so far has been unyielding.
    • He underlined the amazing work by the several university sectors since the announcement.
    • He also thanked the community members, politicians and business and university leaders who have come out publicly against the policy.

Carr echoed these remarks to Senate at its November 3 meeting. In addition, he addressed the issues around the Mid-East conflict that relate directly to Senate:

  • Members of Senate, Concordia’s academic governance body, must remember the university’s role and responsibility as an academic institution and place of teaching, and must lead in the civil, respectful and evidence-informed exchange of ideas.
  • Faculty members well versed in dealing with similar complex issues should lead the discussion in their communities.
  • There is a need to be even more sensitive and mindful of the tone when expressing views and opinions.
  • Some students, staff and faculty do not feel that the university is now a safe space and instead feel intimidated; the university community must work together to address and reverse that environment, abide by a code of good behaviour, and exercise academic freedom without threat or infringing on others’ equal rights.
  • Individuals who feel victimized by words and actions should seek recourse through the procedures that the university has in place.
  • Carr restated that the university is a place of diversity of people, opinion and cultures; that diversity must be preserved, valued and respected.
  • He and the university team are trying to be as measured as possible in an extremely difficult moment, but there is a shared responsibility to keep calm on campus, to ensure that discourse is respectful and that people are talking and listening to each other.

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