Government’s review process of MUN Act is behind closed doors, says faculty association

MUNFA President Josh Lepawsky.

The Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty Association (MUNFA) Executive Committee has come forward with significant concerns regarding the process for the revisions to the Memorial University Act, which is the piece of legislation that governs Memorial University. According to MUNFA, the provincial government is rushing ahead with the legislative review.

Upon meeting with MUN President Vianne Timmons on September 2nd, 2021, the MUNFA Executive discovered that the provincial government has plans to finalize revisions to the MUN Act in the Fall sitting of the House of Assembly. They noted that there seem to be no intentions to hold consultations with parties other than Memorial University’s Board of Regents. After this meeting, MUNFA penned a letter to the Minister of Education Tom Osborne to make their concerns clear regarding the lack short timeline, the lack of consultation, and the lack of transparency around the process.

In their September 15th, 2021, letter, MUNFA brought up MUN’s special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and that it is the only public university in the province. MUNFA states, “We urge the Government to open this process for further consultation to ensure all stakeholders are heard.”

MUNFA then states that revisions to a piece of legislation as important as the MUN Act “should not be unduly rushed, nor should discussions on it happen behind closed doors. As members of the University community, we hold openness, collegiality, and shared decision-making as core values of the academy. Considering the Memorial University Act has a direct impact on Memorial’s highest governance bodies, the Board of Regents and Senate, these key principles should be reflected in any legislative revision process.”

MUNFA asked the Minister to give their request for broader and meaningful consultation due consideration. MUNFA argues that getting it right is more important than doing it quickly. MUNFA states, “The stakes of getting this process right, and being seen and trusted to get it right, cannot be overstated.”

President Vianne Timmons sent a letter to the Minister of Education on September 16th, 2021. She states that officials from MUN and the Department of Education have been working together to provide input on behalf of Memorial’s Board of Regents. She says, “The responsibility is clearly with the authority of the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents, and … the most appropriate channel for any group internal to Memorial to share concerns or feedback is through the Office of the Board.”

MUNFA’s reaction to Timmons’s letter was to pen another letter to the Minister of Education, which they sent on September 21st, 2021. MUNFA challenged Timmons’s assertion that the Board of Regents is the proper channel for input on revisions to the MUN ACT. They also corrected the notion that MUNFA is an internal MUN group and that they are independent and are the bargaining agent for full-time academic staff members. MUNFA does not report to Timmons or the Board of Regents. MUNFA made it clear that they should be recognized as a distinct voice to the Board of regents along with the other labour unions and student unions at MUN.

MUNFA then points out that Timmons inaccurately reflected their interpretation of their meeting with her about the MUN Act review. Timmons states that the high-level policy direction shared with MUNFA was “well-received in [our] meeting.”

In an interview with NTV News on September 27th, 2021, MUNFA President Josh Lepawsky states, “we’re quite disappointed to see that the discussions on the MUN Act being opened up and proposed revisions to it largely being, you know, rushed through without our consultation until only very recently and largely taking place behind closed doors.”

Lepawsky then says that government should hold public hearings for the considered changes to the MUN Act. He states, “it’s a public institution with many, many stakeholders and it has impacts on you know peoples everyday real lives throughout the province and over very long periods of time so it seems that it would be prudent to open up the legislative process in a way that is as public as the university itself.”

MUNFA plans to send the government their own submission on October 15th, 2021. Minister Osborne states that he looks forward to reading MUNFA’s submission. The university sent a statement to the media saying that the Board of Regents executive committee is the most appropriate channel to discuss revisions to the MUN Act.

See below MUNFA’s letters to the Minister of Education and memo sent to membership:

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.

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