Involuntary lay-offs no longer needed at Coady Institute, vice president steps down

ANTIGONISH: In a letter addressed to the campus community, the president of StFX University announced involuntary lay-offs have been avoided within the Coady International Institute and Dr. June Webber, the vice president of the institute and extension department, would be stepping down.

Dr. Kent MacDonald advised that Dr. Webber, who has led the institute since 2015, recommended that with the new administrative structure and fiscal realities, Coady would be best served by an executive director.

MacDonald agreed with Webber’s recommendation and as such, her last day will be March 8, after which Gord Cunningham will assume the role of executive director, reporting to Dr. Kevin Wamsley, StFX’s academic vice president and provost.

With over 30-years of experience in community economic development, community-based microfinance and asset-based community development in Canada and around the world, Cunningham will move from his current role as assistant director and lead the institute following a time of controversy with its management style.

“In his 22 years at Coady, [Cunningham] has been involved in all aspects of educational service: designing and delivering training and education programs; researching and writing case studies and practical tools and undertaking collaborative action research,” MacDonald said in his letter. “I thank June for her leadership and dedication to Coady over the last three years, including her contributions that put Coady on a sustainable path for the future.”

In total, five staff members accepted lay-offs while several took different positions within the university.

The union that represents the educators at the post-secondary institution were bracing for job cuts following an announcement late January from the school’s administration that it would be required to cut one-third of the jobs following buget cuts and would be offering voluntary separation opportunities.

“The response to the voluntary separation opportunity offered to employees, coupled with several employees obtaining other employment opportunities on campus, and a structural realignment that will see a greater integration of Coady’s administrative functions within the Xaverian community, bring Coady’s expenses in line with its operating revenues,” MacDonald said. “I wish to personally thank those who have accepted a voluntary package for their service and wish them well in their future endeavours.”

For the faculty and staff continuing the tremendous work of the Coady, MacDonald said he is pleased to know they have the right talents and skillsets required to drive the institution forward.

“With the new structure in place, it now makes sense to bring in the external consultant to help us navigate through this period of transition,” he said. “The plan positions Coady to continue as a global leader in citizen-led development education and sets the institute on a path that is fiscally solid and sustainable.”

The restructuring of the Coady International Institute comes following the university’s announcement of having to cut expenses after Global Affairs Canada discontinued their core funding, which amounted to $3.1 million.

MacDonald previously indicated Global Affairs Canada has shifted the way they identify their priorities for funding, as their preference is to provide funding for projects and are not interested in funding programming, which is what Coady does.

On top of the loss of funding, the institute was also dealing with an annual operating deficit of up to $700,000.

On October 2, James Edward Marlow, the former finance director of the Coady was arrested and charged with theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000. Marlow was fired from the university on July 19 after being accused of creating fake invoices and depositing cheques into his personal bank account, misappropriating approximately $250,000.

Following Marlow’s arrest, The Reporter has learned Global Affairs Canada proceeded with their own investigation and determined approximately $30,000 worth of federal money was misappropriated, for which the federal department says the university is responsible to repay.