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Senate Meeting, November 17

Western University's President Chakma speaks during a Senate meeting, Nov. 17, 2017.

The president of Western University's term is ending in 2019, and senators are already starting to ask questions. 

At today's November Senate meeting, senators asked questions about the replacement or reappointment of Western's president, Amit Chakma.

Before the meeting, three senators each submitted a question for discussion. All wanted general clarification about the senate's role in Western's next presidential selection and what has happened so far. Senators raised several more similar questions during the meeting, even after vice-chair of the Senate, Michael Milde, answered the first three. 

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Senate Meeting, November 17 (Image 2)

Senate vice-chair Michael Milde speaks during a Senate meeting on Nov. 17, 2017.

Chakma's term is up in June of 2019. If Chakma wants to be reappointed, he must make that clear to the Board of Governors at least two years before his term will end. Now, 20 months away from his term end, the board should know if he is vying for reappointment or not. Instead of another full five-year term, Chakma could also want an extension to his current term, which could be only a year or two. 

Faculty of Social Science senator Kim Clark said details about the next presidential selection process remain to be ironed out, despite the question period. 

"For me, it's still unclear," she said. "We did not get very much information." 

The committee that selects the next president, whether a replacement or a reappointment, has 10 members — five of which are from the Senate. One of the five is also a student senator. Some of the questions asked in the meeting showed concern over time. Senators asked if the Senate could properly elect members to the selection committee and whether the selection committee could confidently make a decision about the president; time continues to run out, with not much information provided thus far.  

Clark said with little official information available, there are rumours stating Chakma wants reappointment and others saying he doesn't. During the question period, the president chimed in. 

"Nothing to report yet. ... But stay tuned," Chakma said. "And stay away from 'alternative facts.'"

Chakma has been the university president since 2009 and was the figure of a controversy in 2015 when he accepted a contract stipulation that doubled his salary to over $900,000. The information was first revealed on the Sunshine List, which lists high-earning public sector officials in Ontario. 

"We're always interested in transparency," said Clark. "But after what happened a few years ago, there's an added appetite. ... A little more information as to where the process is at is something that [senators] would welcome." 

If Chakma has informed the Board of Governors he wants to retain his seat, they have already begun reviewing his tenure. The soonest any information relating to this issue could be released is in the board's public meeting next week on Thursday, Nov. 23. 

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