The University secretary issues an update on the search of York’s next president

Vari Hall in the sunshine
Vari Hall in the sunshine

York University Secretary Maureen Armstrong has issued the following message to the University community: 

Dear members of the York University community,

Since December 2015, York University has been engaged in the important exercise of searching for our next President. In recent days, interest in the search process has heightened with a wide range of views and opinions being expressed either directly to the search committee or in the public arena. Unfortunately, these communications  create confusion about our governance structure, authority of the Board of Governors and the search committee as well as the process.

As University Secretary with a role in ensuring effective governance and at the request of the Chair of the Board and Search Committee, I am providing the following clarification with respect to the presidential search.


Board Authority: In accordance with the York University Act, the sole authority to appoint and remove the President rests exclusively with the Board of Governors. The Senate has the authority to consult with the Board and make recommendations as to the appointment of the President.

Search Approach: In the past, many universities including York undertook open presidential searches whereby those being considered were required to be named publicly and present themselves to Senate before the final decision is made by the Board. Over time, this process became increasingly less popular because many qualified candidates are reluctant to be publicly identified given the potential adverse impact that can have on their current employment and stakeholders. Today, the open search process is rarely used by Canadian universities.

After a thorough community consultation, York University moved to confidential searches in 2005 with the creation of the current Principles to Govern Presidential Search Committees. By approving and working under these principles, the Board and Senate agreed to work together, contributing equal numbers of search committee members who will follow a prescribed process leading to the identification of a qualified candidate recommended for appointment by the Board. The steps provided by the principles include conducting broad and extensive consultation with the community regarding the University’s strategic needs and the specific attributes a President should possess, development of a Senate advisory statement on the criteria to be sought, and the confidential evaluation of candidates by the committee.

This process was used successfully in the 2006/07 presidential search that concluded with the appointment of President Mamdouh Shoukri.  It is the same process that is currently being followed.

Search Committee and Community Consultation: In the Autumn of 2015 Senate approved criteria for designating its nominees and elected seven individuals. The slate of nominees to the search committee was approved by the Board in December 2015. The search committee then undertook extensive public consultations over several weeks in the Spring of 2016 gathering valuable input from a wide range of community members and groups.  A complete list of the consultation activities undertaken is available at Among them were three open consultations (two on the Keele campus and one at Glendon) to which all members of the community were invited. Representatives of the search committee attended meetings of every faculty council and of Senate. Invitations were extended to student governments and student groups which resulted in a number of meetings and written submissions.

Every employee group (YUFA, CUPE 3903, CUPE 1356, YUSA, IUOE772, OPSEU, OHFA and CPMEA) was specifically invited to provide input through one or more of three options; having members of the search committee attend one of their meetings, setting a special meeting or providing written submissions. Further, anyone wishing to share their personal views was invited to submit comments by email; this opportunity was used by several dozen students, faculty and staff.  The progress of the full consultation process was reported to the community through the Presidential Search website and through YFile.

Taking into account all the input received, a comprehensive position profile was created. That profile has been public information for five months and is guiding the committee in identifying and assessing suitable candidates.  The responsibility of confidentially evaluating individual candidates is in the hands of the 14 faculty, staff, students and governors who comprise the search committee and who are devoting significant time and energy to this important initiative.

Community members should be assured that the search process is continuing as it has been established with a view to providing a recommendation to the Board in due course.  Both the search committee and the Board are committed to performing their roles in selecting the next President of York University.