MUN President Vianne Timmons’s leadership called into question

MUN President Vianne Timmons. Memorial University/Twitter.

After the employment contract for Memorial University of Newfoundland’s new Provost and Vice-President (Academic), Dr. Florentine Strzelczyk, and the costs of the search for the new Provost was published, many people expressed anger on social media.

“Increasing administrative salaries during a pandemic, while looking to increase tuition… leaves so many ethical questions.”

“The more things change, the more they remain the same. Increasing administrative salaries during a pandemic, while looking to increase tuition for students just leaves so many ethical questions. It seems like those in power believe that they have no duty to those they are supposed to serve. We need new ways to think about leadership because this is clearly not it” said a person on social media.

Another person stated, “Crazy stuff, this is ridiculous… Especially in the middle of a pandemic…”

MUN Engineering professor Mike Hinchey stated, “The Young People of NL are its most important resource. For the best of them, MUN should be free. This could add significantly to the well-being of NL. Yet they are being loaded down with debt.”

Hinchey then stated, “worldwide, oligarchs are everywhere. They generally hide in the shadows and control everything around them. NL is no exception. Our Oligarchs have been bleeding us dry for centuries. They are why NL is always a mess.”

Hinchey said that our Oligarchs gave MUN a growth mandate, “they hired Presidents, by secret search, with basically no input from us, to execute that mandate. The goal is to move as many bodies through MUN as possible. Lots of meaningless research requires lots of CFA [Come-From-Away] graduate students so that is what growth is based on. Most of the research money MUN gets is government money. It is easy money.”

“They hired Presidents, by secret search, with basically no input from us.”

Mike Hinchey

Hinchey stated that it has nothing to do with diversity or the freedom and dignity of CFAs and that is just a smokescreen.

“Just like [former president] Kachanoski, Timmons is a puppet of the Oligarchs of NL.  She is fixated on the growth mandate. That is what she is being paid the big bucks to execute. Just like Kachanoski, she can be fired without cause by the Oligarchs of NL. So, she is highly motivated. She is not a friend of students. Actually, she is their biggest enemy. She sees them as a nuisance. It seems the pandemic was used as an excuse to keep them from MUN,” said Hinchey.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

MUN administration reject calls by students to reduce tuition fees during remote learning

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A recently obtained access-to-information reveals some of the backlash the Provost and Vice-President (Academic), Mark Abrahams, received when he sent out his update to students on the Winter 2021 semester. Students responded to Abrahams through email asking the administration to reduce tuition while the university is only offering remote classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I ask that you please lower tuition for all students because this is not at all what I signed up for.”


A student stated that if the university would be staying online for next semester that they have a huge concern. The student said, “I am only a few weeks into online and remote learning right now and I can tell you for a fact that these profs are not teaching us anything. All I do is sign into D2L and meet deadlines at this point because there’s nothing else, I can do.” The student stated that they know many other students who felt the same way. The student then asked, “my issue is what are we paying for? I am paying full tuition for what? Because it cannot be for the courses, I am taking I know that for sure. All the remotely delivered courses I am taking have all moved to online because ‘no one really shows up’ so I’m not even getting a proper education anyways.” The student questioned the university keeping all the lights on in the buildings that are not being used by anyone and said that they know this is the case because they drive by all the time. The student then stated, “I’m very disappointed and angry about the fact that I am paying for practically nothing just so I can further my degree. If you are continuing online classes I ask that you please lower tuition for all students because this is not at all what I signed up for.” The student signed off as “an extremely disappointed student.”

Another student commented “man you people just like money, bet you won’t even reduce the tuition costs. Death rates have been dropping but that doesn’t matter cause you can still use it as an excuse for the students to spend money, please tell me where all this money is going to since you’re not even changing the fees.”

“I’m not paying tuition just to teach myself content.”


Next, a student commented with three bullet points, “1. I’m not learning shit, 2. I’m not paying full price tuition for online classes, don’t be silly, and 3. businesses and public schools are open, MUN and MI should be as well.” The student then said “if you really cared about students, you’d have accommodated more thorough classes and resources. I’m not paying tuition just to teach myself content.”

Students have been asking the administration at MUN to reduce tuition costs since MUN transitioned to remote learning in March of 2020. A petition asking for a partial refund for the Winter 2020 semester received a total of 3,186 signatures.

A student commented on the petition, “it’s not fair that our entire curriculum has been moved online. Some students such as myself have difficulty navigating the MUN D2L site and have trouble staying focused due to staring at a screen for long periods of time.”

A supporter of the petition stated, “They are students, some in the future will be our doctors, teachers, first responders, and front-line workers. Refund them all, that’s not fair. Taking, from the people who are investing in our future. Full refund or hold for the following year tuition.”

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

Extreme precautions taken by MUN administration during the COVID-19 pandemic says students

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According to a recently obtained access-to-information request, many students took issue with the precautions taken by Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN)’s administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some students go as far as to say that several of the precautions were extreme.

A student asked a question about research that takes place a few times a year, “does environmental research dependent on phenomena that only occur once or twice a year count as something that can not be paused? For example, phytoplankton bloom in the Spring and the Summer or the Spring floods caused by snowmelt. Postponing fieldwork for these events sets back research not by a couple of months but by a year.”

The student then asked an additional question, “if students are unable to enter school in a safe and responsible way to conduct their research and learn the technical skills, they came to learn. How can we, the students, be expected to graduate feeling confident we can succeed in the workplace?”

“What is Memorial’s reasoning for its drastic response when Newfoundland has been fortunate in being less affected than other provinces?”


The student then asked a question comparing MUN to other universities, “in other provinces, while universities have taken necessary precautions to curb outbreak and transmission of COVID-19 they have not completely closed down research and teaching labs, operating at limited capacity, staggering labs and reducing contact. What is Memorial’s reasoning for its drastic response when Newfoundland has been fortunate in being less affected than other provinces?”

“If this can work for areas such as restaurants, which are much higher risk, why can it not work for fieldwork where there is even less risk?”


Next, a question was asked about fieldwork, “last year during the initial outbreak, Memorial chose to cancel any and all fieldwork happening that year, while some found it extreme it can be argued that at this time with limited information about the virus, this was the right decision.” The student then states that it has been a whole year since then and more information about the virus is now available. They said that it is now known that transmission is more likely to happen in indoor spaces with poor circulation and not enough room to distance. The student then said that fieldwork being conducted outdoors carries low risk with potentially enough space to socially distance. The student stated that in cases where distance can not be maintained that masks can be worn to prevent transmission. The student asked, “if this can work for areas such as restaurants, which are much higher risk, why can it not work for fieldwork where there is even less risk?”

The student then raised the issue about the university’s policy to only allow students in their last years on campus to conduct research. The student pointed out that this could also work for students at the Master’s level who often complete course work in the first year and lab work in the second. The student then points to students completing a Ph.D. and how these students conduct research and lab work throughout their degree and not just in their last year. The student said that the policy negatively impacts the progress of Ph.D. students. The student asked the question “do you have any potential solutions for these students?”

Another student asked a similar question regarding MUN’s closure, “In Newfoundland, we have seen many individuals return to work, children return to school, and it sometimes feels like university students are never going to be able to return to a sense of normalcy.” The student asked the question, “besides the recommendation from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and her team, what criteria is Memorial University looking at/for when deciding to open up campuses across Newfoundland and Labrador? Will this depend on how many students/staff are vaccinated?”

