Concordia story "misleading"
by Diana Grier Ayton
The Concordia administration was deep into damage control this week following an article in the weekend Gazette reporting widespread cuts in that university's academic programs.
The front-page article, which Concordia rector Frederick Lowy this week called "misleading" and "grossly premature," listed dozens of programs that would supposedly be dropped, cut or reduced.
Insisting that "nothing has been decided," Lowy said that a report called "Our Immediate Future," on which the story was based, was presented at a meeting of Concordia's Senate last week. "The purpose was to have a two-hour general discussion of the recommendations. And that's what we did. This is just one stage in a long-term planning process."
Originally, the preliminary discussion was to be followed up by a special meeting of Senate on February 14 when final decisions on the recommendations would be made. Lowy says that has now been postponed to May 30 to allow faculties and departments more time to respond to the report.
The rector doesn't deny that changes are imminent at Concordia. "All universities are facing budget compressions. There's no question that we can't continue as we are. We have been working on this process for a year and a half and, yes, we are looking at programs where registration is low, but that doesn't mean they will automatically be cut. That is not the only consideration."
Lowy says that tradition will play a major part in the reshaping of Concordia. "It takes us back to the two founding institutions. Loyola offered a broad liberal arts education and Sir George provided educational opportunities for mature students that they couldn't find anywhere else. We want to continue to offer broad, wide access and programs that have been our strengths, like communications studies, fine arts and commerce."
And while Lowy has concerns about inaccuracies in the Gazette article--certain programs were incorrectly listed as being at risk, for example--he is also upset by a significant omission. "One of the most important recommendations in the report is the establishment of a core curriculum in the humanities and sciences for all our students--whether they're in arts, science or engineering. This isn't a budget-cutting measure, in fact it may be more expensive, but we want to enrich the undergraduate experience."
Once formal discussion on the report resumes again in May, Lowy says final decisions will be made, and some will be acted upon quickly. "There will be some changes in place by next September." But he also had words of reassurance for students alarmed by press reports over the last week. "Any student who registers for a course which appears in the Concordia calendar will be able to complete that course."
In the end, Lowy is philosophical. "I don't know why the press gave this so much prominence," he says. "But that is a risk we run in universities. If this were industry, everything would be taking place behind closed doors. We have to be transparent. Our discussions, even preliminary ones, are very public."