Candidate for university president visits campus and hosts preliminary events

The singular candidate, Jean-Paul Boudreau, discussed qualifications and answered questions

On Monday, Jan. 15, Dr. Jean-Paul Boudreau, special advisor and executive lead at Ryerson University, visited campus to meet with the University’s students, faculty and staff. He could be found four times at three different locations across campus.

Boudreau spent one hour at each event. At the three formal presentations, Boudreau was given 30 minutes to present and 30 minutes to answer questions. Mount Allison also organized a more casual pizza lunch at Gracie’s Café with Boudreau. As the events were planned during class time, the Argosy only had the opportunity to cover the 3:30 p.m. presentation in Flemington.

Flemington 116 was packed with faculty members and staff. Ron Outerbridge, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, opened the floor. He took the time to introduce the committee members who were present and asked the audience for confidentiality, saying, “He’s on a vacation day today. Just don’t go around and put stuff on Twitter and stuff like that.”

Boudreau began with a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation outlining his employment history and professional qualifications. It also delved into his six ideas that capture the opportunities and challenges he was expecting to encounter in his new role, which he collectively called a “six-point plan, or beginning of a plan.” These are: communicating success, mapping our future, advancing exceptional student experiences, building important partnerships with our community, supporting research scholarship creativity and advancing and supporting financial stability.

The second half of the presentation was dedicated to answering questions from audience members. The first question came from someone who had not had the opportunity to ask their question at an earlier presentation due to time restraints.

When asked about his “thoughts on freedom of speech and academic freedom in light of things that are playing out these days,” Boudreau said, “I think [that] it’s a core part of the DNA of the university and … it’s what we do in university: we have critical engagement, we have debates – we agree, we disagree – but we protect the right to have that debate, and that’s a really precious right and one that we should continually support and stand strong and tall to protect.”

Boudreau was also asked to talk a bit about his personal research. He said, “My own work that I’m really proud of is really, I would say, my observations of making a case that the human body in early development is as strong, if not stronger, than in cognitive development. Because we tend to put cognition ahead of action, and in my field we tend to put action ahead of cognition because … we’ve shown how action can drive cognition.”

Another attendee asked what Boudreau had planned in terms of increasing diversity of the faculty. “You’d be surprised what happens in hiring committees because the first thing that often happens is ‘I like this person, gee, they look an awful lot like me.’ And I don’t mean just visually, but I mean they look at the CV and they see a lot of themselves there and that creates these unconscious biased pathways which we really need to guard against,” said Boudreau. “I think at times we can’t look at that [Indigenous person’s] CV the same way that we look at a non-Indigenous CV. And I think that is something that many of our universities are just starting to really grapple with and coming to an understanding of. They need to think differently about it.”

There were still audience members left wanting to ask questions as Outerbridge brought this question period to an end. The timing and length of the presentations were not ideal for student and faculty attendance as the presentations were scheduled during class times. For those who were unable to attend the presentations and lunch, Boudreau offered to answer any “burning question” through his Gmail account, accessible through the Presidential Search Committee. “I don’t use my university account for obvious reasons,” he said.

Mathieu Gallant