“It sometimes feels like university students are never going to be able to return to a sense of normalcy.”


This student then asked a question regarding barriers students face from studying at home, “in many cases, students have barriers at home that prevent them from achieving their full potential. Multiple university campuses across Canada have decided to open up their residences so students can have access to a safe place to continue their studies. If classes were to remain online for the 2021-2022 semester, would Memorial University consider opening up residences for students to would like to escape whatever challenges they may face at home?”

The student then asked a question about how long remote learning will last. The student stated “although remote learning has improved drastically from March 2020, many students still face a larger workload, increased stress, and an increased strain on their mental and physical health. Does Memorial University feel that remote learning is a long-term solution and is this affecting how quickly we return to campus?”

“Many students still face a larger workload, increased stress, and an increased strain on their mental and physical health.”


A question was then asked regarding student-parents and the challenges that these students are facing during the pandemic. The student said that a survey was conducted for student-parents about what challenges and barriers they have been facing the current semester and last semester. The student stated that the results “show that student-parents are finding it extremely difficult to complete their studies while children are at home due to the closure of schools and daycares, with some receiving poor grades, having missed scheduled tests, having to drop courses, and deferring their admittance to a Ph.D. program.” The student asked, “if a student-parent receives a poor or failing grade due to circumstances like this that are beyond their control, will they be permitted to receive alternative methods of evaluation, such as extra-take paper or quizzes/exams that are NOT timed?”

Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Mark Abrahams thanked the student for their email and question. Abrahams said that it is best for student-parents who require accommodations due to the difficulty they experience with a course’s assessments to discuss it with the instructor of the course “to find alternative methods of evaluation that address the unique circumstances of each individual.” Abrahams then stated that it would be best for this conversation to take place at the beginning of the course, but if student-parents encounter difficulties during the course then this conversation should take place at the earliest opportunity. Abrahams said that he hopes that the students find this advice to be helpful.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

Professors at MUN taking longer than usual to return student work

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According to a recently obtained access-to-information request, many students at Memorial University of University (MUN) have had issues with professors grading and returning their work in a timely manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues have always existed at MUN but recently it seemed to have increased significantly. The below questions and comments were submitted through email to MUN President Vianne Timmons regarding the recent Student Town Hall event.

A student stated that “many of my classmates and I have experienced increased stress and anxiety with the increased number of cases in the province while balancing the semester’s demands. For example, in one of my classes, I had gone weeks waiting for grading of midterm, followed by the professor not being able to continue teaching the course, allowing for another professor to pick up where they left off.”

An engineering student who is graduating this semester stated that “since the semester started it has been impossible, and speaking to classmates, I know it is not just me. We have been asked to be compassionate towards the faculty, but I do not feel as though this compassion is reciprocated.”

“A deliverable scheduled almost every day…, making it impossible to take a single mental health day.”


The student then stated that they have had professors assign them labs that in the past would have been done in groups of four but suddenly the professors wanted them to do the labs individually. The student stated that they have had professors “assign them extra work to do, because ‘it’s a pandemic and it is not like you have anything to do anyway.’” Regarding the Winter break, the student said they found it “comical that it is even called a break” due to having had “a deliverable scheduled almost every day, not counting midterms that were scheduled right after the break, making it impossible to take a single mental health day.”

The student stated that they have had so many professors ask them to be compassionate and understanding when they still have not graded their month-old deliverable and yet when students asked for a day or two extensions, they simply told them that they do not think the students required it. The student stated that they have had professors that posted pre-recorded lectures and did not once interact with them for questions, emails, or even office hours. The student said, “we have had midterms, where we did not even know what we were getting tested on till 4 am on the day of.”

“A lot of us are reaching our hands out for help with no one grabbing our hands.”


The student asked the question, “how is this fair? How is it fair that the faculty expects us to show them so much compassion, but they cannot reciprocate?” The student then followed up with an additional question, “how is it fair that this was supposed to be our happiest semester celebrating with friends our graduation, but we cannot even take a day off without failing a deliverable? Where is the compassion towards us?” The student stated that a lot of them have lost a lot during the pandemic and that a lot of students have been stressed and depressed. The student stated, “a lot of us are reaching our hands out for help with no one grabbing our hands.”

The student ended with the following statement “I made sure to share these concerns with professors and university surveys, and yet here we are again, experiencing the same problems. I am not sure what I am asking for in this email but at the very least I believe we as students deserve some compassion too.”

MUN president Vianne Timmons thanked the student for their email and stated that she will be forwarding it to the Dean of Engineering. She said that it is a difficult time, and that the student captured the challenges well. Timmons said that she will be asking the Dean of Engineering to share the students’ experiences with the faculty and that hopefully, this will help.

The students deserve better.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

MUN administration says work-from-home will continue post-pandemic

Memorial University of Newfoundland administrators.

Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) president Vianne Timmons held an employee town hall on March 9th, 2021 with Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Mark Abrahams, Vice-President (Research) Neil Bose, and Vice-President (Administration and Finance) Kent Decker. Timmons stated that Vice-President (Grenfell Campus) Jeff Keshen and Vice-President (Marine Institute) Glenn Blackwood have already held town halls on their respected campuses, so they were not selected to be on the panel for this one but that they were still present if needed.

“What have I accomplished since I have been here?”

Vianne Timmons

Timmons stated that hundreds of employees have been tested and self-isolating over the past month and many have family and friends who tested positive. Timmons questioned her time as president thus far and stated “what have I accomplished since I have been here? I have not met people in person, I have not walked the campus and chatted with you.” Timmons said that many employees are having a challenge in working at home because there are no limits on the time when they start and when they finish work each day and that the blurring between home and work has been a real challenge for them.

Timmons then reminded participants that Jeff Keshen accepted a position as president of the University of Regina. Timmons stated that she had nothing to do with that and that it was not a swap. Timmons congratulated Keshen. She said she met with the Grenfell campus and that they have given her input in terms of a way forward.

The first poll question conducted during the event revealed that in attendance were mostly staff and some faculty members. The results of the second poll revealed that 191 people were okay, 60 people were struggling, and 124 were good.

Allison McNeil asked the first question, “for many employees working from home during the pandemic has proven that a permanent work-from-home arrangement can be just as productive and rewarding as working on campus but more personally accommodating in many aspects of work and home life, what is the status of the work-from-home program and when can employees expect to have a policy to guide a work-from-home proposal?”

Decker stated that work-from-home is an important part of the future of MUN and that we will see a lot more people working from home in the future. Decker said that they started several work-from-home pilots and they set up groups of people who had requested to work from home and worked with their director to establish a pilot program. He said that it was not a simple process in some ways as there are legal implications of permanent work-from-home and that they had to do ergonomic assessments and IT assessments and they also had to ensure proper security was set up. Decker said that they established a group that will monitor and evaluate the work-from-home pilots. He said that the problem was just as they set it up everybody went back home due to the lockdown. He said to do a proper work-from-home pilot it was intended that they would be able to compare the differences between working-from-home and working on-campus where people were in both situations. He said they expect the pilots to be back on track upon the return to campus.  He said the initial intent was to do a 12-month evaluation and once the process has worked itself through, they expect to be able to move on to other groups and individuals where it would make sense for the organization and for the employee to work from home.

