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.