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The letter the Chronicle Herald took down: Crisis of confidence in NSCAD Board deepens

The following letter to the editor, about the firing of NSCAD president Aoife Mac Namara by its board of directors, was published in the Chronicle Herald on Friday July 31, and then, after mere hours, abruptly taken down again.

This leaves the author of the letter, Marike Fonlay de Monchy, confused.

“I wrote this column for the Herald in consultation with Paul Schneiderheit and Laurent Le Pierres. It was approved and posted on Friday night and then as Laurent says, “a higher up” told him to take it down.  The reason given was that I live with someone who teaches at NSCAD. But they knew that when they accepted the column,” states de Monchy in an email to the Nova Scotia Advocate.

Here is the letter. 

The crisis over the NSCAD board of governors’ firing of the president without due cause is not going away. It is time for the minister of labour and higher education to intervene. 

Since the firing of NSCAD’s president, the faculty, union and senate have passed, with over 95% support, votes of non-confidence in the board. This is a historic move. The CAUT and the NSGEU have also expressed strong disagreement over the board’s rogue behaviour. The chairs and directors have written to the board to express their dismay over how this gesture puts the financial and reputational security of the university at risk, especially during the COVID crisis. Clearly, this situation of non-confidence in the board by over 90 per cent of the people who work and learn at NSCAD cannot continue.

The minister of labour and higher education has declared that his hands are tied in this matter. However, it is the government that appoints the members of the board. In the past, the government intervened to insist upon the firing of a president of NSCAD when the university’s debt was out of hand. Recently, the Quebec government intervened in the case of the board of governors of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ questionable firing of the director.

I suggest that the minister of Labour and Higher Education appoint a neutral and competent mediator to hear all stakeholders’ views in the matter of the firing of the NSCAD’s president and decide how to solve this impasse of a board’s decision, without consultation, to fire the president who was clearly managing the university competently during a pandemic crisis.

The president, who I believe is likely to be currently silenced by non-disclosure clauses in her contract, should be allowed to speak during this mediation. What is more, the mediator should be charged to investigate any and all allegations of conflict of interest that board members may have had in their decision, with specific regard to the Armour offer to purchase the old campus, which many accounts suggest that the president refused to entertain last autumn, shortly after beginning her tenure.

Any board of governors members shown to have a conflict of interest should be asked by the minister to step down and a new process be initiated to appoint members who understand the mandate of an arts educational institution and have no conflict of interest.

Finally, the accountability of our governments and ruling bodies to honest, conflict-free, due process is the larger issue at stake here, during a time when citizens are asked to make huge sacrifices to contain a pandemic. Failing such accountability, our society risks falling into the type of chaos we witness south of the border.

Marike Fonlay de Monchy is a retired professor at McGill University and lives on the Eastern Shore.

Student representatives of the ad-hoc group Friends of NSCAD (FON) will be hosting an in person letter writing action against NSCAD’s Board of Governors. The preparation of letters will take place in NSCAD’s Duke Street campus courtyard on Thursday, August 6th from 12-1PM.

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One Comment

  1. I’m going to sign a letter demanding the Nscad board resign— at the write in at the duke st entrance of Nscad Thurs12-1 pm— be there

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