Abrahams spoke about the Spring, Summer, and Fall classes. He said that for the most part, the Spring semester is going to be a primarily remote exercise. However, some faculties will be returning to on-campus instruction like the Human Kinetics and Recreational faculty. Abrahams said that the Spring semester makes for a good transition semester because they can bring students back onto campus without really increasing their densities. With regards to the fall semester, Abrahams said he established a small committee to work on the details but that their expectation is the fall term will be a primarily face-to-face academic term. However, he said it is not going to be like other fall semesters and that they will figure out what exceptions they need to deal with to accommodate the health situation.

Mark Picco asked a question regarding the expectation around leniency, “we have been instructed to be lenient with students because the situation is new to everyone, students and instructors alike. However, is there a worry that we might be becoming too lenient and that our standards might be lowered as a result? I personally have become very flexible with assessments and deadlines but in some cases, it is clear that I am doing so for students who have not accessed my course in several weeks. I cannot help but feel this is unfair to students who are working hard to meet deadlines and review course material. Can we get some guidance on this issue?”

“Is there a worry that we might be becoming too lenient and that our standards might be lowered as a result?”

Mark Picco

Abrahams stated that this was a topic that was being considered by CITL (Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning) and that there is a report that CITL put together on the stresses associated with teaching. He stated that one of the challenges that they had in the fall term is that they were encouraging faculty to stay away from using final exams that required an online invigilation process as there were several issues associated with that. They encouraged more ongoing assessment. They found out that the main challenge in the fall term was the amount of work that was being assigned to students was starting to become a large amount so CITL had put together a document. Abrahams expressed the importance of not overloading students because while the professor may be doing ongoing assessment, the students were likely seeing a similar thing from all their other courses. Abrahams highlighted the need to be sensitive to the circumstances of students because with being primarily remote not all students are necessarily in St. John’s or even in the same time zone. Abrahams said that when assignments are due that professors need to understand how that impacts some of their students with an emphasis on those who are not living in the province and working in a different time zone.

Abrahams’s advice is for professors to get to know their students to understand the challenges that they are dealing with and to accommodate those main challenges but at the same time not to lower standards.

Jonathan Anderson commented, “I feel like I am at or over my limit, we are rightly asked to be flexible accommodating, and kind for students, but I do not feel a lot of extra understanding, flexibility, kindness, or appreciation from students. I’m not sure how to fix this.”

Timmons said the message is both to students and faculty and that students need to understand that while they are struggling so are many of their faculty, course instructors, and staff. She said while they are asking faculty to be lenient and understanding of students that they are also expecting students to be lenient and understanding of faculty.

A question was then asked about graduate student funding, “in the summer of 2020 students who are slated to finish their graduate degrees were promised an extra semester of funding due to the several months where graduate students were unable to access campus. With another month of lockdown under our belt, will the same funding be offered to graduate students who are slated to finish in 2021 after two lockdowns where research activities had to be put on pause?”

Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Aimee Surprenant, said that they will be extending baseline funding for students going forward for one semester for those finishing or those who should have been finishing at the end of the semester and that she anticipates that they are going to end up doing that again for the students who are hoping to finish or should have finished at the end of the summer.

Joy Fraser asked a question about work-from-home, “are you still exploring the possibility of offering flexible/part-time remote work options post-pandemic for individual staff members who have found that they are both more productive and benefit from a better work-life balance working from home?”

Decker responded that they will be exploring that once they get through the initial set of projects and evaluation. Decker said that remote work has a lot of benefits for the university and individuals but that it is just a matter of them getting there.

Decker then gave a shout-out to the custodians who were watching the town hall in lecture theaters at the university. He said, “hello, I miss you guys walking around on my rounds.”

The next question asked was about work terms, “why does Memorial limit salaries of work terms for students? They restrict employers not to pay students more than a specific amount no matter what the student is doing in their job. This is disappointing.” Abrahams responded stating that he is not aware of this restriction on pay and that he did not have an answer to that question.

“Why does Memorial limit salaries of work terms for students?”

Rhea Rollmann asked a question regarding the return to campus, “the back-to-campus initiative in January was a bad idea. What assurance can you give that there will not be a repeat of the back-to-campus and that folks who have been working remotely will be able to continue working remotely until vaccination?”

Timmons responded by comparing the situation to the provincial election, she stated “it is kind of like when they called the election, we had very few cases and we could not predict the future.” The call the Premier made to have an election during the pandemic has been widely criticized across the province, country, and beyond. Timmons then states that with regards to January’s return-to-campus initiative that she does not think it was a bad idea and “I think it was the best idea and that it was the best decision we made with the information that we had at the time.”

Decker said that he knew a lot of people who wanted to be back on campus and who were looking forward to it. He said that the people he met and talked to on campus were generally happy to be there and because of that, he thinks that it was the right decision. However, Decker said that upon looking back on it that things changed that they were not aware of at the time, and neither was public health. He said they learned after the fact that one of the variants was spreading in the community.

Mark Berry asked a question regarding the workday and time expectations “many faculty and students feel that this is a long-standing issue, not just a pandemic issue that directly impacts EDI [equity, diversity, and inclusion] and mental health. What will be done to address this rather than just returning to normal?”

Timmons stated that they know from the statistics that young female faculty members with children at home have had a rough time in terms of getting their level of research and accomplishing what they would have accomplished without a pandemic.

Abrahams said that when it comes to promotion and tenure files that they are going to be keeping a close eye on this to find out if there are any EDI issues associated with success or failure for faculty going through the promotion and tenure process. He said the bigger issue is not for faculty’s application for tenure and that the process they have at MUN is proactive in terms of providing an opportunity for feedback and thus most faculty who apply for tenure are usually successful. Abrahams said the bigger issue is for faculty that are applying for promotion to full professor and that this is where the lag effect is and where success rates are lower. He said a plan must be put in place to ensure that the consequences associated with the pandemic do not have a long-lasting impact that is going to jeopardize someone’s career.

Gerald Singh asked a question about minority groups, “the stress including work-from-home affects visible minorities, women, and LGBTQ+ individuals more often because of issues such as gender norms and socioeconomic status, etc. How are these concerns considered in strategy hiring grants and accommodations?

Timmons responded by stating that she has been involved nationally in several groups that are looking at this issue. She said there is a group called The Prosperity Project that recently released a report that examines gender differences. Timmons also said that she is involved with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce on a group that is looking at this issue as well. Timmons stated that “it is really hard to do tangible things to support people in many ways so this is one where I say I would love to go and fix this, but my biggest job right now is to really listen and learn and try to figure out ways that we can support it.”

Abrahams responded, “our approaches and strategies to equity, diversity, and inclusion are still very much in their infancy, I mean we are taking some of the obvious steps such as unconscious bias training associated with hiring committees but still there is much more that we can do.” He said that they brought forward a motion to the Board of Regents to participate in the 50 – 30 challenge by the federal government that will look at the university’s advisory boards and all governance practices.

Abrahams said that the first tangible steps that they have taken concerning their indigenization strategy are the cluster hires which is a competition for five faculty positions at Memorial University and the process is still underway and that they are following the advice and the guidance of the president’s committee on president’s advisor on indigenous affairs and so that they are working with that group as well as the elders’ council to guide them through the process.

Bose commented on the grants and awards side of things and stated that they need to ensure that they have information about past performance. Bose said with knowledge of how they are doing that they can then put in measures to change practices in the future.

Charlene Walsh asked a question on the same topic, “will a similar hiring process regarding curriculum specialists to support indigenization of courses and programs be considered in the framework developed for EDI supports for faculties and schools regarding program development and review?” Abrahams responded that he did not have an answer to that question.

