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RRC to replace president next year

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>“I had expressed my eagerness to continue as president, so I can’t hide my disappointment over the decision,” Paul Vogt’s email to staff said.</p></p>

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

“I had expressed my eagerness to continue as president, so I can’t hide my disappointment over the decision,” Paul Vogt’s email to staff said.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/7/2019 (428 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The board of Red River College won’t renew president and CEO Paul Vogt’s contract when it expires next year, saying it "wants to go in a different direction." Critics of the decision say they fear it’s politically motivated and one called it "the worst personnel decision at a Canadian college, maybe ever."

Vogt was hired in 2015 to clean and repair Red River’s battered image and bureaucracy. He replaced president Stephanie Forsyth who left in 2014, less than four years into the job, leading to a scathing provincial report lambasting her expenses, spending decisions and her firing of 16 senior administrators — some of whom she’d recruited to replace other executives she’d fired. Vogt did not respond to a request for an interview Sunday.

Vogt’s letter sent to RRC staff:

 

Since I came to the College four years ago I have been continually struck by two things: the importance of what we do, and the commitment of our faculty and staff to doing it well.

Since I came to the College four years ago I have been continually struck by two things: the importance of what we do, and the commitment of our faculty and staff to doing it well.

There are particular moments in the course of the year, like the welcoming of our students on day one and our loud and joyful graduation ceremonies, where the importance of Red River education, both for individual students and the community as a whole, really hits home. Those moments will always stay with me.

As for the commitment of the people who teach and support our students, it’s something I see every day at Red River. Education is demanding work – never just a “job” – and I can’t even begin to list the times I have seen RRC people going above and beyond to help our students succeed, to ensure our programs are strong and relevant, to enhance and look after our campuses.

These reflections are the source of a deep pride I have felt in being president of the College. And also the sense of responsibility that goes with the role. My part of the bargain, as I’ve seen it, is to honour the efforts I see all around me by dedicating myself just as fully to the success of our institution, and to be as honest and straightforward as I can about where we are and where we are headed.

It is in that vein that I want to share directly with you (before it dribbles out through other channels) the news that this will be my last year at the College. The Board informed me this week of their decision not to renew my contract.

I had expressed my eagerness to continue as president, so I can’t hide my disappointment over the decision. Or my surprise – it doesn’t align with the feedback I have received in my time here. But that said, there is no question the Board has sole authority to make the decision, and is under no obligation to explain it.

And I believe that what is most needed at times like these is that everyone, myself included, puts their personal feelings aside and rededicates themselves to the work at hand. Our responsibility now is to continue the momentum for growth and innovation at Red River in preparation for, and through the term of, a new president.

Red River College is a robust and growing institution. We have rebounded strongly from the difficulties we went through a few years back and built a reputation as one of the leading academic and research colleges in Western Canada.

In keeping with my overall sense of how we need to move forward, I am not planning to write again on this topic. And while I normally welcome feedback I’d ask that you please not reply to this message. But I do look forward to opportunities I will have in the coming months to personally thank so many people at the College who have made my years here the best and most deeply gratifying part of my working life.

It has been a privilege to work with you.

Paul

Paul Vogt | President & CEO

Red River College of Applied Arts, Science and Technology

The Rhodes Scholar from the University of Manitoba, who pursued graduate studies at Oxford and Princeton universities, was policy secretary to cabinet for Manitoba’s NDP government from 1999 to 2005, then served as clerk of the executive council and cabinet secretary from 2005 to 2013. He was a visiting scholar at the U of M in 2013-14 and taught in the U of M and U of W public administration programs.

Now Vogt has learned his contract won’t be renewed next year in August. On Friday, he sent an email to college staff expressing his "disappointment" and "surprise" at the board’s decision.

"I had expressed my eagerness to continue as president, so I can’t hide my disappointment over the decision," Vogt’s email to staff said. "Or my surprise — it doesn’t align with the feedback I have received in my time here. But that said, there is no question the board has sole authority to make the decision, and is under no obligation to explain it."

Board chairman Loren Cisyk didn’t explain the decision in an email to the Free Press, other than to say "The board is looking to go in a different direction." When asked about the new direction the board wants to pursue, Cisyk didn’t offer an explanation.

"We thank Paul for all he has done for the college to date," he said, noting that "Great things are happening at the college!"

If "great things are happening," that doesn’t explain why the RRC board is turfing Vogt, said Toronto-based education consulting firm president Alex Usher.

On Twitter, Usher called it the "Worst personnel decision at a Canadian college, maybe ever."

Usher, who heads Higher Education Strategy Associates, said on Sunday he was surprised to learn Vogt wasn’t being asked to stay on at the college.

"The first thing he did was slim down upward administration... and he did twice as much as what the (provincial) government had asked him to do. I don’t know anybody who’s got a bad word to say about what he’s done." ‐ Alex Usher, Higher Education Strategy Associates

"I’m in contact with a lot of people around colleges including members of the board. I’ve never gotten the impression from anyone that they have a problem with what Paul’s doing. He’s held in very high regard," said Usher.

Before the Progressive Conservative government took power in Manitoba and ordered provincially funded agencies to cut middle management, Vogt had already done that, said Usher. "The first thing he did was slim down upward administration... and he did twice as much as what the government had asked him to do," reducing the number of vice presidents to three from seven, Usher said.

"I don’t know anybody who’s got a bad word to say about what he’s done."

It’s normal for provincial governments to clean house and change political board appointments when they take power, said Usher. What’s not normal is for those boards to start turfing their CEOs and presidents for political reasons, he said.

"Boards have the right and the duty to change leaders if there’s a problem with their leadership," said Usher. "If there’s no problem, then what are they doing? Saying ‘We want a change of direction’ is legit. If you can’t say what that (change) is, people should be justifiably suspicious... If it’s not a performance issue — and to my knowledge there there have never been any performance issues — what does that leave as your option?"

When asked if Red River College students have complained about Vogt’s performance, RRC Student Association president Joshua Roopchand did not respond to a request for comment Sunday afternoon.

A spokesman for Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said that the minister "had no role in the decision" to let Vogt go next year and that the decision was made by the board.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he "wouldn’t be surprised" if the Tories were involved in the board’s decision about Vogt.

"One of the reasons I ran for leader is because, in Manitoba, the political parties in charge don’t just reward their friends, they go out of their way to punish their opponents, and that would be in keeping with what this government has done," Lamont said.

He called Vogt "a talented individual who brings a lot to the table" and he should be judged on his merits not his political affiliation.

"The fact is we live in a democracy where people are allowed to have different points of view," said Lamont. "Once they’re done with politics, they should be allowed to walk away from it."

No one from the NDP responded to a request for comment Sunday.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Read full biography

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