Senate seeks clarity on president’s future

Stay tuned, Western.

That was the unanimous response to questions that arose during last week’s Senate meeting regarding future plans of Western President Amit Chakma.

Senators raised a number of questions regarding the university’s presidential review and appointment process, without directly asking Chakma, who is 19 months out from finishing his second five-year term, whether or not he is seeking reappointment or an extension of his term.

Senate Vice-Chair Michael Milde, Arts & Humanities Dean, addressed the concerns of Senators.

“One thing I can tell Senate is that for all senior administrative leaders, except the president, there is a common process whereby a selection committee is struck,” he said. “If there is an incumbent, the committee is a review committee and inquires of the incumbent whether or not he or she wishes to be considered. If they wish to be considered, it goes to review. If they decide they do not wish to be considered, the review turns into a selection committee. Normally, those committees are on an 18-month, or slightly less, time frame.

“The selection process for the president is similar, but the timeline there is the committee is struck between 24-21 months before the president’s term, and that committee would consider any extension or any renewal of the incumbent.”

When pressed as to where administration sits in the process at this time, the answer was a deferral to proceedings of this week’s Board of Governors meeting, scheduled for today.

“There is nothing to be announced at this time. The Board is aware of its responsibility and has a meeting next week. That’s where we are at right now,” said University Secretary Kathleen Kwan.

“There’s nothing to report at this time,” Chakma said. “But stay tuned. Ignore alternate facts; just be patient and things will unfold in due time.”

Milde noted the timelines for the presidential review committee and the selection committee differ and there is nothing yet to report about the selection committee “because we’re not even at the outer edge of that.”

Whether tasked with being a review or selection committee, the body is comprised of five Board members and five Senate members, he added, noting one of the Senate members must be a student. The Board does not make any decisions or move forward in the presidential review or selection process without Senate input, Milde stressed, noting several times the Board “does not act on its own.”

Senator Alison Hearn, who teaches in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, noted “it seems we are past a renewal and would have heard about it already.” She asked if the review process, she understands to be approaching, will become a general review of the presidential role, not the president, wherein feedback is solicited from faculty, staff and students, by way of Senators.

It is up to the committee to decide how to proceed, Kwan answered.

Chakma has served as president since 2009. He was at the centre of a controversy in 2015 when it became apparent he had accepted a contract stipulation that paid out $967,000 in salary and taxable benefits at the end of his first term.