Toby Rowe commented about work hours, “I enjoyed the ability to work in the evening, we can spend time with our children at lunch or after school, and still put in a full workday even if we are back on campus, I enjoy the flexibility it decreases my stress level.”

Decker stated, “flexibility is very important to the extent it can be accommodated, I think it is something we should strive to do. Obviously, there are certain roles where it cannot work that way depending on the nature of the work community on campus to do it. However, I do believe there are many opportunities to provide more flexibility. I know as an employer the university is more flexible than pretty well anywhere else I have ever worked, to be honest, but I still believe there are additional things we could.”

Meaghan Whelan stated, “one thing that I noticed Dr. Gavan Watson did earlier in the pandemic was he had in his email signature that he was working on unusual work hours and that just because he might be sending an email after hours he was not expecting a response until someone started their own so I think being really overt and acknowledging the flexibility and that just because you are sending something at 8 PM does not mean you expect people to be responding in those hours is a good way to help people set those boundaries.”

Decker stated that “people are working different hours and communicating to different hours and that may be inadvertently created an expectation that people respond at all different hours so something I really like the idea of what Gavan did there.”

Sheri Roberts asked, “can you speak to the viability, if any, of international work/co-op or internship placements for Fall 2021? I assume we are not promoting it in the spring but is there a possibility for fall?” Abrahams responded, “you’re asking me to predict the future. I hope so, but I cannot say for certain.”

“The campus has no academic freedom, no collegial leadership at the school level, and no faculty.”

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan asked, “the Marine Institute has greatly increased its academic programming into graduate degrees and PhDs in the last 10 years, yet the campus has no academic freedom, no collegial leadership at the school level, and no faculty. Can you explain this?”

Timmons responded to the academic freedom part of the question, “the Marine Institute is Memorial University and there is academic freedom and so I want to make that clear for our academic colleagues.”

Abrahams stated, “I cannot really comment on the detailed operation of the Marine Institute, it did opt to go with a somewhat different model than the rest of Memorial University with respect to the academic appointments, so they are not within the faculty association they are within another bargaining unit.”

Timmons stated, “that happened when it merged with Memorial University, so it is a long-standing history.” Abrahams corrected her and stated that it was not that long ago.

Decker stated, “My understanding was when the Marine Institute became part of Memorial in 1992, I think it was, that the faculty union there came with them which is normal that is what would normally happen. Before then the Marine Institute was part of the, I guess, the college system as opposed to the university so the unions which is NAPE came with them.”

Michael Seymour commented on the upper limit for work terms, “I think an upper limit was set so them companies who could afford high pay would not always take the best students. At U of T [University of Toronto], we could only get the second-choice work from students as we could not match the pay of private industry but after the 2008 economic crash, we were able to get the best.”

Jennifer Shea commented on mental health, “to support student mental health I often feel ill-equipped to help beyond referrals to supports. As a university community could we consider additional training such as mental health first aid and expansion of mental health resources beyond those that existed pre-pandemic?” Timmons responded that it was a good suggestion and that she will take it up with the counselling services.

Susan Fudge commented about the best practice to send emails and that she tries her best to put rules on her emails and the rules she sets up only sends it during the day.

Decker stated, “that is a great idea. I think in Microsoft Office you can set it up or Outlook that your email goes the following day, so I think if you are sending emails at night. I would encourage people to absolutely use that function.”

Bose stated, “I did do that in my previous job and the people I was working with did not always appreciate receiving 30 emails all in one go at eight o’clock on a Monday morning so it can backfire sometimes.”

Shannon Lewis-Simpson commented about rural parts of the province, “I see an opportunity for Memorial to be an even more important employer throughout rural Newfoundland and Labrador, therefore, fulfilling in part our special obligation to place stimulating research and reducing infrastructure pressures and costs on the main campus.” Timmons responded that it is an excellent point and that they have been having discussions with several tech companies that have been looking at that.

Lisa Moore asked, “is there a plan to expand the indigenous cluster hires beyond scholars only to include practitioners and clinical faculty for example?”

Timmons responded, “with equity and diversity we have to look at our whole workforce and we have to look at making sure that we have a more representative workforce. So, the answer to that question is absolutely yes we are we will be looking at that as we go forward.”

Victoria Collins asked, “what measures are being considered to prepare the campuses for hybrid learning when some folks attend in person and some virtually?”

Abrahams stated that the options like blended learning will likely become much more popular and that if he remembered correctly that they had only one blended learning course at Memorial University and that he expects that number to grow dramatically.

Lindsay Alcock asked, “there is a sense that staff was mandated back to work to address optics that nobody was working rather than addressing a need to be on campus can you respond to this?”

Abrahams responded that the decision to bring people back onto campus was to bring the campus back to life and for there to be the opportunity for personal interactions.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge: Where Canada Became a Nation or a Long-Held Myth

VIMY MEMORIAL – Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was first seen by many as a horrific event due to the thousands of soldiers killed, but at the same time, there was also a deep sense of pride for the contribution that Canada made. The day after the battle begun, The Vancouver Sun ran the headline, “Famous Ridge the Scene of Many Gory Battles Was Stormed and Carried by Warriors from Canada.” It was not long until it became seen as the driving force contributing to Canada coming into existence as an independent nation with its own identity. Many Canadians view the Battle of Vimy Ridge as being the turning point that led the allies to win The Great War.

Was Vimy Ridge a core element of Canada’s founding, or is all of what we were taught by the state and academics based on a myth? There have been several works written by historians on the Battle of Vimy Ridge with the patriotic glorification of war narratives, but only a few have published views that differ from the norm by looking at the Battle of Vimy Ridge through a critical lens. Most of us in Canada are aware of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, how the battle unfolded, and what led up to the battle of 1917. The Battle of Vimy Ridge has been taught in schools across the country for many years. What the high school courses do not do is provide an examination of how perceptions of the event have changed and for the most part, it is not challenged: students are not taught alternate ways of thinking and do not learn to critically analyze. There has been a considerable amount of historical discussion and debate in recent years around whether Canada became a nation at Vimy Ridge or if this narrative is a long-held myth.

Throughout history, we have mainly only ever known narratives by so-called “experts”: scholars, governments, elites, etc. Even in our society today, most of our media is heavily influenced by those who have wealth and power. Any ideas that are not in line with the capitalist ideology typically do not get published or produced.

According to J.L. Granatstein, there are several myths around Canada and Vimy Ridge including: only Canadians fought in the battle, Vimy Ridge won the war for the allies, and Canada became a nation at Vimy Ridge.

Canadians did prove themselves at Vimy Ridge, but it would not have been possible without the contribution from the British Army. This gets left out of the narrative about Vimy Ridge told in Canada. The key planners were all British officers, and the commander of the Canadian Corps was from the British Army. Three of the four divisions were led by Canadians but many of them were British immigrants to Canada.

The attack on Vimy Ridge was largely a diversion to keep German troops in Northern France so that the scheduled attack on Aisne River would succeed. All the other British offences on the Arras front resulted in high death tolls and minimum gains which made the Battle of Vimy Ridge stand out as being more successful than it actually was. However, it was still small on the large scale as most people outside of Canada are unaware of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and are only aware of the overall battle of Arras which Vimy Ridge was part of.

