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No third term for Western president Amit Chakma

Western University President Amit Chakma at a press conference in December 2011.
Western University President Amit Chakma at a press conference in December 2011. The Canadian Press Images/Mark Spowart

Amit Chakma will not seek a third term as president of Western University, and will step down from the role upon completion of his second term, university officials announced Thursday.

In a memorandum issued to Western faculty, staff and students, Hanny Hassan, chair of Western’s board of governors, said Chakma confirmed the news to board members on Thursday, adding the board would conduct an international search for his successor and would establish a search committee in January.

Chakma’s second term ends on June 30, 2019. He has served as the university’s 10th president and vice-chancellor since 2009. Before his tenure as Western president, Chakma was vice-president of the University of Waterloo beginning in 2001.

In the memorandum, Hassan said Chakma, “believes that periodic leadership renewal is a healthy time-honoured practice of any great institution.” In addition, Hassan said the early notice gives the board time to consult with the community and stakeholders about what to look for in a successor.

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“Dr. Chakma has said that he does not know yet what he plans to do when his term ends June 30, 2019,” said Western spokesperson Keith Marnoch in an email. Until his tenure ends, Chakma will focus on pursuing four strategic priorities, Hassan said.

The memorandum highlights Chakma’s successes, including the quadrupling of first-year enrollment of international students, the appointment of more women to senior leadership roles and the adoption of Western’s first Indigenous Strategic Plan.

The university’s endowment has also more than doubled since 2009 to $678 million, and 17 major capital projects at Western have occurred under Chakma’s presidency, including the construction of 11 new buildings on campus, the document says.

The tenure of Western’s 10th president hasn’t been without controversy, however.

In 2015, Chakma was embroiled in controversy after the Sunshine List revealed he had received nearly $1 million in 2014 as a result of working through a scheduled sabbatical.

Chakma later apologized and announced he would voluntarily return half of his 2014 salary — the portion that came in lieu of him not taking an administrative leave. Despite the assurance of repayment, the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association expressed non-confidence against Chakma and Chirag Shah, the then-head of Western’s board of governors.

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In September 2015, an independent report into Chakma’s so-called “double dip” salary found Shah did not receive approval from an executive committee responsible for presidential pay when Chakma’s contract was amended, allowing the president to enhance his pension and double his income to $967,000 in 2014. Shah also didn’t inform other board members of the change.

Shah stepped down from his post in December 2015 upon his term’s completion. Chakma redirected his 2015 salary to repay the money and eventually repaid it in full with interest, according to university officials.

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*With files from Matthew Trevithick and Jacquelyn LeBel