Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Memorial's Mixed Message

I have a love/hate relationship with my Alma mater Memorial University. On the one hand it is truly a marvelous world class institution that Newfoundland and Labrador can be proud of as it's pillar of academia. On the other hand Memorial, like our provincial governance is filled to the rafters with shit. An institution so rapped up in its own self-importance to be counterproductive in the growth of our society. Such is the Board of Rejects. In the last column I defended the importance of the nearly universally accepted autonomy of universities. As it turns out the university's public voice is the weapon of it's own destruction.

As it appears MUN did indeed ask for the government's input. It went something like this:

MUN: "Would you mind being in the loop on the selection of a new president?"

Minister/Premier: "Naw-da-tall glad to help"

MUN: "What about Acting President Dr. Eddy Campbell?"

Minister/Premier: "hmmm naw - who else you got?"

MUN: "Well we were sort of hoping for Dr. Campbell?!"

Minister/Premier: "Nope try again"

Dr. Campbell (muffled from outside the door): "What did she say"

MUN (shouts): "Say's she don't want you!"

Dr. Campbell: "Shag 'em I'm withdrawing my name"

Minister/Premier: "Good problem solved"

Voice from the back barely audible: "I'm calling the Globe and Mail! This sucks!"

I don't get MUN. On the one hand the board acknowledges "[the] Premier indicated to the Chairman of the Board of Regents that, if the university felt it would be helpful, the Premier, if asked, would be willing to meet prospective candidates to promote the province, to emphasize the importance of Memorial to the province and to confirm the government’s strong commitment to university education in Newfoundland and Labrador." It also acknowledges: "The Board feels that there was no inappropriate interference by government or attempt to influence the work of the Search Committee until government informed the Board that the candidates were unacceptable prior to a formal recommendation of a preferred candidate being made." but then states "the Board is concerned that government’s non-acceptance of the candidates and government’s request that the Search Committee continue with its search before a formal recommendation could be made on the Board’s proposed appointee constitutes inappropriate interference in the normal process.

I say simply to the Board of Regents be careful what you wish for.

Of the Memorial University Act MUN states: "The Memorial University Act is clear in delineating government’s role and the Board of Regents is committed to ensuring that role remains within the letter and spirit of the Act... The Board’s appointment of a candidate for president must be the result of a fair, thorough and comprehensive process that is strictly in accordance with the provisions of The Memorial University Act." but then suggests the act should be changed: "The Board of Regents respectfully recommends to government that it amend The Memorial University Act to better reflect the autonomy of the university and to be more in line with appointment practices at other Canadian universities."

So the Board of Regents now wants to suggest that the Memorial University Act be amended to allow for greater autonomy. "Just like other universities". Problem is, if they are given that power are they even sharp enough to be able to handle the responsibility? This little PR nightmare says they are not.

So we ask:

Can a candidate withdraw his name after he has already been rejected?

Is The Board of Regents able to get it's head out of its own ass long enough to find our next pres?

Can anyone at MUN write a press release that isn't simply a point wise list of hyperbole?

Is anyone ever going to ask for Ms. Burke's opinion ever again?

Tune in after Regatta Day for the continuing story. It's summer and there's nothing on TV leading up the Olympics.

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