In 1914, Canada was a colony, and therefore, if Britain went to war, Canada had to as well. By 1917, Canada had an army of over 400,000 soldiers. The size of Canada’s army, along with the Battle of Vimy Ridge, caused Canadians to have tremendous amounts of pride, and that is what is needed to become an autonomous nation.

One important factor that is often left out is how mandatory enlistment drove wedges between different groups, according to Granatstein, “That issue [conscription] tore Canada apart, pitting French against English, labour against capital, farmers against city dwellers.” There were even riots against conscription in Montreal. While Vimy Ridge may have helped build Anglo-Canadian nationality, very few Francophones enlisted, and they did not think Britain’s imperialist war was of concern to them. It may have helped with strengthening a national identity for Quebec, but the war caused more division between Anglophones and Francophones than it did uniting the country.

According to Inglis (a masters student at Simon Fraser University) the perceived significant victory at Vimy Ridge, and the impact felt because of that, was the moment that the Canadian soldiers who were immigrants from Britain began to feel Canadian. As a result of the success at Vimy Ridge, Canada was given greater military independence, a stronger voice in the Imperial War Cabinet, and a seat at the Paris Peace Conference.

Inglis states that after Confederation, nationalism and imperialism were the two main ideas for the future of Canada. They were loyal to the British Empire, but many did not want to give away Canadian independence.

In the 1880s, Canada had economic problems and “felt the need to create a cohesive national heritage.” Canada’s first contribution to ‘Empire Building’ was in 1812 when they boosted the role of the militia. It gave Canadians the sense that the Empire was as much theirs as it was Britain’s. In the 1890s there was a renewed fear of the United States, which resulted in closer ties with Britain. Closer ties did not necessarily mean reduced autonomy, but instead being able to have Britain’s influence and power when needed.

“In fact, some proponents foresaw a Canada with a greater capacity for growth than Britain and thus and eventual leading role in the Empire.”

Canada’s participation in the Boer War, specifically the victory at Paardeberg, made Canada’s military significant in the Empire. Monuments were created and veterans met on February 27th to remember Paardeberg Day. This created national Canadian patriotism and pride. Historians state that the Boer War brought Canada closer to independence, and Canadian nationhood became recognized by the world. After the Boer War, there was a movement to strengthen the militia which resulted in a renewed pride in Canadian nationhood.

After the outbreak of war in 1914, Canadians started to recognize and celebrate how they were different from Britain. They thought that the debt Britain owed to Canada would give Canada a better status with more leverage after the war.

Luke Harris agrees that World War I contributed to developing a national consciousness but that the Battle of Vimy Ridge was not significant in Canada achieving legislative independence under the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Harris states that the “mythologized narrative obscures the true nature of an imperialist war that led to the death of millions while furthering the revival of a militaristic Canadian nationalism that lays the foundation for future wars.” The Battle of Vimy Ridge resulted in the death of 3,598 Canadian soldiers and 7,004 were wounded.

Many historians argue that the rights and freedoms Canadians have today were a result of Canada’s participation in the First World War. The idea that soldiers fought for the values of democracy, freedom, Christianity, and civilization and that the enemy was autocratic and lawless. Harris states this narrative ignores both the political and economic factors that caused the war and that the root of World War I was due to imperialism and capitalism. Countries wanted more profits beyond what was inside their own country. This resulted in them expanding around the world for new markets and control over resources.

Millions of poor working-class men were recruited to fight in the war to achieve imperialist expansion and capitalist goals according to Harris. The ruling class used propaganda to convince the lower classes that the war was motivated by noble goals such as making the world safe for democracy.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

Vimy Ridge Myth #1: Only Canadians fought in the defining battle

MUN Vice-Presidents Council endorses proposal to outsource international student recruitment

Memorial University of Newfoundland Provost and Vice-Presidents.

Meeting minutes of the Vice-Presidents Council at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) on October 13th, 2020 confirms that the administration has endorsed Pathway Partnership Feasibility between Memorial University and Navitas.

In attendance for the meeting was Provost and Vice-President (Academic) pro tempore Mark Abrahams, Vice-President (Marine Institute) Glenn Blackwood, Vice-President (Research) Neil Bose, Office of the President Executive Director Margot Brown, Office of the Vice-President (Research) Manager Eileen Bruce, Vice-President (Administration & Finance) Kent Decker, Vice-Presidents Council Coordinator Renee Elliott, Office of the Vice-President (Marine Institute) Manager Jillian Kavanagh, Vice-President (Grenfell Campus) Jeff Keshen, Director of Academic Support Services Roxanne Millan, Assistant to the Vice-President (Grenfell Campus) Darlene Pike, Office of the Vice-President (Administration & Finance) Director Carol Tibbo, and Recording Secretary Mary Wall. It is problematic that highly paid administrators and their staff are conducting meetings behind closed doors to discuss matters of importance such as this. There are already committees in existence at MUN that have a broader representation of people from across the university.

The Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association (MUNFA) Executive Committee sent a letter to all MUNFA members on March 25th, 2021 with the subject line: Navitas – Private Pre-University and Pathway Program for International Students. The MUNFA Executive state that they were approached by the University Administration on February 12th, 2021 about a possible partnership with Navitas. They state that Navitas is “an Australia-based transnational corporation that provides for-profit preuniversity and pathway programs for international students.” According to MUNFA, the company aims to recruit international students and provide them with English-language training as well as “foundational” or “pathways” programs in several disciplinary areas. MUNFA states, “Navitas recruits students by promising a guaranteed transfer – often at a second-year standing – to the partner university upon successful completion of the program.”

MUNFA states that they strongly support the diversification of the student body and academic supports for International students but that they have serious misgivings about the implications of the invitation to Navitas into MUN. MUNFA contacted their colleagues at other institutions in Canada that have had experience with Navitas including institutions where Navitas partnerships exist and those where Navitas partnerships were rejected.

Out of their discussions with colleagues from other institutions came several concerns including but not limited to the outsourcing of International student recruitment, the support for a for-profit company whose primary responsibility is to its shareholders, Navitas’s partnerships with private recruiters who are alleged to have predatory and deceptive practices to students and their families, the exploitation of international students as a source of revenue, and the possible threat to Academic Freedom as it relates to a third-party engagement in curriculum delivery.

MUNFA presented an alternative to the university administration’s proposal with the suggestion for the administration to explore the development of its own foundation-year program. They suggested that funding can be obtained from the government, the Department of Immigration, Skills and Labour, to do this work.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

MUN student says town hall hosted by president has political motivation at its core

Memorial University President Vianne Timmons during Student Town Hall on March 12th, 2021.

On March 12th, 2021 Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) President Vianne Timmons held a student town hall with other senior administrators. There were many topics like online/remote learning, the pass/fail option, mental health, the motivation behind the town hall, academic misconduct, graduate research, international student issues, course evaluation, tuition, and the return to campus.

In attendance with Dr. Timmons was Provost and Vice-President Academic Mark Abrahams, Associate Vice-President Academic (Students) Donna Hardy-Cox, Director of International Office Sonja Knutson and the Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Vice-President Academic Aimée Surprenant. They also had representatives from the Marine Institute Grenfell campus and people from different areas throughout the university.

“Timmons is among the elite of society with a higher salary than the Prime Minister of Canada as she makes $484,000 a year.”

