On September 2nd, 2021, Memorial University of Newfoundland President Vianne Timmons published an article titled Respect and civility in The Gazette. Timmons says that everyone at MUN needs to work together as “Team Memorial.”
Timmons stated regarding the decision to raise tuition, “I, and other members of my leadership team, received vile, hateful and unacceptable comments.”
A review of emails received by Timmons obtained through an ATIPP request reveals that none of the emails in her inbox are of a vile or hateful nature but fair criticism. It seems that Timmons is weaponizing respect and civility to stifle free speech and debate, which is not acceptable.
See below for some of the emails sent to Timmons:
Your response (or your assistant’s response) to my email was extremely disappointing but not surprising. It clearly reflects your process or rather lack thereof: no discussion of either my concerns, possible solutions or the impact of your decision. Put on the blinders and keep going with the least creative or empathic position possible. The young people and families of this province never stood a chance given this approach.
Your belief that MUN is a prestigious university provides further illumination to your decisions. Being 23rd in the country may be difficult to swallow as President, but as the kids say, “it is what it is.” They will leave, and so they should. As I said, this is not a safe place. We are driving out our future leaders. An unfathomably short-sighted solution to fix the problems our generation has made.
“Hi President Timmons,
What happened with “If tuition goes up, “[you] said, students currently enrolled will pay the same as what they are currently paying.”
You are backing out of a contract that you made yourself. Even then, you have the audacity to claim almost half a million dollars in salary and still expect international students to pay $6000 per semester that they cannot afford. I’m disappointed.
If possible, could the tuition increases be reflected in the amount Memorial pays for employees who partake in the financial assistance for credit courses?
The increase of fees has made the tuition portion very relevant in the personal costs to employees taking part in this program. I love that Memorial offers this and only wish to make the program the best it can be as to incentivize more of us to partake.
I also suggested a few years ago that employees should be able to pay biweekly, onto their paycheque, monies that are placed directly to cover extra costs/fees associated with taking courses. This was denied but a short time later, offered to graduate students only. Is this something else that may be considered?
Thank you for your time. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
“Is there no other solution? What about an incremental increase for all with a larger increase coming in three years when all current high school students will be enrolled, and people have time to prepare?
I truly implore you to reconsider. I do apologize for the visceral tone of this email, but I cannot overemphasize enough the impact of this decision on those who will not meet the criteria for funding and are not well off but worked agonizing hard to provide based on the belief that things like this don’t happen, not at this level, and not in Newfoundland and Labrador.
P.S. Please do not respond with discussions about funding etc. We do not qualify. We are the group that was not considered. I would respectfully request to reply rather than platitudes that do not apply or help us.”
“Hello Board of Regents and Government Officials,
Before I get into the details, I have a question for all of you: did you vote for or against the tuition raise? If so, why?
I am an alumni of MUN.
However, my university education has provided me skills that are more valuable than an avenue to employment (good thing!). I learned to speak confidently in public, meet people from around the world, explore my queerness in a safe space and develop my world views that I would not have living in rural N.L.
Aside from the immorality of the decision to increase tuition significantly, it is also downright illogical. We will now have tuition which is closer to other universities but in a province where job opportunities are slim, and the cost of living is high. Their facilities are more modern, and they have a broader choice in studies. The beauty of this place is not enough to keep people here. We can see that from the stories on the regular of people who want to immigrate after going to MUNL but are left no choice but to leave.
Our government is putting more money into the dying industry of O&G. It is borderline exploitive to tell workers that jobs will continue to be there and that a transition to a green economy will be supported when the time comes. Your failed attempt to save a percentage of O&G jobs leads our province to sacrifice our public services. It’s clearly starting with MUNL. I fear what is to come of education and health care. There’s an opportunity for making MUNL a focus on green research and retraining to immediately start transitioning the O&G workforce. That will not happen without investment from you. Your priorities are becoming more clear. Governments should not have a goal to be in a surplus. Seeing that as a benchmark for a successful government while in office is dangerous and inhumane. I’ve never been so angry and disappointed.
To all of you:
You are elected. The voter turnout in the Board of Regents election and, more significantly, the provincial election shows how little faith NLers have in the democracy in this province.
I look forward to hearing from you.
“While I understand the massive tuition increase and its subsequent above-inflation indexation wasn’t the Board’s first choice, I just wished you looked for wats to increase the barely inflation-indexed productivity-underachieving exit starting salaries of many youth like me, many of whom don’t even manage to find work in their field of study debt.
It would have made the proposition you try to sell (by telling us it’s still a bargain compared to today’s tuition standards) a little more obvious. A good marketing trick.
Newfoundland and Labrador is already geared up for a population decline. You guys are not good. Alienation towards universities are at an all-time high. Show us stronger, more innovative leadership before we do.
Have a good day.”
Education should not only be a privilege for the wealthy. Our youth should not have to pay off their student debt for years afterwards. At least our lower tuition costs provided some compensation for the challenges of living in Newfoundland and Labrador and the lack of present and future opportunities within our province compared to other locations. Most importantly, our youth could be educated at home. There’s no arguing that once our youth leave our province to be educated elsewhere, very few return.
Maybe an increase of a couple hundred dollars a semester and a small increase over the next 5 to 10 years would have been acceptable. Shouldering the previous tuition freeze on our future students is irresponsible and infuriating.”
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.