The sole candidate to become the next president of Mount Allison University faced what he acknowledged were “tough questions” Monday as he talked with dozens of students on campus during a pizza lunch in Gracie’s Café.
Jean-Paul Boudreau, who teaches psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, told the students he was wearing his Teflon jacket as he prepared to answer their questions.
When Shannon Power asked him what he would do to support students campaigning to get Mount Allison to scrap its investments in fossil fuels, Boudreau said he was fully aware of the issue in general, but didn’t know the specifics of Mt. A’s investment portfolio.
He said that as president, he would listen to students. In reply to similar questions about giving students a greater voice in running the university and helping them campaign for social justice, he added “I’m the kind of person who would like to have a conversation and dialogue…We’re in this together…I just want to hear what’s on your mind.”
Louis Sobol wondered what Boudreau would do if 50 students and 10 professors campaigning for an end to fossil fuel investments stormed Centennial Hall, barricading him in his office, a tongue-in-cheek reference to last year’s five-hour occupation of the administration building after the current president, Robert Campbell, refused to engage with students on the university’s investment policies.
“I’m not saying that kind of activism is wrong,” Boudreau replied. “I’m saying there’s a place for dialogue…before we get to locking me in my office.”
‘I love my students’
Earlier, when asked why he would leave Ryerson to come back to his Acadian roots in New Brunswick, Boudreau drew chuckles when he said, “I haven’t left Ryerson yet. I love my job. I love what I do and I love my students.”
He added, however, that he would be gaining a whole new family if he becomes Mount Allison’s 15th president, but cautioned later that he’s just a candidate for the job and that his employers at Ryerson don’t know he’s seeking it.
He then urged students to keep his visit confidential and not to broadcast it on their social media feeds.
Boudreau’s lively meeting with the students was one of several sessions he held with university administrators, professors and staff, during which he outlined general ideas for everything from mapping the university’s future, supporting scholarship, research and creativity, and attracting more students.
“I would like to be your champion as we collectively advance,” Boudreau declared Monday morning during the first of three meetings with faculty, staff and students.