Last month I opined here that Concordia University was faced with a tough problem. Their president had just decided to quit, and the second-in-command position (provost and VP academic) was vacant. That left them with the unenviable choices of either appointing another VP to the position (all of whom were experts in their jobs and only one had a PhD — the one they appointed as interim provost), or going further down the food chain to find a PhD candidate with little leadership experience.
It looks like they’ve opted for the first choice, appointing VP Services Michael Di Grappa as “acting president” (not to be confused with “interim president” whom they will appoint later, or “president” whom they will appoint … later later).
And while a search committee finds a new president (and a new provost), a special executive committee will find an interim president.
Di Grappa doesn’t have a PhD. His highest academic credentials are a Master’s of public policy at New York University. He also doesn’t have much academic experience. As VP Services, he’s responsible for making sure
the escalators run the buildings stay upright, classrooms have video projectors, and registration happens properly.
Considering the apparent very short nature of this appointment, it’s not like it’ll matter very much. Plus the fact that as a senior administrator for seven years he’s been involved in major administration decision-making.
As sad as it is, it’s probably the best solution to a horrible problem that Concordia’s board of governors has no one to blame but itself. Unfortunately it creates a situation where people the guy running a university granting PhDs hasn’t earned one himself.
And if that’s not bad enough news for Concordia, Valery Fabrikant is in the news again. Meanwhile, McGill has decided to raise $750 million just for the heck of it.
UPDATE (Oct. 20): David Bernans, the non-student student activist, has naturally started a Facebook group advocating Di Grappa’s immediate dismissal. I’m sure Concordia will act immediately based on his demands.
UPDATE (Oct. 30): A letter-writer to The Link points out that Columbia and Harvard had presidents who were PhD-less.
UPDATE (Oct. 23): The Concordian has an interview with Di Grappa, who stresses that the position is temporary. The Link has a similar interview.
Funny you should mention Michael Di Grappa and Valery Fabrikant in the same post. When I was in my early days as a freelance writer, I called Di Grappa for an interview. It was for a piece I was writing for an internal Concordia publication. While I was on the phone with Di Grappa, Fabrikant was on his rampage. Di Grappa knew something was going on, and that the cops were there, but he didn’t know the details. I knew nothing. He told me there was some kind of incident happening, and I asked him if I could interview him now anyway (tasteful, huh?). He agreed. So there we were chatting about elevators in the McConnell building and such, either while the shooting was going on, or in its immediate aftermath. It was not surreal at the time, but it sure seems that way in retrospect.