Nick Day is no longer Queen’s rector. The announcement came late Thursday afternoon after Day emailed his resignation to Principal Daniel Woolf.
“It just took time to make the decision,” Day, ArtSci ’09 and MA ’12, said. “I wanted to take some space, reflect on what was most important.”
Day was elected to the three-year position of rector in early 2010. In March 2011, calls for Day’s impeachment came after he wrote a public letter to Michael Ignatieff, then-leader of the Liberal Party. The letter denounced the party’s stance against Israeli Apartheid Week, calling the situation in Palestine the “biggest human rights tragedy of [Day’s] generation.’’
He signed the letter as rector and was publically criticized for associating his political views with his role at the University.
In a campus-wide referendum, 72 per cent of AMS voters cast ballots in favour of a recommendation for Day’s removal from office. There was a 26 per cent voter turnout. The Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) also conducted a referendum, however graduate student voters didn’t call for Day’s removal.
Day said he didn’t step down following the AMS referendum because it would have discredited his expressed opinions on Israeli Apartheid Week.
“It’s important for the University to be able to have debates around this campaign and not have it be silenced,” he said. “Had the failed impeachment attempt succeeded … it would have had an incredible chilling effect on academic discourse.”
Day said he felt Queen’s was no longer a favourable working climate.
“There was a lot of deeply inappropriate, unprofessional attempts at intimidation,” he said.
On March 12, former Provost and Vice-Principal of Academics Bob Silverman wrote an email to Day, calling him “pathetically naïve.”
“Have received several comments from grads who are embarrassed to be associated with Queen's as a result of your comments,” read the email which Day forwarded to the Journal on Thursday evening. Silverman was unavailable for comment on Friday.
Day said it would have been difficult to continue his duties given such responses from his colleagues.
“The resignation is not really a reaction to the backlash about Israeli Apartheid Week … the resignation is [because] I feel like I’ve done everything … productive in the job,” he said. “Given everything that’s transpired, somebody else will be better able to advance the needs of students.”
Following the referendum, officials from University Council—the highest advisory body at Queen’s—said there was no policy in place to remove the rector from office.
Regardless, the University Council issued a statement at their annual meeting on May 7.
“At Queen's University, the role of rector is to act as advocate for all students. This relationship is based on trust and goodwill,” it said. “The University Council notes with concern the students’ expression of non-confidence in Nick Day and is of the opinion that the relationship between the current Rector and the student population has been compromised.”
Day said the administration wanted him gone during the campus-wide impeachment attempt.
“The administration would have been happy for me to resign right away because it would have seemed like they had drawn out an anti-Zionist from the institution,” he said.
On Friday, University officials weren’t available for comment on the circumstances surrounding Day’s resignation.
At the beginning of summer, Day said he informed the Principal and the SGPS that he needed some time away from Kingston. Day worked for Amnesty International in New York City over the summer. He said he didn’t perform his rector duties during that time.
In lieu of a paycheque for his role, Day wasn’t required to pay tuition for his Master’s program at Queen’s. Since Day no longer holds office, that agreement has ended.
Day said he won’t return to campus this fall. He’ll continue his Queen’s degree by correspondence from Toronto.
“I want a break from the campus,” he said.
There is no formal policy in place requiring that the rector give notice of resignation.
AMS President Morgan Campbell said she hadn’t been in touch with Day all summer and hadn’t heard anything about his reasons for resignation. She said she wasn’t surprised by what happened yesterday.
“With the overwhelming views expressed by students in the spring, it would be very challenging to fulfill his duties in the fall with such a voice of non-support from students,” Campbell, ArtSci ’11, said.
Campbell said she’s disappointed Day didn’t resign earlier.
“We are satisfied now that the actions taken by the rector are in accordance with the expressed wishes of students.”
Campbell said the position of rector will be filled this fall with an election.
“On Oct. 27, we’ll have a new rector,” she said. “The position when fulfilled successfully can actually be a strong advocate for students.”
Following a campaign period from Oct. 14 to 24, students will vote for a new rector on Oct. 25 and 26 during the fall referendum period.
Day was absent this summer from performing certain duties expected of him, Campbell said.
“One of the rector’s duties is to sit as part of the procession for convocation in the spring and that duty was fulfilled by the SGPS president and myself along with the two VPs as delegates,” she said. “We were contacted by the University and asked if we could fill in for the rector duties.”
Until the fall elections, Campbell and SGPS President Jillian Burford-Grinnell will work to fulfill the necessary duties of rector.
“It’s pretty much going to be the same as we’ve operating under all summer,” Campbell said. “The committee positions that Nick used to sit on have remained vacant.”
University Secretary Georgina Moore said University Council bylaw needs to be revised in order to allow for an inclusive rector election. The rector represents all students, however currently it’s only the AMS that has the ability to elect a rector in bylaw. When the graduate student population split from the AMS in the 1980s, the bylaw wasn’t updated to include the SGPS.
Moore said in order to approve the new language of the bylaw, University Council will have to meet despite normally only meeting on an annual basis.
“It would just be this one bylaw to look at,” she said. “We need to revise the bylaw to make it very clear that of course we meant the two student societies.”