Thursday, December 18, 2008

Regents purge

Just when I think I'm out and not commenting on Memorial University of Newfoundland again, they pull me back in.

I actually fired off a quip to Ed about how Premier Williams might try to expropriate Memorial University in much the same way he was doing with the mill in Grand Falls/Windsor. His response? "Already done." Depressing, but not inaccurate.

So let me wrap my brain around this. A few weeks before Christmas, when absolutely no one at MUN is paying the slightest bit of attention to the Board of Regents because staff and students are up to their eyeballs with just trying to get through exams so they can get to Christmas...

... that's when the government decides the Board is in need of a "renewal" and purges four more members. And no, their terms on the Board weren't up. Hell, two of them must have been appointed this year since their term would have been up in 2011 and appointments are for three years.

And gosh, look at that, Mary Broderick was one of the ones who must have been past her best before date, because she just got renewed right off the Board. And hey, look at that, it happened right before she was about to present a report to the Board of Regents recommending "changes to the Memorial University Act to ensure autonomy for the institution, especially as it relates to the role of the provincial government in the appointment of a president."

But it's pure coincidence that the Board was in need of renewing at this time.

As for the new members of the Board - Mary Cormier of Corner Brook, Michelle Day of Grand Falls-Windsor, Noreen Greene-Fraize of St. John's and Debbie Singleton of Happy Valley-Goose Bay - I have no idea who they are. Can someone let me know who they are and their connection to Williams? I'm willing to bet you won't have to use Six Degrees of Separation to figure that out.

That Williams is making a Machiavellian power grab to control the university should be fairly obvious at this point. Students are being bought off with cheap tuition, the Board of Regents are being brought firmly under his control. I suspect senior management have probably been warned about getting too vocal about their concerns. And given how many professors I tend to see on the news supporting whatever Williams is up to these days, there doesn't appear to be much resistance in that quarter either.

And perhaps it's not a big deal. Maybe everyone at the university is happy and this is a good thing. Perhaps the government having that much control over the university will revolutionize the way education is conducted. I'm not sure a government having that much control over the province's main institute of higher learning is necessarily a good idea. But I'm only half clever and perhaps people smarter than me can see the benefits of the premier stomping all over the campus like a saggy jowled Godzilla.

I just view it as perfectly scary. Both in why the premier is so determined to control the university and why the university is so content to curl up into a ball and go "please don't hurt us."

Unless I have my history wrong, there was a time when universities legitimately had to worry about their local ruler getting annoyed with them and sending men with sharp, point objects on to the campus to do terrible things with those objects. And yet, many stood up to them, risking their lives for what they believed in.

Danny Williams is only a local politician with a massively inflated ego. He's not a king. He doesn't have a scary army of men with swords. He has an army of losers with nothing better to do than call crappy open line radio shows. If you're happy with what's happening with MUN, well God bless and God speed.

If you're not, well, then may I humbly suggest people might, just might want to do something about this. Because this is now getting ridiculous.

Edit - Well, one of the four has been outed - Debbie Singleton is the Labrador Area Vice-President of the Progressive Conservative Party. Next?

Last Five
1. 22 steps - Andy Stochansky*
2. Only son - Liz Phair
3. Away - Jenny Gear and the Whiskey Kittens
4. Luno - Bloc Party
5. Bone of song - Josh Ritter


Brian said...

I was looking forward with some degree of glee to your rant on this topic; I was not disappointed, and agree with all points.
Why the government has even taken over the trail grooming from the local community operators in Labrador, and the money for those capital works was predominantly federal.

Adam Snider said...

I'm an outsider, so I don't really understand this whole thing. What does the province stand to gain by controlling the university? What's the point of this power grab?

WJM said...

What's the point of this power grab?

The same as all other of Danny's power grabs: he loves power.

Steph said...

Cheap tuition? Did I miss the stories on that?

Anonymous said...

I can't believe what I'm reading! Debbie Singleton on the Board of Regents for MUN??!! Who was the idiot that put that through. Oh ya, forgot, she is so far up John Hickey's butt that I guess she was due for something like this. Wife of a local lawyer (and that is using the word graciously), she has no experience whatsoever in this field. As said, she is an extremely close friend of John Hickey, was his campaign manager for the past 2 terms, and is actively involved in the Conservative Party. Just goes to show ... it's not who you know, but who you ........... Unbelievable!

towniebastard said...

No stories on it, Steph, but MUN's tuition has been frozen for a number of years. I think outside of Quebec, MUN has the cheapest tuition in Canada. And I'm glad tuition is at a reasonable level, but there are times I wonder if the government welds that like a cudgel over the heads of students.

And Adam, yes the simple answer is that Williams does appear to have a taste for power and universities have typically been independent of government control. That doesn't seem to suit our premier well.

But he's also trying to get Grenfell, a campus of MUN's in Corner Brook, recognized as a full-fledged university. It would make a lot of people on the island's west coast happy, although many people think it would be a mistake and a terrible waste of money and resources.

It's also widely suspected that Williams wants his own choice for president. What difference will it make? Well, a Williams appointed president will be less likely to stand up to him if the premier decides to raise tuition. Or cut funding to the university. Or cut funding to, say, arts programs. Or any number of ways a government can interfere with or shape a university.

Will he do it? No idea. But I'd really prefer he not be given the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Mary Cormier is a close personal friend of Joan Burke.

WJM said...

And I'm glad tuition is at a reasonable level, but there are times I wonder if the government welds that like a cudgel over the heads of students.

Don't wonder.

They do.

And Danny will leave it to his successors to bite the bullet and raise it... the more to make Him look good.