YUGSA Statement on York's Presidential Search

TORONTO, Nov. 23, 2016 /CNW/ - The York University Graduate Students' Association (YUGSA) strongly opposes the potential appointment of Vice-President Academic and Provost Rhonda Lenton to the position of President of York University. We regard the news of this potential appointment by the Presidential Search Committee as an endorsement of the increasingly fraught and divisive status quo, and a move to further entrench corporate governance at York University. We urge our community partners to join us in taking a stand against not only this appointment, but of the increasingly narrow and privatized vision of post-secondary education that this appointment represents.

During Provost Lenton's tenure, York University has experienced growing class sizes, increased pressure on staff receiving non-competitive and inadequate wages, and the emergence of a culture of competition and even animosity between departments that have historically worked collaboratively. Her model of making our departments supposedly more efficient and effective have compromised the integrity of our learning processes, forcing upon unrealistic metrics to determine our successes as an academic institution.

If the consequences associated with the new Shared Accountability & Resource Planning (SHARP) budget model are any indication, Provost Lenton's tenure as President would be more of the same technocratic policy measures that aim to imbue ever-more aspects of university life with market-driven values.

In the "Position Profile" released by the Presidential Search Committee back in July, — which summarizes what select members of the York community indicated they were looking for in the next President — the future President is described as someone who "will facilitate positive and respectful labour relations." A "natural collaborator", the next President "will champion the University's academic and research goals with an innovative spirit and a profound sense of community, inspiring a commitment to lifelong learning, equity and societal engagement."

By almost any measure, Provost Lenton fails to meet these criteria.

YUGSA wants to see York University select a President who is committed to advancing critical scholarship, welcomes debate and dissent, and recognizes the important role that universities play in nurturing a democratic public sphere.

YUGSA expects the next president to welcome and respect the positive role that labour and student unions play in the governance of the university, rather than further the toxic relationship that the university has fostered with teaching assistants and graduate assistants, contract and tenure-track faculty, food service workers, academic staff, and undergraduate students.

That is why YUGSA is also invested in seeing the search committee for the future president adopt a process that facilitates genuine community engagement, and is lead by a concern for pedagogy rather than profit. The current process has taken place largely behind closed doors, and has not properly considered the input of the students, staff, or faculty that engage in the actual educational work of the university.

Instead, the search committee was stacked with current members of the Board of Governors, which includes such esteemed scholars as the President of Metropolitan Hotels (Henry Wu), the former President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Canada (Paul Tsaparis), the chair of the Board of Directors of 407 International Inc. (David McFadden), a senior KPMG executive (Ozench Ibrahim), a senior Holt Renfrew executive (Susan Black), and the retired CEO of Scotiabank (Rick Waugh). It is difficult to imagine a group of people whose interests are more at odds with York University's mission to advance the cause of social justice.

We therefore call on the Board of Governors to block the ratification of Rhonda Lenton as the next York President, if that ends up being the committee's final recommendation. Further, we call on the current search committee to reopen its search for shortlisted candidates with significantly higher community input, and with the future of our university at the core of its concerns. The Board of Governors is removed from our academic processes and should not be the main deciding body in this process that so gravely affects our ability to engage in innovative and meaningful research and education.

York University Graduate Students' Association | Canadian Federation of Students, Local 84
Student Centre - York University
4700 Keele St., Toronto, ON, M3J 1P3
416-736-5875 | http://www.yugsa.ca


For further information: Mina Rajabi Paak, President, president@yugsa.ca; Evan Johnston, Resource Coordinator, rc@yugsa.ca

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