Matt Barter

Dr. Timmons stated that one of her favourite things to do, especially when she feels low and needs a boost, is to walk around campus and talk to students. This is a very different approach compared to that of the former president, Gary Kachanoski, who for the most part seemed to live in an ivory tower. Timmons is at least trying to have the perception that she connects with students. Timmons said that until the return to campus a town hall is the best that she can do. Timmons stated that they put the event together because they know that this is a tough time, and many students are finding it difficult. However, she quickly turned the attention back on herself and stated that she was finding it difficult. Timmons informed that they can not promise to fix anything but that they can promise to listen and take the concerns of students seriously but then she stated, “we are all in this together and together we will come out of it.” This is not a fair comparison as students are among some of the most vulnerable and Timmons is among the elite of society with a higher salary than the Prime Minister of Canada as she makes $484,000 a year.

The questions asked to the administrators were a mixture of questions submitted by students through email, or in the WebEx chat which is the platform they used to host the event. They conducted a poll to see who was participating in the town hall and 34 of the participants were Canadian or Newfoundland undergraduate students, five were Newfoundland or Canadian graduate students, 11 international undergraduate students, one international graduate student, 10 faculty members, 9 staff members, and 41 participants who choose not to answer. There were 111 participants in total. They then conducted a second poll question to check-in to see how the participants were doing. 16 participants chose to say that they were doing good, 38 people said that they are okay, 23 said that they are struggling, and 37 did not answer.

The first student-submitted question was, “a large portion of first-year students were forced to study their entire freshman year online and all of us have made hardly any connections with our classmates or the university as a community I am sure I speak for every single one of us when I say that we are extremely eager to travel and relocate to St. John’s knowing full well that it is perhaps too early to ask this is it possible to shine some light on the preliminary thinking surrounding the delivery of the Fall 2021 semester any information no matter its nature would go a long way in calming the nerves of us students and our families and help us plan for a better the future.”

Provost Mark Abrahams stated that they are planning on returning to primarily face-to-face instruction for the fall term and that this is based upon the information that they are receiving from public health officials. He pointed to the assumption made by many that a significant vaccine rollout will occur with most of the population vaccinated by the time to return in September. Abrahams stated that students who are planning to come to MUN for the fall semester should expect to be on campus. However, he stated that it is not going to be a regular fall term because there are still going to be consequences associated with the pandemic such as public health regulations that they need to follow. Abrahams said that he has a small working group to prepare for the fall semester but did not indicate if the committee has student representatives. Abrahams recognized that the year is going to be more complicated for international students.

Sonja provided an update with the advocacy work being done by the Internationalization Office like ensuring that students can obtain their study permits through Canadian embassies abroad. She said that they are on constant calls with national associations. She said that for the students who already have their study permits and are registered that they can travel at any point and so international students are welcome to sign up at under the arrivals 2020 -2021 section.

Regarding the question on the struggle to make connections with classmates, Associate Vice-President Academic (Students), Donna Hardy-Cox stated that the teams in her portfolio have been working hard to find ways to make connections and that there are several ways that students can currently engage like the study buddies option on the Navigate app which allows students to connect with other individuals in their classes and to sign up to meet people who are studying the same course and same topics. However, she failed to mention that Navigate is a for-profit company that is accused of having a business model that sells data to third parties. Hardy-Cox stated that she was impressed by all the work that the student clubs and societies have done and that it is amazing how creative the clubs can be in terms of creating activities to engage in.

The next question was concerning academic matters, a student stated “I’m curious if the university would be considering a pass/fail option this term, I know myself and many other students have been struggling like we never have before. Mental health has taken a hit across the board and we are fighting to stay afloat, every day is nothing short of a struggle with no human interaction and your only company being a laptop for anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.”

Abrahams stated that the capacity to award students a pass/fail option is done at the instructor’s discretion and so they can award a letter grade, or they can award a pass/fail grade. He said that if the instructor chooses to do so then is important that they advise their department head or the dean that this is what they are doing. Abrahams also stated that it is also important that in courses that have multiple sections that if there is one section that is opting to go with a pass/fail option that the same opportunity must be made available to students in all sections of that course.

With regards to mental health, Hardy-Cox stated that many resources are available to students who are seeking assistance at this time and all their physicians and counseling staff are providing services remotely and that there is a roster of online resources including on campus and in the community.

The next poll question was on social isolation and how students are managing with it in addition to their studies. Six students responded that they are dealing with eldercare, two students with school-age children, one person with preschool children, 17 people living alone living, and 26 experiencing social isolation. Timmons stated that it is challenging and that they do not have any solutions on how to manage these things like children at home.

The next student question was regarding the motivation of holding the town hall, “let us be real this is the first town hall, and it is likely not going to be the last, very little has been done to make actual change and these such events have proven to have a political motivation at its core. Online learning was a temporary adoption that was never taken seriously. How about we get to business and we talk about the real issues instead of stuff like study buddies?” Timmons responded that she agrees that at first, they thought it was going to be a short-term issue and that it turned out to be a whole year for everyone. She said that the professors have done great work pivoting to online learning and that for many of them it was a new course development and some professors had two or three courses they had to transfer to online and learn the new technology to teach. Timmons stated that she thinks her administration has done a lot for students because they put all their student resources online and added student resources and fundraised for a student emergency fund. Timmons stated that she does not think that it is political that they want to talk and listen to their students. She said that it is more than that and that none of them take jobs up at universities if we do not care about students. Timmons stated, “we have done a number of things over the years to support students and we are continuing to learn how to maneuver and manage this and we hope that you know we will be better at our teaching after the pandemic’s over because so many of our professors have learned entirely new pedagogies so I will say I am sorry you feel that way but I will challenge what you’ve said I do not believe that is any of our motivation.”

Very little has been done to make actual change and these such events have proven to have a political motivation at its core.


Regarding the pass/fail option, a student asked, “why is it left to the individual discretion of instructors I know that I for one have multiple professors that struggle with online teaching which has significantly impacted my ability to learn course material this term and I doubt that they will implement pass/fail if left to make the choice on their own.”

Abrahams responded that they implemented the pass/fail option for the winter term last year because they were forced to quickly move everything online that required all their faculty and courses to change to an online mode of delivery. He stated that the levels of stress caused by this were incredible. Abrahams points out that what they did last year that they did it in literally just a few days to transition everything online. He said that consequently there were challenges for the university and that is why they moved to a pass/fail option for that term. Since then, they are providing the pass/fail option at the discretion of the instructors. He stated the pass/fail option can be “a very blunt tool and there are consequences associated with that so many students do actually need to get a grade associated with their courses they need that opportunity for admission to various programs. Abrahams said that because they do not know exactly what is going on within every classroom, they feel the decisions are best made within the classroom.

Abrahams then spoke to the academic implications for students who are seeking a pass/fail option and how it may affect their transcripts when applying to a master’s program or a medical school. Abrahams stated that he does not have the university calendar in front of him but that the challenge is students need to have a grade and a certain number of courses and when they receive a pass/fail they simply get a credit, or they do not get a credit and that it does not contribute to a GPA and that there might also be implications for applications to professional schools and to retain scholarship standing.”

Dr. Ken Fowler of the Wellness and Counselling Centre stated that he has been at the wellness center since August 1st and that it was a great way to start a career with the wellness center, but they have been incredibly busy and since the closure of campus last winter they have been deemed an essential service. They switched to virtual support for students and since the fall they have seen 1250 students ask for help from mental health counseling. He said that among their physician group, they have experienced approximately 4,000 visits. To ensure that students had quick and efficient access, they developed a portal and advised that if anyone needs any help to go to their website which can be found by doing a Google search for SWCC MUN. On the website, there is a request counseling services form.

