Second administrative leave – Message from Robert Hall

Second administrative leave – Message from Robert Hall

To the Bishop’s Community,

I have been the Chairman of the Board of Governors of Bishop’s University since June 2013 and while I was not on the Board when we hired Michael Goldbloom as Principal and Vice-Chancellor in 2008, I am convinced that it was the right choice for Bishop’s and that the contract negotiated with him at the time was consistent with practices at many other Canadian universities and in the best interests of Bishop’s.

I am perplexed that his deferred salary provision has become an issue now – Bishop’s has been fully transparent with respect to the Principal’s contract. It was sent it to the Quebec Government when it was renewed in 2013. It was also on our website and it was given to the Journal de Montréal almost a year ago at the newspaper’s request.

It is easy to forget the crisis that Bishop’s found itself in when the Board began the search for a new Principal in 2008. Michael’s predecessor had been a very polarizing figure in the University community and our financial situation was dire to the point of hearing open speculation that the University might have to close. Added to this was the constant challenge we face at Bishop’s finding leaders who can function effectively in a bilingual environment and are willing to live and work outside of a big city.

When it became known that Michael might be interested in the post, the Committee tasked with recruiting the new Principal was very encouraged. Anyone who was paying attention to public life in Quebec knew Michael as a strong leader, deeply committed to the English speaking community and its institutions, at ease in French, and willing to make choices in his career and in his volunteer engagements that reflected his passion for the vitality of English-speaking Quebec.

During negotiations for work and salary conditions, the University faced several realities as an employer. We were in a Canada-wide competition for a university leader, so the base salary that we established was consistent with other smaller universities across the country. In addition, Bishop’s is too small to offer what is a standard incentive at most other universities – an assured position following a fixed term as principal or president – so we negotiated a provision for a salary deferral equivalent to one year’s pay at the end of a five-year term as Principal; this is also consistent with the remuneration given to other principals and presidents at many Canadian universities.
It is common practice in the rest of Canada for a university president to receive a second 12-month leave at the conclusion of a second five-year term.

It must be kept in mind that being Principal at Bishop’s is a five year term appointment with no guarantee of renewal. A deferred year’s salary following the fixed term is a way to attract a favoured candidate from what is likely a very good job (Michael was a Vice-Principal at McGill at the time and had previously been the publisher of The Gazette in Montreal and of the Toronto Star) to a limited term appointment as our Principal, as well as to ensure that we are able to retain high quality leadership.

For other remuneration elements in the contract, we followed practices common in similar negotiations and reached agreements that made financial sense to both Michael and the University.

The agreement reached at the time was fair and reasonable for the University, and I strongly believe that continues to be the case today, especially given Michael’s remarkable performance as leader of the institution.

In rapid succession, Michael negotiated a financial agreement with the Minister of Education that allowed Bishop’s to survive and to move to re-establishing a sound financial footing based on unprecedented growth in student numbers and strict financial management. If successive governments had followed through on commitments to increase funds available to universities through higher tuition fees and increased public funding, the plan he developed and implemented would have us on a much sounder financial footing.

Michael also led the complete overhaul of governance at the University giving us more efficient, more open, more accountable structures. His management of staff and faculty contract and pension negotiations, a source of deep tension and division in the University’s recent past, was exceptional.

He secured the largest capital infusion from government sources for the enhancement of University facilities in our history, most notably for the renovated and expanded sports centre that was inaugurated this year. He is leading a capital campaign that has already secured $22 million in donations, more than has ever been raised by Bishop’s.

I could go on – simply to say that Michael has been a remarkably effective leader for the University and is worth every penny that we pay him. And today, in an era of unprecedented financial challenges to our university, we continue to need strong and principled leadership. Michael’s decision in 2013 to recommit for a 2nd five-year term is testimony to his profound commitment to Bishop’s.

It is important to underline that Bishop’s is not a department of the Ministry of Education, but an independent, chartered university, with an open, accountable governance structure that includes representation from the community, the faculty, and the staff of the University – governance that approved Michael’s first contract and enthusiastically renewed his appointment on virtually the same terms and conditions.

Michael’s decision to put the interests of the University ahead of his own by foregoing the additional leave allowance provided for in his renewed contract is just one more example of the values and character of the man. Yet again, I find myself grateful to Michael Goldbloom for his outstanding leadership.

Robert Hall
Chair
Board of Governors