CUP Bureau Chief
MONTREAL (CUP) — Concordia University provided a $1.337 million interest-free advance to former President Judith Woodsworth a year after her sudden departure from the university as senior administrator in December 2010.
As part of the terms of her dismissal, Concordia’s administration conceded an advance for Woodsworth and her husband Lindsay Crysler, a former director of the university’s journalism department, should they decide to move within the year. Woodsworth accepted the concession a full 12 months after her resignation.
In an interview with Canadian University Press, Woodsworth confirmed that the advance was directly related to the separation agreement between her and the school, and not part of her contract as president. She also stressed that the advance was not a parting gift but a concession. “It was not something I was given as a gift, people kept reporting on all I had got,” said Woodsworth. “This was not something I got.”
It was not divulged as to what the cost to the university was, but university spokesperson Chris Mota assures it was minimal. “Given the university’s very favorable borrowing rate, the cost to the university of the advance over the four months was minimal,” said Mota.
When Woodsworth’s mandate abruptly came to an end on Dec. 22, 2010, she maintained her teaching rights as a professor and left with a severance package of over $700 k as part of the arrangements of her departure. Unlike former President Frederick Lowy, who was appointed as interim president in January 2011 and received a $1.4 million loan, also interest free, for his penthouse condominium from the university, Woodsworth received hers after her term was cut short.
The high-profile resignation of Woodsworth and other senior administrators within a fiveyear period sparked backlash, including two external reports on the university’s governance and an overhaul of Concordia’s administrative bodies. It also resulted in Concordia receiving a $2 million fine from former Quebec Education Minister Line Beauchamp in 2012 for a lack of responsibility with public funds and allowing Woodsworth to return as a professor in January 2012 after she was dismissed as president.
According to Woodsworth, after she stepped down she decided to purchase a home in the City of Beaconsfield, located approximately 20 kilometres west of downtown Montreal. The advance served the purpose of ensuring she wasn’t juggling two mortgages at once and allowed time to sell her residence in the affluent City of Westmount.
Woodsworth and Crysler placed an accepted offer on the Beaconsfield property in September 2011. They purchased it for $569k. While Woodsworth purchased the Westmount home with her own money, she claims she was encouraged by the university’s administration to buy the property. She explained that the university urged her to buy in Westmount since it was between Concordia’s two campuses and was “a nice neighbourhood.”
“I was encouraged to buy one that was a grand house, you know, large enough to entertain in,” said Woodsworth. “And so when I was no longer president, I had the choice of whether I wanted to continue to live in something that was more than I needed and they gave me 12 months to make that decision.”
The loan was issued on Dec. 20, 2011 and repaid by Woodsworth within a sixmonth period. According to Mota, the advance did not need the approval of Concordia’s Board of Governors. “This possibility was provided for in her arrangements with the university, and no separate approval was required,” said Mota. The notarized document lists senior administrator Bram Freedman, who currently serves as vice-president development and external relations, and secretary-general, as the representative of the university. Freedman acted as a creditor for the interest-free advance.
The Westmount residence sold on May 1, 2012 for $1.34 million, and the advance was repaid within the same month. Woodsworth will continue to teach translation courses in the études françaises department at Concordia.