My Dear Friends:
Sitting presidents ask past presidents to comment publicly on current issues only in the most troubling and urgent situations. That’s why you’ve never heard from any OCADFA past president in this forum before, and why Min Sook asked me to write to you now: the firing of NSCAD President Dr. Aoife Mac Namara is such a crisis. If you haven’t acted on Min Sook’s request from Monday to sign the NSCAD petition, please stop reading this email right now and do two things: (1) sign the petition; and (2) circulate the petition throughout your networks. (You can find the petition here or by googling “change.org fire nscad board reinstate Aoife Mac Namara”.)
Three things make the NSCAD situation surpassingly important: accountability, transparency and institutional autonomy. In terms of accountability, the NSCAD board is acting as if it has no responsibility to the NSCAD community, insofar as it fired Dr. Mac Namara even though that community widely felt that she was doing well at stabilizing the school while reviving its reputation as a pathbreaking institution. Second, in terms of transparency (a key indicator of trustworthiness), the Board decided to fire Dr. Mac Namara in secret and without consultation. Finally, regarding institutional autonomy, the NSCAD board’s decision has left NSCAD leaderless at a time when universities globally can ill-afford to be without competent leadership, making it vulnerable to pressure from government and private interests. This latter point is particularly germane, since credible allegations have surfaced that the heart of the matter was a real estate deal in which board vice-president Sean Kelly had a conflict of interest (in his day job as a lawyer, he acts for the real estate concern that was pushing for the deal). Even in the current climate, where university governance often leaves much to be desired, the actions of NSCAD’s board are egregious.
The NSCAD community is very concerned about this situation and has called for Dr. Mac Namara’s reinstatement. For all the reasons I’ve outlined here, I urge you, if you haven’t already, to join Min Sook, the OCADFA board and me in supporting the NSCAD community by signing and circulating their petition.
In deepest solidarity,
Charles Reeve, past president