Controversy over appointment of college master: what position should the GSA take? : LUSENET : Trent University Graduate Student Association : One Thread

The GSA has received several (at least 3) emails from our members expressing concern over the appointment of Peter Lapp as PR college master.

The candidate was chosen by the president, independently of the official search committee. This is technically legal; it is her decision. However, it seems this is the first time the search committee's recommendations have been ignored in this way.

After their recommendation to re-appoint George Nader was emphatically refused, the committee was readying the proposal of another candidate, John Malloy, whom it was hoping the administration could approve. This recommendation was still in the works when Peter Lapp's appointment was announced. This choice had not been presented to the committee for consideration. Peter Lapp has since expressed enthusiasm for the administration's plans for PR college.

The PR fellows (a body of faculty and a librarian associated with the college) voted unanimously to condemn this appointment. Furthermore, they are refusing to recognise the authority of Peter Lapp as college master, and have set up an alternative local administration to make college decisions.

One thing that makes this a serious issue, and of particular concern to the GSA, is that one of the reasons for not re-appointing outgoing master, George Nader, as the committee had recommended, was his criticism of the administration in defence of the college. He was reprimanded for reports questioning the rationale for the relocation of PR, and for the use of college funds in making these reports. The administration claims this criticism is not in keeping with his position as college master. Since this is felt to be an attack on his academic freedom, and since the GSA constitution commits the GSA to the defence of academic freedom, it is felt that we need to take a strong position against this turn of events.

Sean Gauthier, GSA president, has a first meeting with Peter Lapp very soon, after which he may be able to give us a better idea of how things stand.

These are the details as I understand them. What position do you think the GSA should take?

Marcus Wilker GSA communications

-- Marcus Wilker (, July 31, 2001


As the GSA representative on the PR master search committee, I'd like to clarify a couple of things. First: the president's refusal of George Nader's re-appointment (though it was, as Marcus says, emphatic) was NEVER communicated to the committee. After members of the committee learned from professor Nader himself that he had been refused, I (as acting chair) tried repeatedly and unsuccesfully to get a response from Graham Taylor, who was our designated contact in the senior administration. He only replied when it became clear that we had a second candidate (John Milloy) at which time he wrote to say that the committee was dissolved. Second: the question of 'legality' (or, more correctly, of due process) is debatable. The committee is advisory to the President, and is constituted according to guidelines established by Senate. The position, like all siginificant appointments at the university, has to be approved by the Board. The committee understood itself as having a mandate from Senate to make a successful recommendation; the administration says that the college master is a Board employee and George, because he's critical of Board policy, is unacceptable. This all sounds annoying familiar to those of us who've been here a couple years. That's all.


-- David Tough (, August 01, 2001.

The administration's plan to close the downtown colleges in contradiction to Senate motion, and also in contradiction to the historical grounds upon which Trent university was built is more than controversial! How could the destruction of the university be controversial? It's a no-brainer if you ask me. "Controversial" sounds as if it is something being debated symbolically, without real consequences. It's only controversial if you have some symbolic space to retreat to and thereby remove yourself from the consequences of the closure. "Controversial" sounds bureaucratic. I don't find the closure controversial but offensive. It is my understanding that Peter Lapp is being appointed by the administration against the wishes of the fellows of Peter Robinson College, which has some very real consequences. Why would he want act as the symbol and agent through which to commence the silencing of the fellows of PR and the ultimate closure of the college? This sounds to me like a false controversy, another smoke-screen after so much damage has already been done by the asministration. I hope I understand the situation correctly. I am behind the fellows in their desire to appoint whomever they see fit.

-- David Dunne, Frost Centre (, August 02, 2001.

I feel that I must agree with Dave in saying that this whole ordeal is "annoyingly familiar."

When Senate passed a motion which ostensibly blocked the administrations plans to alter the nature of Peter Robinson College, president Patterson said "thank you for your input but I am going to present this to the Board anyways." Patterson certainly recognised the legitimacy of the Senate decision (she actually voted), but when she realised she had lost the vote Senate magically took on an advisory role, divested of its decision making power on the issue.

History seems to be repeating itself with the issue of the Master search. The search committee, which was properly constituted by Senate, recommended George Nader continue as Master of PR twice. Granted, as president, Patterson has the right to deny the reccomendations of the committee but she needs a reason. The reasons that she has provided so far are unacceptable in my estimation.

More importantly however is the fact that the search committee was dissolved and a new Master appointed without consultation. This action is completely unacceptable and in contravention of Senate By- Laws. The President can refuse a recommendation but that does not mean that she is free to appoint whomever she pleases. Clearly the committee must reconvene to select a new candidate. This was done and John Milloy was recommended. Why was this recommedation not considered by the administration?

As I see it, the Graduate Student Association has an obligation to respect due process and this has clearly been violated. I see no other alternative than to not recognise this autocratic gesture.

-- sean gauthier, president, GSA (, August 02, 2001.

I feel that we should not direct our anger and disrespect toward the newly appointed Master of PR (who really has done nothing wrong) but rather it should be directed towards the individual who took it upon herself to override the committee and make such an important decision singlehandedly. I feel that there is a set process for making decisions for a reason and that the actions of anyone who choses not to follow this process should not be condoned. Therefore, I feel that the GSA should condemn Bonnie Patterson's actions rather than not recognize the new Master.

-- Alexis Armit (, August 03, 2001.

In response to Alexis' comment, I would say that refusing to accept the President's choice is approprate, but we should make it clear that this isn't an attack on Peter Lapp himself. We've all seen this situation get very personal, very quickly, and that can damage valuable relationships. So we have a tricky job (or at least Sean does): refuse Peter's authority without alienting him.

-- Nick Hamilton (, August 07, 2001.

There has been some confusion over my previous post which I would like to clarify. The position that I have endorsed is not the official position of the GSA executive. This is perhaps misleading as I included my GSA position after my name -- Marcus started it : ). The issue of whether or not to accept the authority of the 'interim Master of PRC' is undecided. It is for this reason that Marcus has initiated this particular forum. Again, I urge all members of the graduate community to express their opinions so that we can establish a position which best reflects our graduate population. Sorry for any confusion.

-- sean gauthier (, August 25, 2001.

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