Statements regarding the consideration of Provost Rhonda Lenton for President Reply

Dear all,

Here are some of the statements we’ve received regarding the consideration of Rhonda Lenton as York’s next President.

Jody Berland

Ricardo Grinspun

1. Full time faculty:

I’ll say first that I fully endorse the statement contained in your urgent call for action.

More specifically, my opposition to Provost Lenton’s nomination stems from the past experience of a very similar style of leadership, here at Glendon, during the late nineties. The divisiveness that resulted was such that it led quite a number of the faculty to present a motion of non-confidence, one which was adopted. The turmoil that it created put a major dent in the time that we should have devoted to our normal preoccupations with teaching and research.

We have already wasted a great deal of time responding to the fiasco AAPR turned out to be, and I’d rather we did not have to face that sort of exercise again (as seems likely we may) — all the less so given the small place Glendon occupies in the overall running of the University.

2. Full time faculty

I have known Rhonda Lenton for almost 15 years and have experienced the consistency with which she ignores or betrays the concerns of both faculty or students. She does not demonstrate a real understanding of the needs of the university, does not keep her word, or follow up on issues in which faculty have invested countless hours (months!) in good faith – particularly regarding the colleges and student services. Her focus is budget and her reference point for all the York needs is situated in the United States. I actually despair over by the vast number of American studies that keep being touted as the way of the future for York. No studies from the UK, or elsewhere in Europe or the rest of the world have been shared as far as I know. The recent US election should give us pause in terms of how much we should emulate their leadership strategies.

The vision of an inclusive, interdisciplinary university is certainly not hers.

It has also been made abundantly clear to me that her rhetoric is merely one of temporary appeasement. This is a candidate who will be extremely cordial in a meeting, but is not really listening, and who has already made up her mind. In other words, as stated in your letter, hers is an extremely top down style of administration, one that frankly, York has been suffering under for far too long.

It’s time for leadership that really invests in university constituents – faculty, students and staff – and does not rely exclusively on the status quo.

I have no confidence whatsoever in Rhonda’s ability to steer the university in a positive direction.

For all of the reasons outlined in your letter, and because York desperately needs to get out from under autocratic bullying tactics, I protest the candidacy of Rhonda Lenton.

3. Contract faculty

Although I’m in a better position than many of my Unit II colleagues at York, having relatively high seniority and fairly consistent work at my department, I can attest to the fact that conditions have deteriorated under [Provost Lenton’s] watch. She has indeed been a top-down, divisive administrator who appears to have little understanding or interest in the purpose or workings of a collegial, public institution. I watch my YUFA colleagues jump through hoops and invent managerial admin-speak to try to justify the existence of their departments and programs, while front-line staff have their job descriptions downwardly adjusted and their hours micro-managed by faceless bureaucrats, and contract faculty scramble (as usual) for the crumbs that may fall their way. Competition within and between departments reigns as the administration gushes about “excellence” but focuses only the cash-cow of high undergraduate enrolment. Not surprising that these numbers are actually falling – even the “bottom line” approach of her management does not appear to be working for the university.

York needs a very different kind of President – one who understands and respects the values of the university as a public, collegially-governed institution.

4. Full time faculty

In one capacity or another I have been on campus during the presidency of every York president from Murray Ross on. During that time I have come to the conclusion that the most effective presidents are those who are strong academics and who are collegial. I think that Harry Arthurs was the best embodiment of these qualities.

I raise this issue because I understand that Rhonda Lenton is a serious contender for the upcoming presidency. While she has many admirable qualities I think that she is deficient on the two that I have mentioned. As a result, the respect that automatically accrues to individuals who are strong in their fields would be absent during her potential presidency. In addition, for better or worse, she has managed to alienate a large number of faculty who view her (I believe with good reason) as not being collegial. As a result, her ability to get things done in an efficient manner would be limited were she to become president.

5. Contract faculty (segments from a longer piece)

The Vice President Academic & Provost’s impact on the 2014-15 round of collective bargaining is not widely known. But if we consider the bargaining room not only as a space for negotiation but as a treatment room for what ails precarious academics, then her influence on long-term contract faculty becomes clearer…

As the chief academic officer, the Provost must be held responsible for the managerial failure to integrate contract faculty into academe. She has yet to publicly acknowledge the problem of academic precarity and how it damages York’s reputation as an institution of higher learning. Instead, she has worked to reinforce the status quo of subprofessional academic labour and substandard faculty employment. A sustainable institution must include academic planning for sustainable academic livelyhoods. Her top-down decision-making about increasing the faculty complement make her the least qualified candidate to be York’s next president.

6. Retired faculty

I would like to express my deep concern about the possible designation of Rhonda Lenton as the next President of York University. She has not stood for the principles of diversity, debate, and questioning of the York University where I started to teach in 1971. Nor has she offered collegial and constructive leadership; rather, as Provost, she has been autocratic and divisive.

As a retired member of the York community who has continued to support the university, its programs, and its students in multiple ways since my retirement, I encourage the Search Committee to choose a new president who will ensure collegial and enlightened leadership for the university, rebuilding from the mistakes of recent years rather than undermining an important institution.

7. Contract faculty

I am one of those who would be dismayed at Rhonda Lenton becoming President, having witnessed her thoroughly unpleasant approach in the negotiations for the last collective agreement, and prefer to not have my name specifically cited. Thanks.

8. Contract faculty

While I don’t have time to draft a response, I do strongly endorse what Ricardo and Jody have articulated. I would very much like my voice to be counted, even while I do not feel in a position to put my name to this statement. Please consider this an anonymous endorsement from a sessional faculty member of LAPS.

9. Contract faculty

Thanks for your call for action. I, anonymously, endorse your statement 100%.

10. Contract faculty

I am a CUPE 3903 Unit 2 member, and although I have had no direct experience with Rhonda Lenton, I stand by the members of our community who feel that she is a poor choice for York president.

11 Full time faculty

Please consider this my endorsement as a member of the Glendon and York community. Your statement is an eloquent and accurate expression of my own concerns.

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