UPDATE: Cancelled meetings point to problems with Ryerson’s presidential search

An expert on university and college presidential searches says that the multiple cancelled search committee meetings might offer a clue to why Ryerson doesn’t have a successor to Sheldon Levy.

Ian Newbould, a retired senior university administrator with 40 years of higher education experience, says he believes the cancelled meetings are a symptom of serious issues arising during the search.

“When they set a meeting it means that things are getting done. When they cancel them it means there is clearly a problem,” he says. “The problem is not that they didn’t have a suitable candidate, but rather that that candidate or candidates back out.”

Newbould also says that Ryerson’s search collapse isn’t unique.

A candidate often doesn’t find out they are the top candidate until the last weeks of the search. Newbould says that the fact that two February meetings of the search committee were cancelled are signs that this step was troubled.

“You never know with these negotiations. Something can always go wrong,” he said. “This is more common than you think. It’s not earth shattering or anything like that.”

Alan Shepard, president of Concordia University in Montreal. (Photo courtesy Concordia University)

Alan Shepard, president of Concordia University in Montreal. (Photo courtesy Concordia University)

Last week, The Ryersonian reported that an Ontario wage freeze on executive pay could be what caused the failure of Ryerson’s presidential search.

In 2012, Ontario passed an amendment to The Broader Public Sector Accountability Act that froze salaries for “designated executives,” including university presidents.

The amendment effectively means that any new president after Levy cannot be paid more than him.

Stuart Rudner, a partner at Rudner MacDonald LLP, an employment law firm in Toronto, believes that when negotiations are underway a candidate may decide that the offered compensation is not enough and decide to move on.

“Obviously, any limits on the amount an organization can pay may make it more difficult to attract the best candidates,” he says.

According to 2013’s Sunshine List, Sheldon Levy makes almost $370,500 annually and receives  around $20,600 in benefits.

In 2013, York University president Mamdouh Shoukri was paid about $478,400 and University of Toronto’s president, Meric Gertler, was paid $380,100.

Quebec’s Ministry of Culture and Communications requires universities to disclose budgets.

According to that disclosure, Alan Shepard made $357,000 during the 2012-2013 school year.

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities refused to comment on whether the wage freeze would impact Ryerson’s, or other universities’, presidential searches.

By Aeman Ansari, Khadija Khan and Daniel Rosen

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