One week after losing her spot on the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force due to some ill-advised travel over the holidays, Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz has been able to preserve at least one of the other positions. The Chair of Western University’s Board of Governors has announced that Hasenfratz will remain the chancellor of that school in what he’s calling a “teaching and learning moment.”
In an announcement posted to Western’s website on Sunday, Board Chair Rick Konrad said that Hasenfratz has been censured because of her foreign travel over the Christmas holidays, which is “contrary to the directions Western has given its community for the past several months.”
Reporting in the Globe & Mail last week revealed that Hasenfratz had resigned from the task force due to the paper’s pending release of the fact that she had travelled to the Barbados while Ontario began province-wide lockdown efforts on Boxing Day. Konrad said that Hasenfratz’s actions “did not demonstrate the respect for others and the integrity we expect from members of the Western community, especially our leader,” but stopped short of asking Hasenfratz to resign from her position.
“We have weighed this against the extensive time the Chancellor has given to Western in many ways over the years, inspiring young women leaders in engineering and business, and acting as a strong advocate for work-integrated learning,” Konrad said. “The Board recognizes that the Chancellor is genuinely remorseful and will use this as a teaching and learning moment in the Western community.”
In her own statement on Sunday, Hasenfratz said that her role at Western University, and her various interactions with students, have been a source of great joy, and acknowledges that her behaviour has let down many of those same students.
“I am heartbroken for letting everyone down and am grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve as Western’s Chancellor. I am committed to finding ways to earn back the trust and respect of the Western community,” Hazenfratz wrote according to CBC. .
But is Hasenfratz’s disappointment good enough? It doesn’t if you’re asking the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association who released a statement of their own saying that apologies weren’t good enough given this particular infraction, and its apparent circumstances.
“Calling this a ‘teaching and learning moment’ is absurd because the only lesson being conveyed is that a gross double standard exists — if you’re wealthy, you play by different rules,” said UWOFA President Beth MacDougall-Shackleton in the statement.
“The Board of Governors’ decision sends a terrible message to our students, and will undermine Western’s reputation and credibility in the community,” MacDougall-Shackleton added. “The decision will reinforce a stereotype that Western is a country club university where donating gets you a free pass, or where power of position entitles some to be exempt from public health guidelines.”
Hasenfratz was named the chancellor of Western University in May 2019 for a four-year term. She’s also an alum of Western having earned both her bachelor’s degree and MBA at the university.