AMS wants to oust Hitchcock

Assembly passes unanimous motion asking for new leadership; president abstains

Principal Hitchcock’s term ends in June, and she is currently being reviewed for reappointment.
Principal Hitchcock’s term ends in June, and she is currently being reviewed for reappointment.

The AMS wants Principal Karen Hitchcock out, but that doesn’t make a difference to the committee reviewing her reappointment.

After more than two hours of discussion and debate on Wednesday evening, AMS Assembly unanimously passed a motion stating its opposition to Hitchcock’s reappointment.

There was one abstention.

Hitchcock’s five-year term ends June 30, 2009.

Commerce Society President Dave Waugh put forward the motion.

After engaging in a period of discussion about general qualities the Assembly looks for in a principal, the Assembly moved into a closed session, Waugh said, where they talked more specifically about Hitchcock’s performance and plans for her next five years at Queen’s.

“There was a consensus around a desired direction for the future, so I asked if they would be prepared to take a stance publicly,” he said. “At that point we drafted a motion as a group, and the wording of that motion reflects the nature of discussion leading up to its presentation.”

Waugh said he thinks it was in the AMS’s best interest to make a statement now, rather than stay silent for another five years.

“I think students are putting these thoughts out there openly, honestly and with integrity,” he said. “If the principal hears them in the way we hope she does, this could be a positive shift.”

Waugh hopes passing this motion won’t damage the relationship between Hitchcock and the AMS, he said but instead will spark discussion.

“What we’re looking for is more engagement from the principal on issues most important to students,” he said. “If it takes this motion to spark that interest from the principal, there could be some very good news.”

The principal’s Special Assistant (External Relations) Sally Rigden said Hitchcock won’t comment on matters regarding her reappointment. Vice-Principal (Advancement) David Mitchell said the motion won’t be considered as part of the process for reviewing Hitchcock’s reappointment, and the AMS had the option of submitting their views through the University Secretariat until March 5.

“If the AMS wishes to express itself on this view, it had every opportunity to do so through the appointment process,” he said. “Releasing a viewpoint to the news media is not contemplated as part of that process.”

An advisory committee comprised of nine members from the Board of Trustees and nine from the Senate is reviewing Hitchcock’s reappointment. After conducting the review, the joint committee will make their recommendation to the Board of Trustees.

Mitchell said members of the Queen’s community should honour the reappointment process.

“[The committees are] reviewing the views that have been expressed to them, and that process has been ongoing,” he said. “Going beyond that process is not something we’re going to encourage many people to consider.”

AMS President-elect Talia Radcliffe said she prefers to keep her opinions on Hitchcock’s reappointment to herself until she assumes office on May 1.

“I would hope that the decision does not have a hindrance on our relationship with the administration seeing as we were not part of the decision-making process,” she said in an e-mail to the Journal.

“As students, we were all given the opportunity to give our input confidentially to the committee. We have done so and think that taking into consideration that we are not yet meant to be accountable to Assembly and subsequently the students, that confidentiality surrounding our opinions would be appropriate.”

AMS Vice-President (Operations) John Manning said he thinks the University needs a

stronger leader who will support students on issues like Homecoming. “When Kingston City Councillors and the national media are perpetuating negative and inaccurate portrayals of Queen’s students, we expect the principal of Queen’s University to be the first one to stand up for her students,” he said.

Rector Johsa Manzanilla, a member of the senate committee reviewing Hitchcock’s appointment, said the motion doesn’t reflect the mixed views of many students she has spoken with.

“AMS Assembly, speaking on behalf of students in this statement, is pretty much saying overwhelmingly in support of one side. Students have come up to me and said the opposite,” she said.

“[My advice to the committee] is not based on ‘oh, because the AMS said so.’” AMS President Kingsley Chak abstained from voting in the motion.Chak said he abstained from voting because of his role as a member of the Senate committee reviewing Hitchcock’s reappointment.

“It’s my duty to have an open mind and listen to the other committee members and collectively ask the committee to make a decision together,” he said. “I do have my personal view, but at the same time I need to have an open mind when I’m going into that process.” Chak said it’s important for the AMS to take a stand on Hitchcock’s reappointment because the AMS exists to represent the best interests of students.

“Whoever the principal is for the next five years will have a big impact on Queen’s, and [passing this motion] is not a light decision,” he said. “Queen’s students are one of the major stakeholders in the University, and as the representative of all [undergraduate] students, we are the group of individuals that have the most interaction with the principal and the University.”

Chak said the motion has no intent of targeting Hitchcock personally.

“The question is whether or not she is the best fit for Queen’s for the next five years, and the conclusion reached by Assembly is that she’s not.”

The motion

That AMS Assembly state its desire for new leadership at Queen’s University, and therein its opposition to the reappointment of Principal Hitchcock, based on the following:

  • Her role in developing an unclear strategic plan with a poorly defined implementation strategy
  • A lack of leadership on issues directly or indirectly affecting students which demand a visionary leader that supports the community he or she leads
  • A failure to understand, take action on, and be engaged in the issues that are of most importance to students within the Queen’s community and abroad
  • The absence of a proactive stance regarding issues of inclusiveness on campus
Colin McLeod

Sounding off on Hitchcock

SGPS President Arash Farzam-Kia, said he doesn’t appreciate the pressure to expand the university. “We are lacking social, lab and office space. This will eventually lead to compromising academic and student life.”

Sean O’Meara, PhD ’08, said there is too much emphasis on bringing in research dollars when the quality of education is lacking.

“I do like the idea of her initiative to think on a global scale, but I do worry this University will start to be run too much like a business, when really it is meant to be an institution for higher learning.”

Associate professor in the department of history and senator Adnan Husain said he had mixed impressions with the principal.

“I’m very concerned about the budget cuts and huge capital projects that are draining away the core of the University to provide high levels of education and research,” he said.

Husain said he was fairly impressed with Hitchcock’s handling of incidents relating to racism and diversity on campus.

“While more could be done to address these issues, she has at least taken these issues seriously and should be applauded for that.”

Student senator Max Rubin said Hitchcock’s visibility on campus was absent this year.

“She is a principal, not a president and a principal is supposed to be part of the collegial atmosphere and be out there.”

Colin McLeod

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