A student then asked why there is a limit on the number of sessions students can avail of with a counselor. Fowler stated that the reason for this is because they “want to provide support to as many students as possible and so what we try to do is we try to arrange a transition of students if they are with us for a while, we try to not just end the care immediately we try to work with students to empower them and also engage them into to seeking out further supports.”

The next question asked by a student was “what has been done to aid instructors in presenting remote classes? Some of my professors have been competently teaching remotely since we switched to this while others still a year into working like this cannot figure out how to do basic things remotely meanwhile another professor, I have had for three courses in the last year presents material as easily and as naturally online as they did in person. Is anything being done to help the professors that clearly struggle with online teaching?”

Colleen Collett from the Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITI) responded that even though they have done a lot of work, the transition for everyone to remote teaching and learning was still a challenge for both students and instructors. She stated, “CITL has developed a number of programs and supports for both instructors and students that have been widely used we have also surveyed all of our students and instructors to see where work was needed and where we needed to do some things and we used that info to really help guide some of the changes and additions that we have made to our programming.”

The next question was about academic misconduct, a student stated “there has been a lot of talk surrounding academic misconduct in the last few months and I feel the responsibility of that has fallen strictly on students I can only speak from my experiences in the engineering faculty but there are numerous occasions that I can speak to where professors are using the same lecture notes assignments and midterms from year to year and often have the responsibility for conducting tutorials and correcting all but the exams. We have been warned by several of our professors as well as the head of our discipline of the serious consequences of academic misconduct but why is this not reflected by the actions of our professors? In conjunction with this, some professors are using unrealistic measures to prevent academic misconduct such as the way the Brightspace quiz tool that is being used to make only a single question available at a time as well as some observed proctoring methods. For most of the students that I have had a chance to speak with the strong contrast and approaches and apparent view of academic misconduct is very frustrating, the person did go on to say that the head of the discipline is doing a great job at reaching out to students and taking concerns seriously.” A petition to end the use of ProctorU at Memorial University has received 3,221 signatures.

“There has been a lot of talk surrounding academic misconduct in the last few months.”


Abrahams responded that “faculty are obligated to maintain a professional duty to develop and maintain their scholarly competence and effectiveness as teachers that is in their contract so if what you are describing is true and this is taking place over multiple years then this is something you really need to take up with up with the administrative head of the academic unit.” He then stated stress as a factor and that it is not just students that are stressed, faculty and staff are stressed as well, and some may be unwell under the current circumstances. Abrahams advised that if students are noticing deficiencies by their professors, then they should reach out to them and find out how they are doing. He said that just as students are struggling some of their faculty are struggling and what students might be seeing may have many underlying causes.

A student commented that they “do agree that professors have done well in adapting to the new environment of learning, the main issue I have seen in the two semesters so far is a lack of centralization or unity between classes when looking up course offerings the terms of remote/distance learning are no longer informative and having the classification of asynchronous or synchronous lectures will be more beneficial and allow more unified plan for courses of the same category.”

Abrahams then talked about why there are some asynchronous courses. He said when they first started down the path that they did last winter one of their concerns was with student bandwidth access and so they encouraged many of their faculty to go with asynchronous teaching when possible because that would increase the availability of the material especially to those who do not have good internet connections. He acknowledged that the challenge it created regarding the lack of opportunity for interaction with the person teaching the course with asynchronous lectures. Abrahams pointed out that faculty have struggled with this and as a result, many of their courses are a bit of both: “some asynchronous offerings are in combination with the opportunity for interaction with students through synchronous offerings.”

Next was a question regarding the future of online learning, “although remote learning has improved drastically since March 2020 many students still face a larger workload, increased stress, and increased strain on their mental and physical health. Does Memorial feel that remote learning is a long-term solution and is this affecting how quickly we return to campus?”

Abrahams responded that it is not the long-term solution and they have watched and seen how students miss the contact and the same for professors and staff so they will be coming back to campus. Abrahams said that he anticipates an increase in online course options and he thinks that we will see hybrid courses with more customized learning packages. Some of the courses will be online and some will be face-to-face. However, he said that he does not see the university going fully online but that he does see an increase in online and hybrid courses.

The next few questions were related to research activities on campus, Associate vice-president (Research) Ray Gosine said that they are largely limited by density limits which have been set by the risk office at the university but if students need to be on campus to undertake their research and the research can be done respecting the density limits of the various rooms involved through the request process than that should be able to be facilitated. He said that they have placed a priority on research involving undergraduate honors thesis students who are in the critical stage of their programs, thesis-based graduate students who are in the latter part of their programs, and post-doctoral fellows who are near completion.

The next question was “if students are unable to enter the school in a safe and responsible way to conduct their research and learn the technical skills that they came to learn how can we the students be expected to graduate feeling confident we can succeed in the workplace?

Associate Vice-President (Academic) and Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Aimée Surprenant said that was a difficult question because some skills need to be learned in person. She said that her advice is for students to work with their professors to find alternative ways of gaining skills. She said that one of the advantages of the current situation is that students can attend seminars and conferences around the world that they were never able to attend before.

A student stated, “in the employee town hall on March 9th, there were discussions about reducing the requirements for an acceptable thesis on the surface it seems like a good idea but before reducing the quality of work needed to accomplish our degrees why are some other avenues not being explored such as allowing students to return to their studies in a safe and responsible manner.”

Abrahams said that he misspoke at the employee town hall and that he did not mean to state that they will reduce standards in any way. He said what they are doing is thinking creatively in ways in which a student can demonstrate scholarship and skills in a way that is not usual in the discipline the student is in.

“What is the plan for the current bridge watch students?” a student asks. Angie Clarke stated that the Marine Institute has two technical certificates and that those groups were mostly on campus starting this semester. However, the two programs, the bridge watch technical certificate, and the marine diesel mechanic technical certificate were suspended when the province moved to alert level five. At the time of the town hall, Clarke said that due to the alert level changing to level four the school of Maritime Studies was aggressively planning to have students back on campus.

A student then stated that a motion for pass/fail semester was incomplete without extending the academic prejudice drop date as this is how it was done last winter.” Abrahams responded that the circumstances between the winter term last year and winter were different and that there was no justification this winter for changing the add/drop date or the drop without academic prejudice date.

The next question was on the expense of mandatory hotel quarantines. Knutson said that they have done significant advocacy to the federal government to try to explain that the provinces were looking after international students in a robust managed way. Despite this effort, the federal government decided to treat everyone the same and decided that they were also going to impose this at the port of entry for any arrival. She explained that students traveling to St. John’s will arrive at the port of entry in Canada which is generally Toronto or Montreal to be tested and then they must wait for test results. She stated that students were reporting that the costs are far lower than they had anticipated and that it is dependent on which hotel that they decide to book. In the federal booking system, students can choose the cost and some of the prices are as low as around $150 a night and that it is often not the full three days that students must stay in Ontario or Quebec.

“What systems are in place to regulate the faculties and by extension the professors? Everything seems to be in the hands of individual professors with very little oversight or consistency across board this has been a substantial source of problem. Additionally, is there a central location for regulation or guidelines that can be referenced in light of the remote learning platform that can be accessed to see what the university is doing for this?” asked a student.

“What systems are in place to regulate the faculties and by extension the professors?”


