Last Thursday was marked by the resignations of two high-ranking university officials. On Nov. 20, Vice-Principal (Advancement) David Mitchell and Vice-Principal (Operations and Finance) Andrew Simpson both announced they were stepping down.
Mitchell is leaving to head the Public Policy Forum, an Ottawa-based think tank. He will continue to hold his position at Queen’s until Dec. 31. Simpson’s departure was made for unspecified reasons and was effective immediately.
Mitchell said the decision to leave Queen’s was a difficult one to make.
“I was not looking to leave, but I was approached by a search consultant for the position of president and CEO of the Public Policy Forum and I thought about it long and hard,” he said. “I didn’t make the decision overnight; I thought about this for a few weeks before I decided that it was just too good of an opportunity for me, given my background and interests in public policy, which has been a long standing interest of mine.”
Mitchell said he feels his departure from Queen’s is premature.
“A wise person once said that anything worth doing in life involves a sacrifice somewhere else. This is personal relationships, careers, whatever. This is one of those situations,” he said. “I do have a sense of deep regret about leaving Queen’s because we’ve started so many new initiatives. Let’s just put it this way, it has not been a boring past year and a half at Queen’s.”
Mitchell said he’s proud of the strides he has made in the field of advancement during his time in the office.
“I do believe that I’ve been able to make a small contribution towards integrating the functions within advancement, fundraising, alumni relations, marketing and communication, integrating these so that these teams work together more effectively. We’ve changed the organization and built it up and promoted it from within. The team is very strong and very effective right now,” he said.
“There’s a clearer focus on fundraising and strategic communications. I’m very proud of that. Advancement itself is more integrated within the university today. Previously, it seems to me that advancement was seen kind of as a separate organization, kind of over to the side. Now I think there’s a greater sense that advancement is a core university function here at Queen’s and I think that’s very positive.”
Mitchell said he doesn’t plan to cut his ties with the University once he assumes his new position.
“I’ve been part of Queen’s in such an intense manner in the last almost year and a half. I want to continue to be an advocate for Queen’s University, an ally in terms of looking for opportunities in order to connect Queen’s with the world. I want not only to collaborate with Queen’s in a public policy standpoint, but also to be an ambassador for Queen’s in a sense in order to raise the public visibility of the University.”
Mitchell said he plans to draw academic resources from Queen’s in his new role at the Public Policy Forum.
“We have individuals who are on the cutting edge here at Queen’s on major issues affecting our country and our world. One of my interesting opportunities, having a little bit of insight into that after being here for 15 or 16 months, will be trying to connect from a public policy forum standpoint with leading researchers at universities across Canada, but particularly here at Queen’s. Hopefully that can be an alliance that will be effective. I’ll be looking at that for sure.”
Simpson was unavailable for comment because he no longer is in Kingston.
Principal Tom Williams said he couldn’t comment on the circumstances surrounding Simpson’s resignation.
“I cannot comment on that. When you’re dealing with sensitive personnel matters, privacy is essential and I will respect that.”
Williams said the interim vice-principal (operations and finance) Bill Bryck began his post this week.
“We have an acting vice-principal who started on Monday, Mr. Bryck. He’s had a lot of experience in the private sector, corporations; he’s a Queen’s commerce grad, chartered accountant and very experienced in running operations with large budgets.”
Williams said the University will be following standard protocol in order to find a replacement for each vice-principal position.
“It is standard University procedures to set up search committees to appoint a new V.P.,” he said. “It’s a search committee consisting of stakeholders. The principal chairs it; there will be student representation et cetera, et cetera. It’s the normal procedure but I haven’t used it yet, so I’m going to have to look at it myself.”
Williams said the timeline for filling the positions has yet to be finalized.
“I’m not sure; the only reason for that is I want to discuss it with the Board of Trustees when they meet a week from Friday, so a decision will be made right after that meeting.”