By Sutton Eaves
Critics of Ryerson president Claude Lajeunesse are concerned with his refusal to address the needs of the university, and are denouncing the Board of Governor’s for not publicly reviewing his performance.
Among the skeptics are the Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA), RyeSAC and the Ryerson local of Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). None think Lajeunesse recognizes the issues detailed in the 1998 Presidential Advisory Review Committee (PARC) report, compiled at the time of the president’s reappointment.
The report articulated seven priority issues that the PARC felt were in need of the president’s attention. Faculty morale was at the top of the list, followed by student needs, where the president’s role was defined as an “advocate for affordable and accessible education.” The remaining four issues included staff relations, fundraising, external relations, financial management and communications.
The Board of Governors were also made responsible for monitoring Lajeunesse and his adherence to the terms via an annual report.
After waiting two years for a public review, many are frustrated with the Board’s latency and are demanding that an assessment of the president be conducted immediately.
“They (some members of the PARC) believed those conditions were going to be fulfilled. Had it been known at the time that there wasn’t going to be a review, some people who signed wouldn’t have, and it would not have been a unanimous recommendation for the president’s re-appointment,” said Michael Doucet, president of the RFA. In 1998, the Association’s executive sent the PARC a unanimous recommendation not to renew Lajeunesse’s contract.
“We also recommended that the president make an effort to visit every academic unit on campus to get to know us first-hand,” he said. “Perhaps by attending departmental council meetings or encouraging the faculty to meet with him, he could find out what the barriers to progress were. To most, it’s a no brainer.”
Faculty members continue to grapple with the issues like faculty morale and workload, which they spoke out about in 1998, said Doucet. The contentious relationship between the faculty and the administration is manifested in the current battle over contract negotiations, which are heading into arbitration.
Odelia Bay, president of RyeSAC and a representative on the Board, is also critical of Lajeunesse’s execution of the terms of his mandate, and the Board’s commitment to reviewing it.
“In terms of some kind of public, accountable fashion, as far as I know, the two-year review is not happening,” said Bay. She obtained her copy of the report through her position at RyeSAC — not by way of her affiliation with the Board. She said she doubts if many other representatives on the Board are aware of the priority issues detailed in the report.
Bay said she has seen no evidence of Lajeunesse being an “advocate for affordable and accessible education.” As an indication of his incompetency, she refers to an informal conversation she had with Lajeunesse in January.
“He recognized that universities were underfunded, but added ‘that’s why we need to increase tuition fees.’ If that’s his belief, then he certainly isn’t filling the mandate,” said Bay.
RyeSAC supports the RFA’s demand for a review of the president’s performance — a review that Board chair Jane Langdon doesn’t believe is owed.
“The recommendations made in it (PARC report) are being followed. The president reports to the wider Ryerson community on progress that has been made through his annual State of the University address,” said Langdon, who also mentioned that during a yearly Board planning session, the president’s priorities are reviewed and adjusted appropriately.
Beyond a private review, which is conducted annually by select members of the Board, no official, public examination of Lajeunesse’s performance as president is conducted, particularly in relation to the report.
Whether or not there is a review, those in opposition to Lajeunesse as president call for a change in his approach to governance.
“I think it’s time for Claude to use his influence to promote ideals and issues highlighted in the PARC report. If those things, were being met, I don’t think we’d be in the same situation we are in today,” said Bay.