University senate meets Friday to debate motion of no confidence in Amit Chakma

Protesters turn their backs on Chakma as he delivers an apology at the April 10 meeting of senate for the controversy of the past two weeks. Kelly Samuel // GAZETTE

Less than a year into his second term, Western University President Amit Chakma faces a vote of non-confidence in the University's largest governing body.

Western's senate will meet on Friday to debate two motions, one expressing no confidence in Chakma and the other, no confidence in the chair of the board of governors, Chirag Shah.

The special meeting of senate was requested by 22 members of senate in response to the controversy surrounding the double payment President Chakma received last year. After public backlash, Chakma returned the additional money he received last year for not taking an administrative leave.

In a letter dated Apr. 7, the 22 senators said, "The senate wishes to advise the board that President Chakma’s acceptance of pay in lieu of leave of $440,000 at the same time as this senate has repeatedly been told that there is no money to address faculty budgetary issues shows a gross error in judgment and a deep lack of understanding of the priorities of this institution."

The second motion to be debated is a no confidence motion for Shah, chair of the board of governors, for his public support of the contract and payout given to Chakma.

Both motions will be considered as advice to the board of governors at their next meeting on April 23. University secretariat Irene Birell said in an email that a simple majority will be needed to pass the motions. Fifty-one senators will have to be present in order for quorum to be met.

UWOSA responds to Chakma's apology

At last week's regularly scheduled meeting of senate, Chakma apologized for the controversy about his compensation and said it has been a "wake up call" for him and his administration. During the question and answer period following his apology, senators mainly addressed his leadership style and his focus on external issues to the University. Chakma said he will engage in town hall style discussions with campus members, going from faculty to faculty to solicit feedback on how to improve the University's operations.

The two largest bargaining units on campus, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association and the University of Western Ontario Staff Association, both held votes of non-confidence in Chakma and Shah last week.

In a letter addressed to Chakma, the UWOSA executives responded to some of the central components of Chakma's speech, including trying to break the administration out of their bubble and addressing the real issues the University is facing.

"Our issue is not about recruitment and retention of senior leadership. Our issue is about a broken operational model, based on a business model. Our issue is the treatment of people (staff and faculty) as overhead, rather than the intellectual resources that support the university’s overall mission. Our issue is the treatment of students as easy revenue streams instead of our future provincial and national leaders. Our issue is wasting more money to conduct an independent review of a contract that was legally bound as written," the letter stated. "Perhaps it would be more beneficial to conduct an independent and impartial review of the university’s current operational budget and current allocations?"

The UWOSA executive concluded by saying that they are looking forward to discussing these issues with Chakma and his team.

"We support the university’s mission and ask that you, the board of governors and the senior leadership team demonstrates that same support by investing in students, investing in teaching, investing in research and scholarship and investing in staff and faculty. You have promised to hear us. We look forward to that conversation."

First special meeting since 1989

Birell said this will be the first special meeting of senate since 1989 and only the ninth since 1968.

Time was given as the reason for need of holding a special meeting before the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 8.

"It is our belief that a special meeting of the Senate will enable fulsome, focused and timely deliberation of these important issues," the senators said in their letter. "A delay in the consideration of these motions until the next scheduled Senate meeting on May 8 will only postpone the healing process for our community."

The need for a timely discussion, as well as its close relationship to the first motion, was also the rational for the second motion to be debated at the same time.

22 senators requested meeting

The senate members who requested the meeting are:

Mary-Anne Andrusyszyn, Nursing

Neil Banerjee, Earth Sciences

Dan Belliveau, Health Studies

Chris Brown, Classical Studies

Jacquie Burkell, Faculty of Information and Media Studies

Joel Faflak, English

Carole Farber, Faculty of Information and Media Studies

John Hatch, Visual Arts

Jacques Lamarche, French

Beverly D. Leipert, Nursing

Robert Mercer, Computer Science

Shannon K. Mischler, Psychology (Graduate student senator)

Jean-François Millaire, Anthropology

Diana Mok, Geography and BMOS

Katrina Moser, Geography

Andrew Nelson, Anthropology

Volker Nolte, Kinesiology

Paul-Philippe Pare, Sociology

Bernd Steinbock, Classical Studies

Paul G. St-Pierre, Faculty of Information and Media Studies (Graduate student senator)

Nadine Wathen, Faculty of Information and Media Studies

Paul Woodford, Faculty of Music

The meeting is open to the public and will be held in Room 1100 at the Ivey School of Business at 1:30 p.m. Birell noted that because of a prior booking of the auditorium, the doors would be opening later than last week to allow for time to set up.

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