An Open Letter to President Chakma

An Open Letter to President Chakma

An open letter to President Amit Chakma, current president of Western University of Canada.

Dear President Chakma,

I read today with good cheer that, following the furor on the campus of Western University and in the wider community, you have decided to reimburse the bonus that was owed to you because you refused to take a sabbatical leave. Under the terms of your contract, signed in 2009, you would have been awarded almost half a million dollars in 2014 and that same amount again at the end of your tenure in 2019, for a total of nearly a million dollars. Your decision shows a remarkable amount of leadership and social responsibility and I congratulate you on your display of good judgement.

In these times of austerity – with marches planned today in Quebec against the definancing and underfinancing of our social welfare system, including significant shortfalls to education and health – the pressure is increasingly on administrators to ensure that our universities are adequately funded by governments. This does not mean a maintenance of the status quo, but a re-examination and reversal of recent trends and short-sighted politics to plan for the future without sufficiently accounting for how that future will be nurtured and informed through classroom teaching and up-to-date research.

Earlier this week at Laval, for example, Mr. Éric Bauce, our executive vice-president, wrote an eloquent essay that appears on Université Laval‘s website. Mr. Bauce rightfully charges that the government is weakening our education system with the budget cuts announced last week. I’m sure that he’ll look to your reimbursement and refusal of future financial perks with admiration and, with his colleagues in upper administration, will decide that such calls as his can only be read with a heavy dose of irony when he and his fellow administrators have recently accepted significant bonuses as their due. Indeed, I hope that our administration will recognise that their calls for the better funding of universities will only fall on deaf ears given the optics of the situation.

I should add that I recently participated as a volunteer for Université Laval’s fundraising campaign, for which we targeted student needs in particular. Like the scores of colleagues who likewise volunteered their time and the hundreds who have given money so generously, we believe that the mission of the university is significantly different from that of a private profit-driven company in that it does not simply provide a service or a good, but life-changing experiences and skills that will better the people and the broader society for future generations. Similarly, many of us feel that governing boards need to stop regarding university presidents as entitled CEOs. Instead, we need to work together – board members, administrators, professors, sessionals, personnel, and students – to ensure that our mission is accomplished in collegial terms. Of course, as your act today acknowledges, we can best begin by modelling appropriate behaviour that will, we hope, inspire those who have entrusted us with their education and their futures.


Brad Kent
Associate Professor of British and Irish Literatures
Université Laval

Categories: Opinion

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