Debate over the handling of Western President Amit Chakma’s 2014 salary now shifts to the university Senate, as Friday’s regularly scheduled meeting will be augmented by a specially called meeting to discuss a non-confidence vote in the president. That meeting has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 17.
All this comes amid expressed non-confidence by two of the institution’s largest bargaining units, despite efforts by the university president and Board of Governors to allow the university to “move forward.”
On Friday, however, the university Senate takes centre stage.
Chakma, who serves as Senate chair, plans to make a statement regarding his administrative leave during the Report of the President (Agenda Item 3). Following that, Health Sciences Dean Jim Weese, who serves as Senate vice-chair, will lead a question-and-answer session around the statement.
The university Senate meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Richard Ivey Building, Room 1100. Note the change of venue from the Senate’s recent home in the University Community Centre. The hefty agenda also includes discussion on the Campus Master Plan and 2015-16 University Operating and Capital Budgets.
On Wednesday, the request for a special university Senate meeting was filed with Irene Birrell, University Secretary.
Senate bylaws allow for a written request from a minimum of seven Senators asking to call a special meeting. That request must state the business of the proposed meeting at the time it is made. Once delivered to the University Secretary, inside or outside the confines of a meeting, the special meeting must be called within 15 days of the request’s arrival. That meeting has been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 17. Location has yet to be determined.
According to the request from 22 faculty members, the meeting will concern: “That the Senate of the University of Western Ontario has lost confidence in President Amit Chakma.”
During the Enquiries and New Business (Agenda Item 6) portion of Friday’s meeting, any Senator could have called for a ‘notice of motion’ asking for a vote of non-confidence in the president, Board chair, or both. That notice would be noted at that moment, but not voted on immediately, Birrell explained. The motion would have been forwarded to the Senate’s Operations/Agenda Committee, chaired by Weese. This committee would then have determined if motion was in order, and if it should go on the agenda of the next meeting, May 8.
However, that procedure is unnecessary now that a special meeting request has been filed.
This special meeting request caps off an eventful week leading up to tomorrow’s meeting.
In a statement issued April 1, Chakma announced he was voluntarily refunding his in lieu payment for 2014, as well as foregoing his contractually specified payment in lieu of administrative leave at the end of his second term. The move, the president wrote, was “as a demonstration of my commitment to Western and to address the concerns that many have expressed.”
On March 27, Western figures showed the university president was paid $924,000 (plus $43,244.88 in taxable benefits) in 2014. That number made him the fourth-highest paid public servant in Ontario, and highest paid university president.
Chakma’s number was somewhat deceiving as his annual base salary remained at $440,000. However, Western made a ‘double-payment’ to the president in lieu of a one-year administrative leave inclusion in his first five-year contract, which concluded June 2014. The board re-appointed Chakma to a second five-year term extending to June 30, 2019. That contract also called for a one-year administrative leave or payment in lieu of that leave.
In a separate statement, also issued April 1, Western’s Board of Governors announced an “independent and impartial review of the university’s presidential compensation practices.” Led by the Honourable Stephen T. Goudge, former Justice of the Court of Appeal of Ontario, no details of the review’s timetable or parameters have been announced.
“In this time of fiscal uncertainty and restraint in the postsecondary education sector, Western’s Board of Governors is highly sensitive to the concerns expressed by members of the Western community and the wider public,” said Chirag Shah, Board of Governors chair, in the statement. “Accordingly, we have asked former Court of Appeal Justice Stephen T. Goudge to conduct a full, fair, and transparent review of the issue.”
In addition to the review announcement, the Board used its statement to reaffirm confidence in the leadership of Chakma.
Despite the moves, pressure from two of Western’s largest bargaining units continues to mount.
On April 2, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association (UWOFA), which represents more than 1,600 faculty members, voted 94 per cent in favour (54 per cent of members represented) of a non-confidence resolution concerning Chakma and Shah.
“Faculty have clearly lost confidence in Dr. Chakma’s and Mr. Shah’s ability to lead our university,” said Alison Hearn, UWOFA president. “There’s something deeply wrong when a university president earns close to $1 million while student debt is rising, class sizes are increasing and staff are facing cuts.
“President Chakma’s decision to forgo the extra money doesn’t change the underlying problems. The Board’s initial response was that nothing wrong had occurred. We’ve said all along that this is not about the money. It’s about poor judgment and skewed priorities, and the deep disconnect between the senior leadership and the realities on the ground.”
At its Annual General Meeting today, the University of Western Ontario Staff Association (UWOSA), which represents 1,000 staff working in faculties and administrative units across campus, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion of non-confidence in Chakma and Shah.
“This continues to have a tremendous impact on our members, who are still doing their best to assist faculty with their scholarly activity, and students with their academic careers,” said Karen Foullong, UWOSA president. “Our goal is to make the Board of Governors and President Chakma accountable for their actions to date, and going forward, represent Western as a responsible, publicly funded university that directs its resources appropriately.”
Other campus representative bodies are avoiding calling non-confidence votes among their memberships, thus far. The Professional and Managerial Association (PMA) and Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) Local 610, along with both major student groups, the Society of Graduate Students (SOGS) and University Students’ Council (USC), have no plans to conduct non-confidence votes in advance of the Senate. Despite the lack of referendums, however, PSAC and SOGS have been vocal in the debate.
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MEET STEPHEN T. GOUDGE
On April 1, Western’s Board of Governors announced an “independent and impartial review of the university’s presidential compensation practices,” led by the Honourable Stephen T. Goudge, former Justice of the Court of Appeal of Ontario.
Goudge earned a BA (Political Science/Economics) from University of Toronto in 1964, an MSc (Economics) from the London School of Economics in 1965 and a law degree from U of T in 1968. He was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1970.
Until he was appointed to the bench, he practiced general litigation, including civil and commercial, administrative, labour and charter litigation at Gowling, Strathy & Henderson in Toronto. From 1974-86, he lectured on labour law and native rights at U of T. In 1989, he served as Counsel to the Office of the Premier of Ontario.
Goudge was appointed as a judge of the Court of Appeal of Ontario in 1996. He retired from the bench in April 2014.
Goudge is best known to the public for leading the Inquiry into Pediatric Forensic Pathology in Ontario in 2008. During that time, he helped shape the use of pediatric forensic pathology related to its practice and use in investigations and criminal proceedings. Following its completion, he was cited as a model of how to lead an efficient, effective, fair and successful public inquiry. Many of his recommendations have since been implemented.
- Story updated to clarify other campus representative bodies are avoiding calling non-confidence votes among their memberships, April 9.
- Story updated to include UWOSA non-confidence vote, April 9.