Thursday, February 02, 2006

Where's the outrage?

I hate to keep harping on this, but I'm sensing a distinct lack of outrage at Memorial University. Obviously I'm not in St. John's, so I can't see how the reaction is playing out there. Perhaps it is being talked about on the streets or the open line shows. Perhaps students are losing their minds at MUN over the behaviour of their administration.

But I haven't seen it in any of the other media. I haven't seen it on any other blogs. And even the comments on my blog have been kind of lacking.

Let us recap what MUN has done recently:

1. Lost a more than $800,000 lawsuit with Wanda Young over falsely accusing her of child abuse. No less a body than the Supreme Court of Canada basically said they acted stupidly in their handling of the situation.
2. The Auditor General unleashes a report which says certain administration officials are being massively overpaid for doing work similar to government officials. And apparently the Board of Regents are getting plenty of food and drink as well, according to some of the bills.
3. A professor died over Christmas (which I had forgotten about) and her family is blaming the university for not taking action to stop a student known for harassing behavior.
4. And, oh yeah, they admitted to massive academic fraud on national television. They can also be tied to financial fraud since if they knew (and they did know) that Chandra was faking research, they had to have asked themselves "Gee, I wonder what he's doing with that research money?" I don't care if they money didn't go through them. They knew something fishy was going on, and still let organizations give him money.

A good friend of mine, Mike, is a professional research scientist. He got his PhD from MUN. He's currently so mad he can't see straight. So when he says the following to me, in e-mail (reprinted with his permission), then you can pretty much get an idea of how much trouble MUN is in right now:

"Simply unbelievable. Mindboggling. We're going to be - justifiably - the laughing stock of the Canadian scientific community for a long, long time. And the credibility of every MUN research-based degree has been seriously compromised."

Every single one of us who has graduated from MUN, but especially those in the sciences, are going to be harmed by this. The value and prestige of your degree is going to take a hit. It may actually become harder to get some jobs because MUN's reputation has been so tarnished.

This is comparable, in some ways, to what happened to the Newfoundland Career Academy a decade or so ago. It wasn't just the poor bastards who were going to school at the time and lost money and didn't get the diploma that got screwed - it was every single graduate of the Career Academy that got burned. Because when that school went down, their diplomas basically became worthless. The school didn't exist anymore. The name became synonymous with being a joke.

And sure we felt bad for them. They just wanted an education and got screwed. But I know more than one of us, and I'm included in that, looked down our noses at them a bit. "Well," we thought "they should have went to a real school, like MUN, CONA or the Marine Institute. You know, a place with a reputation."

So what kind of reputation does MUN have right now? And as graduates, how big of a hit have our degrees and reputations taken? MUN condoned, on national television, fraud, cheating and dishonesty. They said as long as no one was harmed by Chandra's research, what's the big deal?

Mike again:

"So, applying MUN logic to the non-academic community, if a Breezeway bartender was found to have been lacing the beer with arsenic, for many years, but no one had died, would the university consider "the case closed" if said bartender "chose to retire quietly and move[d] away", presumably to seek employment at another bar???

Mike raised one other point, and while part of me thinks it's just him blowing off steam, the other part of me wonders if he isn't right and that it might not happen. And his point is this: "could we launch a class-action lawsuit against the administration for criminal incompetence/wanton indifference resulting in harm to (our) reputation?"

You know what? All it's going to take is a few people, especially in the sciences, to go to a few interviews and have people say "sorry, we know you have good grades and all, but you come from MUN and lieu of them admitting committing academic fraud, we don't really trust or hire anyone coming out of that school."

If that happens, you might just see the class action suit. I suspect this going to get uglier before it gets better.

Oh, last thing, people need to be fired over this. Starting at the top isn't a bad place to begin.

Currently Playing
Five Star Motel - Andy Stochansky


dups said...

It's just mind-numbing. I have never felt as much rage towards the university and believe me during the years at the muse there were quite a few days I wanted to torch the administration building!

Anonymous said...

A couple of quick points:

Axel is a good President. He has transformed MUN for the better.

Chandra was a clinical appointee (I believe). His funding and the way he related to the offices in the university that would scrutinise funding was different.

Yes, the CBC series shows MUN in a terrible light. I work at MUN, I understand how and why it happened, though that doesn't excuse any of it.

Khosla died in November of natural causes. The "harassment" needs to investigated carefully. Statements by grieving family members need to be considered carefully.

MUN is a very good university and, in my experience, its graduates are as good - if not better - than those from other Canadian universities.

Student @ MUN said...

The MUSE didn't even report on it...

Anonymous said...

I live in South Korea and I have seen the same thing happen to Dr. Hwang, the cloning "genius". I have also listened to graduates from Seoul University whine about the same thing referred to in your post. The reality is that every single University and College that has research going on eventually has this type of shit happen. It doesn't really matter and it won't affect your personal standing in anyone's eyes. Shit happens and I find it ridiculous that anyone would think that just because you graduated from MUN Sciences that you were in anyway tainted by this...foolishness in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

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Danette here. Was trying to find your e-mail address. Send me a msg at
take care.

colette said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I had a look at an old University Calendar which confirmed that Chandra held a clinical appointment not a regular faculty appointment at MUN. That means he was not a member of MUNFA and that how he was investigated would not have been bound by collective agreement protocols. His threat of a lawsuit would have been more real in the circumstances.

MUN put out a news blurb today that said that lawyers on both sides agreed that the first investigation was procedurally flawed. That doesn't surprise me, really. The friendly and close nature of newfoundland society makes it especially difficult to adopt and stick to a strictly objective investigation or discussion of anything (IMHO).

I agree with the other anonymous re comments that "shit happens". MUN will recover; Chandra won't.