It's good to see that Newfoundland media are keeping some track of the shenanigans going on with MUN's Board of Regents. Pam Frampton is just the latest to fire off a round at the provincial government's handling of the situation.
I could do another rant against the provincial government and how they've handled this. They're "dismissing" perfectly good Regents and "renewing" the Board, often with people with only the most thinly veiled links to the governing party.
I've always been a touch hesitant to get deeply into the Board of Regents situation. I ran for one of the alumni rep positions last year and lost. And I lost by a wide margin, which I'm all right with. But even back then I had suspicions of something weird going on with the Board of Regents.
MUN Alumni's steadfast refusal to release the complete election results, citing "privacy legislation concerns" was pretty strange to me. A lawyer friend of mine called it "pretty bizarre" and seemed pretty certain privacy legislation didn't cover election results.
Plus, there were plenty of rumours about Confederation Building getting involved with the election, making sure certain "preferred" candidates got large voting bumps. Something that might have showed up if the complete results were released.
I never expressed this theory before because:
A. I don't want to look like a sore loser.
B. It sounded a little too much like a "Tin Foil Hat" conspiracy theory to me. Sure there was a hint of logic around it. There often is around conspiracy theories. Doesn't make them any more true, though.
However, given the Department of Education's bizarre and random purges of the Board of Regents based on the dubious need to "renew" the organization, it doesn't seem quite so crazy now. If they're willing to purge people sitting on the Board for barely a year, is trying to make sure the "right" alumni are elected any more strange?
So, with the provincial government possibly trying to carpet bomb votes for the Alumni elections and outright dismissing Regent members who may disagree with their direction or desires for the university, I think we can agree the whole Regents selection process is deeply broken. It was never great to begin with. The Conservatives certainly aren't the first to stack a board with loyalists. What they are is the first to do it with such a stunning lack of subtlety and grace that there is actually a public outcry.
What's needed is something else. Something where the autonomy of the university is better protected than what it is now. This is just a rough idea and I'm certainly open to alternative suggestions.
Keep the Board of Regents at 30 members. Ten will still be appointed by the provincial government. Ten members are voted on by Memorial University of Newfoundland alumni. The vote totals of this election will be made public at the same time the winners are announced. In fact, I don't think it's a bad idea for Elections Newfoundland and Labrador get involved with the process if it becomes too complicated for Alumni Affairs to handle properly.
Five positions will be held for students attending MUN.
The Final Five will be selected by a panel composed of students, professors and university administrators. Anybody can run for these positions. You do not need to have ever worked or attended MUN to apply. Why? Because sometimes an outsider perspective - someone not so wrapped up in the history, drama and grudges that a university can create - is necessary to offer some clarity and perspective.
Oh, and for a kicker, Board of Regents members cannot be a current member of any political party or have been a member in the past five years.
That's my idea. No chance in hell it's happening with the current education minister and premier in place. But it would be nice to see some future government or political party pick this up and run with it.
And your ideas?
1. Until the day is done - R.E.M.
2. City of the dead (live) - The Clash
3. 3 o'clock drunk - Sean Panting*
4. American gangster time - Elvis Costello and The Impostors
5. Steven's last night in town - Ben Folds Five