Below is a transcript of an exchange between MUN student Matt Barter (Me) and President Vianne Timmons that took place on September 15th, 2021, at a conference on the economic and fiscal trajectory of Newfoundland and Labrador:
Matt Barter: Hello, my name is Matt, and I’d like to start off by saying that I’m a student at MUN in Political Science and Sociology, and I absolutely love Memorial. For me, MUN has always been a school for everyone no matter who you are, and Dr. Timmons talked about Team Memorial; well, you know I can’t be on that team due to the university making the decision to double tuition fees on some of the most vulnerable members in our society and regardless of the increased student aid there are still going to be students who are not going to enter the doors at Memorial. The founding purpose of Memorial was to educate the people of the province. And Dr. Timmons, you talked about your experience and where you come from, your family, and being from a mining family and all that, that experience cannot be denied, that experience is real absolutely, but I think where it’s lost is for the last number of decades you have been apart of the higher classes so to be able to know the struggles of the common people I find it difficult of someone from an upper class to understand the experiences that they are not currently experiencing. And finally, so many students at MUN are upset at the tuition doubling, some students have even gone as far as to ask for your resignation, and there were posters put up on campus, but the university had the staff go around and take down every single one of them, so I was wondering is freedom of speech still a value of Memorial?
Vianne Timmons: Thank you, Matt, for those questions. First of all, I’ll talk about the posters that were around, and we did take them down because we are a campus that honours respectful workplace. If there were posters with our professors on it with the word resign, I would take them down; if there was one with our students on it so that they walk around campus and are uncomfortable and feel not valued and supported, I would take them down. So, they were taken down because they do not honour our respectful workplace policy. I’ve taken a stand that that is; hopefully, we want to make sure that everyone who works at Memorial University or studies there or comes to visit our campus. In terms of the tuition increase, we did have to increase tuition due to the budget challenges that Memorial is facing, but we have kept it the most affordable university in Atlantic Canada, and we also got a major program to look at supports, scholarships, and bursaries for our students and I would say that $6,000 for a term now at a university is the best financial investment anyone can make. And it’s not a big financial investment for many families, and the ones who it is a big investment, we are going to wrap around supports and do our best. Maybe there’s a student who cannot access university cause of finances, but we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we build safety net around all of our students.
Matt Barter is a fourth-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.