The University of Western Ontario Faculty Association voted 94 per cent in favour of a non-confidence motion in President Amit Chakma and chair of the board of governors, Chirag Shah.
Alison Hearn, president of UWOFA, said in a press release that the faculty has "lost confidence" in Chakma and Shah's ability to lead.
“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.”
Highest turnout in UWOFA history
The motion was unprecedented as it saw the highest turnout for a vote in the faculty association’s history.
Fifty-four per cent of UWOFA members voted in the online ballot, which took place from Tuesday to Thursday. In an email, Hearn said 885 faculty were in favour of the motion, while 39 were against and 18 abstained.
The motion was brought forward from the floor in UWOFA’s general meeting on Monday.
“It wasn’t something the executive had prepared — it was a spontaneous motion. Obviously, because people were very upset and outraged,” Hearn said in an interview.
Hearn stressed the faculty's opposition to Chakma's double payment was about the disconnect between administration and the realities of front-line workers at the university.
"We’ve said all along that this is not about the money. It’s about poor judgement and skewed priorities, and the deep disconnect between the senior leadership and the realities on the ground.”
After a public backlash to his $924,000 salary last year, Chakma said on Wednesday that he was returning half of the money to the University voluntarily. The board of governors also announced they had appointed a former appeals court judge to conduct a review of presidential compensation at the university. Terms of reference for the review have yet to be finalized, according to Keith Marnoch, director of media relations for Western.
According to Hearn, the announcement by the president and the board of governors did little to deal with the concerns of the faculty members.
“It's poor judgment by the board and the president in allowing this deal to be struck in the first place,” she said. “There needs to be a lot more done to restore trust in the senior leadership on campus — more than just these little steps they took yesterday.”
As of Thursday afternoon, over 5,615 students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members have signed a petition calling for a non-confidence vote in the University's senate.
Hearn said that while the motion is symbolic, she is going to attempt to bring it forward to the University’s senate.
“I’m going to try to present it at senate if I can get on the agenda or if there is an opportunity to do so,” she said. “It was really a way for our members to express their deep dissatisfaction in the actions of the president and of the board.”
OUSA responds to Chakma's payout
The Ontario Undergraduate Students' Alliance criticized Chakma's double payout in times of rising expenses at universities and increasing cost pressures on students.
"In a time where university budgets are feeling the crunch across the province, there are a lot of tough decisions to make in order to provide a high-quality, affordable education," said Jen Carter, president of OUSA.
"However, preventing high level administrators from cashing in an additional year's salary isn't one of those tough decisions; it's a very straightforward way to curb costs."
According to Carter, Ontario undergraduate students have primarily been shouldering the costs in light of strained budgets at universities.
"Payouts like the ones allocated for Dr.Chakma either contribute to increasing tuition or adversely impact important services on which students rely."
With files from Hamza Tariq.
Correction: The article originally misidentified the quotes from OUSA as being from the director of communications, not the president. It has been corrected and updated.