Timmons stated that faculty are required to submit an annual report associated with their activities in the past year dependence upon the academic program in which they teach and that there are academic unit program reviews that will review the overall programs. Timmons said that the administrative head of the academic unit is responsible for oversight of teaching within their unit and that is where the responsibility lies. She said that professors have autonomy, and they have academic freedom in their classrooms and therefore the university cannot provide oversight on their content in their classrooms as they are Ph.D. trained experts in their fields. Timmons said that as young adults it is going to be tough but that students must advocate for themselves regarding the past/fail option as they cannot do it across the board because some students do not want the pass/fail option and they need to be fair to everyone.

The next question is related to CEQ (Course Evaluation Questionnaires), a student stated “it has been bothering me that we cannot do CEQ this year. If we do not get to complete the CEQ how would the departments and you guys know how the profs are doing with their courses, I am currently taking a course and I do not even know what the professor looks like it is not an online course it is a remote one. However, I have never received any lectures from them all we do is read lecture slides if a course is not great why can’t we have a CEQ?”

Abrahams responded that right now they are in the process of revamping the CEQ and that there is a Senate committee working on revisions but at this point, they do not have a CEQ mechanism for students to provide their feedback. He stated that this is not meant to be a permanent arrangement and that they are simply trying to develop a better system than the previous one. He stated that most faculty should be doing some form of formative assessment.

“If fall 2021 will be primarily face-to-face learning will there be more options to learn online or remotely? And will the distance education and recreation fees still be waived for the semester?” asked a student.

Abrahams said there is a committee tasked with looking at the details of how they are planning on implementing the fall term but that their current expectation is for most courses to be face-to-face. However, Abrahams states that many faculty members have benefited from the experience of placing material online so there may be more blended learning courses meaning that some of the material will be live in a lecture theater or classroom and some of the material will be available by distance. He said it is not likely that the university will be offering a large proportion of courses remotely due to the return to distance education courses. He said as the university has done in the past, they will be adding to those, but it is not likely that it will be enough to do an entire program. This is a major disappointment as several students who have been away from school returned during the pandemic to complete the remaining courses that were required to complete their degrees.

“Are you able to touch on what residence life will look like for undergraduate students will the buildings be at 100 percent capacity?” a student asked.

Hardy-Cox responded that Burton’s Pond Apartments have been full ever since the pandemic began and they are at full capacity there. She said that it will depend upon public health standards whether all the buildings will be opened for the fall semester but that they anticipate that MacPherson will be fully open for the fall semester and it is dependent on public health circumstances if Paton College is as well.

“We have no plans at this moment to decrease tuition that I will say firmly to everyone.”

MUN President Vianne Timmons

“I would like to ask about why tuition has remained the same with all of the changes in students not on campus?” a student asked. Timmons responded that MUN has the lowest tuition in the country and that they have kept tuition the same and have not increased it during the challenging times of the pandemic. She stated that it costs $23,000 to educate a student and that MUN’s tuition is much lower than that. Timmons said, “we have no plans at this moment to decrease tuition that I will say firmly to everyone.” The talking point by the administration that MUN’s tuition is the cheapest and cannot be decreased due to the need to align with the model of the rest of the country is getting old. Why is it that MUN cannot be the first university in the country to abolish tuition fees?

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

MUN administration creates new secretive committee to discuss tuition and fees

Memorial University Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Mark Abrahams during Student Town Hall on March 12th, 2021.

A recently obtained access-to-information (ATIPP) request has revealed that the administration at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) has struck a new committee called the Tuition and Fees Committee. It is a sub-committee of the Vice-Presidents Council.

In an email sent out by the Director for Institutional Analysis and Planning, Keith Matthews, to administrators, he states that the proposed Terms of Reference for the committee “calls for pan-institutional representation of functional experts with respect to matters of student fees.“

He then states that the committee should be “composed of individuals who can provide functional expertise on matters of mission, finance, policy, and systems.”

The Committee includes senior representation from Deans Council, Office of the Provost, Representative Grenfell Campus, Representative from Marine Institute, School of Graduate Studies, Office of the Registrar, Financial and Administrative Services, Centre for Institutional Analysis and Planning, Budget Office, and Student Life.

According to Matthews the key responsibilities of the committee includes: advising the Vice-Presidents Council on system administration, tuition policy and fees framework, revenue attribution models, specific proposals for tuition and fees from units, trends in tuition and student fees, ensuring the appropriate engagement of stakeholders, including students, takes place, supporting and advising units on tuition and fee proposals and maintaining an inventory of fees.

Upon inquiry Provost and Vice President (Academic) pro tempore, Mark Abrahams, confirmed that the committee does not have student representatives and he stated, “the reason is that the development of the proposals that come to the committee is the point at which student consultation takes place.”

It is problematic that the university’s administration continues to find ways to meet in secret to discuss these important matters when there are already committees in place that have more broad representation across the university such as the Integrated Planning Committee and the Budget Committee instead of just a small group of highly paid administrators. It is not acceptable that this new committee does not have student representation.

This is not the first time that the administration at MUN has struck a committee of this sort. In 2016, the administration had a similar committee called the Tuition Framework Committee of VPC.

Through an access-to-information request, the student union at the time was able to obtain committee documents and revealed this information publicly including the proposals of tuition increases. The student union stated that this sort of information ought to be public given the nature of the university as a public institution.

The students deserve a seat at the table.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.

MUN increases Provost salary by 16.5%

Memorial University President Vianne Timmons during Student Town Hall on March 12th, 2021.

While students at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) are struggling during the middle of a global pandemic, it is business as usual for the administration. According to a newly obtained access-to-information request, the position of Provost and Vice-President (Academic) at MUN has increased from a lavish salary of $274,500 when Dr. Noreen Golfman held the position to an even more lavish salary of $320,000 with the new appointment of Dr. Florentine Strzelczyk. The issue of administrative bloat and entitlement has gotten even worse.

The costs for the search for the new Provost come to a total of $60,990.89 with most of it spent on “professional fees” for a headhunting firm.

Dr. Strzelczyk’s contract can be renewed for an additional five years and she will receive a research grant of $20,000.

She will also be given approximately $8,500 to participate in the Queen’s University Executive Leadership Program.

Dr. Strzelczyk and her spouse will be reimbursed for relocation expenses including all moving, real estate commission, or legal fees associated with the sale of their home in Alberta and the fees and disbursements accompanying the acquisition of a family home in this province.

Dr. Florentine Strzelczyk. University of Calgary.

This is the continuation of a trend among senior administrators at MUN. The salary for the position of president increased by around $20,000 from around $460,000 when Gary Kachanoski held the position to $484,000 when Vianne Timmons was appointed. It is also important to note that according to another access-to-information request that Dr. Timmons’s moving expenses amount to $36,825.

Students have asked the administration to decrease the cost of tuition while the university is primarily offering remote and online classes but the administration has rejected any such notion. This is despite 3,184 students signing a petition asking for a partial tuition refund last year.

Another petition calling on the administration to eliminate newly implemented service fees received 3,255 signatures but was again rejected by the university’s administration.

In May of 2020, MUN President, Vianne Timmons, stated that there is room to move regarding tuition and that there need to be more streams of revenue. Timmons said that she is open to the possibility of tuition increases. This is disingenuous at a time of uncertainty during a pandemic. Instead of leading a team of senior administrators that lead by example by decreasing their salaries during times such as these, the focus is instead on how to keep their pockets lined with cash.

The students, university community, and the people of the province deserve better.

Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.