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Vol 39  No 17
July 19, 2007



In Brief

In the Field

Letter to the Editor

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Grenfell senator speaks on report

Dear Editor,

I read the very sanitized account of the last Senate meeting as reported in the June 28 issue of the Gazette.

Several senators were nonplussed with the commissioners of the “Grenfell” report as they argued that Senate had not been consulted. The commissioners’ meetings on the St. John’s campus were arranged based on recommendations provided by President Meisen’s office. Among others, the commissioners met with representatives of the MUN alumni, MUN student body, deans of the larger faculties, the directors of the academic and administrative units, the senior management committee, the Board of Regents senior executive committee, and the then chair of the Board of Regents.

Thus, although the commissioners were not scheduled to meet the Senate or its executive per se, they met with a large number of its members, both in St. John’s and Corner Brook. Furthermore, the commissioners had a one-hour individual meeting with Chancellor Crosbie. The chancellor chose not to follow it up with a written submission.

The Board of Regents submitted a report which was very thorough. However, the senior administration took no steps to involve Senate. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that the commissioners consulted widely enough that any delay in the implementation of the government’s decision is not warranted.

The commissioners patently sought, received and considered the many and diverse views of the academic, political, social and business communities, but their recommendation must be based primarily on their expert knowledge of the national and international practices in higher education, and, of the internationally accepted standards which relate to the granting of university status and to the associated governance structures.

It is likely that Senate will vote on the creation of an ad hoc committee in the fall of 2007. Such a report would be several months in the making and one could expect that Senate will be well into its 2008 sittings by the time the report is received.

I find it incredible that after an independent report by internationally-recognized experts, and the adoption of its recommendations by government in the 2007 budget address, that the Senate and senior administration of Memorial choose simply to ignore government’s announced decision.

The Gazette also notes that the chancellor of the university was present at the Senate meeting and described it as a “rare move.” The office of the chancellor is largely ceremonial and the chancellor is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. The chancellor is an ex officio member of the Senate and he has an undeniable right to speak.

However, the chancellor spoke at length in an attack on the “Grenfell” report itself, the current government, and named the premier and the minister of finance personally, describing their actions as “appalling” and “politically motivated.” The chancellor also alleged that the decision to change Grenfell’s governance structure was calculated “simply to get votes in Corner Brook.”

This attack on the government of the day by John Crosbie, speaking publicly in the Senate as the chancellor of the university, is not only unprecedented, it is unacceptable. By this “appalling” and “politically motivated” act, Chancellor Crosbie has single-handedly made a mockery of the traditional and expected political neutrality of the office.

Moreover, his statements are a gross insult to the commissioners, who clearly have no interest in the politics of Newfoundland and Labrador, and who based their recommendation on international university standards. His comments must be deeply offensive to them. The least he should do is to offer an abject apology with alacrity.

Finally, Crosbie’s comments are a direct insult to all those, inside and outside the university, who made presentations to the commissioners that these changes in governance were not only essential for the further development of Grenfell, but also essential to economic development of the region it serves.

Yours truly,
Dr. Paul Wilson, Senator

Editors note:
According to the president's office, the provincial Department of Education was responsible for arranging the St. John's meetings of the consultants.


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