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Board of Governors and Senate highlights: December 2023

Dealing with the fallout of external events remains a priority for the administration
February 2, 2024

At the meetings of the Board of Governors on December 14 and Senate on December 15, Concordia President Graham Carr once again addressed external issues affecting the university.

Regarding the Government of Quebec’s changes to the funding formula for out-of-province and international students:

  • On December 14, Concordia received an official document from the government of Quebec outlining the changes; the government again ignored the efforts of the three Quebec anglophone university presidents to address the issue.
  • Since the original announcement in October, Concordia has seen a 20 per cent drop in applications from the rest of Canada and a 30 per cent drop in international applications for the 2024-25 academic year.
  • While the $12,000 tuition fees for out-of-province students are less than the $17,000 originally proposed, this is still close to twice the tuition fee rates for similar programs in the rest of Canada.
  • For international students, Concordia will face a shortfall of about $5,500 per international student.
  • The three presidents had proposed 40 per cent francisation for non-francophone students over the first four years, but the government instead is now requiring an unrealistic 80 per cent francisation.
  • Carr thanked the university community and other members of the wider community, including Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante, for their support.
  • While the higher education sector in Quebec remains underfunded, the revised funding formula doesn’t add any new investment.
  • The university will continue to communicate that its programs and city of Montreal are world class.
  • Concordia will not increase its tuition fees for 2024-25, honouring what it advertised and was approved by the Board in May.

To Senate, Carr added:

  • The university will develop targeted communications to students from the rest of Canada, focus on recruitment within Quebec and in francophone countries such as France and Belgium, and promote a Concordia education as a passport to opportunity for the future.
  • A petition with 33,000 signatures protesting the changes to the university funding formula was presented to the National Assembly, the largest petition submitted to the National Assembly in 2023.

Re. the Middle East conflict’s impact:

  • After a physical altercation in the Hall Building in November, the SPVM was called in, and two individuals were subsequently banned from campus; since then, the university team has been diligently working to ensure safety for all without infringing on freedom of expression and academic freedom.
  • Due to Concordia’s central location, some people from outside the university have entered campus, and security had to intervene; sometimes misleading photos or video clips of these incidents appeared on social media.
  • Carr remains deeply concerned about the current campus environment, as some university community members have expressed fear for their physical safety, and others are fearful of fully expressing their identity on campus.
  • He has reminded Senate, the academic leadership, leaders of unions and student groups and managers and directors that it’s essential for all community members to conduct themselves with empathy and respect.
  • While many factors outside the university’s control make it difficult, it’s important to remember the great things happening here.
  • To Senate, Carr added that several faculty members with expertise in conflict resolution have been consulted for solutions to the Mideast conflict spillover, while conversations are underway to identify other initiatives.

Other news:

  • Concordia celebrated 1,200 new graduates and three honorary doctorate recipients at its fall 2024 convocation at Place des Arts on November 28.
  • Concordia placed in the global top 100 universities in the 2024 QS Sustainability Rankings, which recognize universities’ actions to tackle environmental, social and governance issues.
  • Creative writing grad Sarah Bernstein won the 2023 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her novel Study for Obedience.
  • Karim Zaghib, professor of chemical and materials engineering and the CEO of Volt-age, was named a personality of the year by l’Actualité magazine.
  • Recent journalism grad Bogdan Lytvynenko was named a Rhodes Scholar, Concordia’s second in three years.
  • Concordia aerospace engineering student Marion Thénault won aerials gold at the women’s World Cup in Finland in December.
  • Concordia student-run literary journal Headlight Anthology won the FORCES Avenir award in the Arts, Literature and Culture category.
  • Concordia celebrated 28 varsity athletes in December as Academic All-Canadians and Academic All-Stars, while women’s hockey team captain Emmy Fecteau was awarded the Joe and Ben Weider Athletic Leadership Award.

At Senate, Carr also reported:

  • Concordia’s budget news is not encouraging, due to lower-than-expected enrolment; the student enrolment-growth business model that Concordia and all other Quebec universities currently rely on will be revisited.
  • The government and Board approved in principle a required deficit-reduction plan that that maps a return to budget equilibrium in the next five years.

Anne Whitelaw, provost and vice-president, academic, noted:

  • The CUFA collective agreement had received its members’ ratification and was also approved by the Board.
  • An alternative grading policy for non-program courses will allow students to take a course outside of their disciplinary field without the worry of the final grade negatively impacting their GPA if they don’t succeed in the course. 

Annual report from the Office of Rights and Responsibilities

Aisha Topsakal, director of the Office of Rights and Responsibilities, presented the office’s annual report, which covered the period from May 1, 2022, to April 30, 2023:

  • The office opened 372 new cases, slightly more than the previous year; the most cited issue was harassment.
  • The office continued to receive requests for support for students still feeling the effects of isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • While the previous months had overall been difficult for the community, the number of complaints received was not as high as anticipated.

Update from the Ombuds Office

Amy Fish, the university’s ombudsperson, provided an update following the incidents in early November prompted by the conflict in the Middle East:

  • The Ombuds Office received about 41 related requests, two from students, some from parents and 28 from individuals unknown to Concordia, many from outside Montreal; while the office responded to all and offered meetings to the students and parents, no one accepted the offers.

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