I have been away from the blogspace for a few weeks, perhaps for obvious reasons. May has been a wild ride so far, but I share with most members of the university community in the relief that the ride is going from warp to coasting speed for now. We have had some of the liveliest public discussions in a long while, and one should always welcome that opportunity, not fear or shy away from it. Debate is always necessary and good, if not always as graceful as we would like. It has ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime, animated by the pernicious reductionism of social media, driven by the sound-bite culture of modern media in general, and informed throughout by a strong current of anxiety here and elsewhere because we—Memorial and this province–have huge economic challenges.
Although much of the public banter has seen me at its centre—convenient for protesters and the gaping maw of media—and as personalizing and exaggerated as that coverage has and even continues to be, I have to say that I am deeply appreciative of lessons learned on this journey. No one has ever accused me of not having a sense of humour. That trait—gratefully acquired from my courageous dad—and the persistent, steady wave of support I have received in the last few weeks have buoyed me through some pretty dark moments. Now it’s time to give thanks.
And so, thanks to the Memorial Board of Regents, now comprising old and new members, who have shown care and caution throughout every minute of our deliberations. The BoR is deeply committed to Memorial and its future, to our students and their well-being. Members of the Board have persistently questioned and challenged the senior administration on our expenditures and our transparency—always respectfully and with intelligent, reasoned understanding of the complexity of both the institution and this historical moment. Thanks to the Chair for her courage, generosity, and sensitivity. Thanks all of you for your dedication and wisdom, and especially for always keeping students first and foremost in your sights.
Thanks to my colleagues at the leadership tables, especially the vice presidents, deans, and directors with whom I have worked so closely these last few weeks. I appreciate the commitment to team work, focus, and purposefulness of our shared efforts. None of us works alone. Thanks to MarComm for all your insight and good guidance. And thanks to the president for enduring his own huge share of the burden, for always showing confidence in the team and, most importantly, Memorial’s future well-being.
Thanks to Senate and the Planning and Budget Committee of Senate for the wisdom, respect, and engagement throughout the budget proposal process. Our governance processes are strong and necessary, and they are well in place to handle exactly the kind of exercise we have just experienced, albeit in a necessarily compressed time frame.
Thanks to the protesters who are keeping the spirit of resistance alive. I might not always appreciate the full-bore oppositional approach, but I was a student activist once, too, and understand the rage and frustration that fuel it. I also totally applaud the right and need to resist. Thanks for reminding me that an admittedly foolish, if totally honest, few moments of face-making reaction to a call to fire the president, can, indeed, go viral in our age. That gave the media a lot of useful filler, too, for which, I am sure, they are grateful. Thanks, especially, for reminding me what hateful demonizing, misogynistic, profane sites Twitter and Facebook can be. Twitter is especially forceful in turning a phrase or image into an opportunity for a vitriolic outpouring of hate, and for quick, censorious judgement. My inbox has never been so full of venom. (Mostly) male students/strangers from as far away as the USA have written me directly for me to resign or drop dead, whichever comes first—a useful reminder of the anti-women aggression that persists in our culture like a very bad smell. It is always wise to be mindful of it, as well as the nagging theme that, as some have put it to me directly, I am “not really from here.”
Thanks to the many students both current and former who have written me to express support of the university’s proposals in general and of me in particular. Eloquently written emails and texts of such support have helped dull the harshness of the attacks and the crude, personal denunciations, giving me perspective and reassurance. Thanks especially to those student leaders who have approached me personally and respectfully to share their own views, often in disagreement with dominant voices around them. That has taken a lot of courage, to put it mildly, and many of us respect and admire you for possessing it.
Finally, and with a lot of love in my heart, thanks to all the friends, feminists, my staff, colleagues, and community members who have written and continue to send me messages of courage. The day of the Board of Regents meeting I received a fruit basket from a retired colleague and his wife, with a card that said “Stay Strong.” Such profoundly human gestures have moved me to my core, reminding me what a wonderful community we belong to, how much we need each other, especially in hard times. Never has the cliché of strength in numbers seemed more real or meaningful. I have every confidence that Memorial will continue to thrive while ably serving the people of this province and beyond. For all of this I am grateful.