MUN spends over $59K on search for Associate Vice-President

A recently obtained ATIPP reveals that Memorial University of Newfound spent $59,033.84 on the search for an Associate Vice-President (Indigenous research). There were two initial installment fees of $15,525 paid to an external consulting company. There was also a third installment fee for the shortlist of $17,846.42. Additionally, a fourth installment fee of $5,085 to complete the process. There were two payments made for job advertisements: $2,461 and $2,591.42. Violet Ford was the successful candidate and was appointed to the position.

Violet Ford.

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.

MUN hires new Associate Vice-President with over $150K salary

Violet Ford.

A recently obtained ATIPP request reveals the salary of Memorial University of Newfoundland’s newly appointed Associate Vice-President (Indigenous Research) Violet Ford at $150,684. Ford was also hired as an Associate Professor with tenure.

The appointment is for a period of five years and began on September 7th, 2021. The appointment can be renewed for up to five years.

Ford is expected to successfully complete her Ph.D. within 24 months of the start date.

The university agreed to cover 100 percent of moving costs for Ford’s household goods and furnishings. MUN’s preferred vendor is Household Movers and Shippers, and this company was recommended to Ford.

Travel costs and familiarization/house hunting trips were also covered. It included two roundtrips for Ford and her spouse, 3-4 nights accommodation per trip.

In addition to her salary, the university also agreed to provide Ford with a $40,000 research grant per year. 

See employment contract below:

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.

MUN’s infrastructure woes (a tour)

MUN’s crumbling infrastructure.

Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) St. John’s campus has had infrastructure woes for a long time, and the issue was in the media in the past. However, many members of the public are still unaware of the extent of how bad it is. The university campus is filled with cracks, leaks, dust, and temporary fixes.

Some of the buildings are decades old. Funding allocation at MUN seems to depend on the importance of the department or unit. Thousands of dollars were spent by the president’s office on luxury items, while other areas of the university are in an appalling state. Along with the eyesore of the crumbling infrastructure are also safety concerns.

Across much of the university, it is not uncommon to see garbage cans or recycling bins used to catch water dripping from the ceiling. Hoses and tarps are also used. There is patchwork on many walls throughout the university that has been there for the long term. Furthermore, many of the water fountains on campus are covered over with plastic bags.

Below are pictures that I took around campus:

Washroom in Engineering building.
Water fountain.
Hole in the wall of a washroom in QEII Library.
Ceiling tiles in QEII Library.
A water fountain.
A water fountain tapped off.
An abandoned custodian cart.
A water fountain left uncovered by plastic and tape.
Another water fountain covered with plastic and tape.
A wall with long term patches.
Another water fountain covered up.
A locker.
Yet another water fountain covered.

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.

Why MUN should implement an open admission policy

MUN.

Several post-secondary schools in the United States have an ‘Open Admission Policy,’ which means that these institutions admit all students as long as they have completed high school or a high school equivalency. The process is unselective and non-competitive. This practice aims to remove barriers to higher education, especially for students from underprivileged backgrounds and students with disabilities.

More than 25 universities have this policy; some known examples in the U.S. include Humphreys College, Briar Cliff University, Wright State University, and Washburn University.

Two post-secondary institutions in Canada have a full or partial open admissions policy: Athabasca and Thompson Rivers.

Athabasca University has the following statement on their website’s entrance requirements page: “We believe in education and learning opportunities for everyone. That’s why Athabasca University programs’ are made to work for our students regardless of level of experience, previous grades or degrees… our admission policy accepts undergraduate students to a program as long as they pass the minimum age restriction of 16 years of age.”

MUN must develop an open admission policy. For many years, MUN has been one of the most accessible universities in Canada in terms of tuition costs. It is the kind of university MUN is — a school for everyone.

Our province has a unique history and a special obligation to our people to be educated. It was named Memorial as a tribute to those who fought and died in World War I to ensure students remember the sacrifice these individuals made. These soldiers wanted to be sure that those who came after them had a chance for a better life. We are lucky to study at a post-secondary institution, and each of us should try to do our best in memory of them. Therefore, we need to continue making education accessible to the masses.

The entrance average at MUN was historically 60 percent, but it was later increased to 70 percent. Some administrators and faculty are said to believe that it should be higher and should be more in line with other universities across the country. This notion perpetuates the idea that low admissions criteria lead to MUN graduating so-called “weak students.” This argument is nonsense.

It is time to stop enforcing rigorous academic standards and give all who desire to learn the opportunity to do so.

There is also the argument that if a student attends university for only a year and drops out due to poor grades to attend a college, they wasted money attending university. This argument is also nonsensical — students learn a lot in the university environment and gain valuable experience.

The idea that MUN cannot have such a policy because most other universities in Canada also do not is absurd. Why can’t MUN lead the way instead of always having to compare and uphold the status quo? If MUN is indeed a school for everyone, it needs to have its policies reflect that.

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.

MUN’s Engineering building washroom in ridiculous condition, says student

Washroom in MUN’s Engineering building.

A student, who wishes to remain anonymous, submitted pictures of a washroom at Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s Campus in poor condition. The student states, “The 3rd-floor engineering men’s bathroom is in ridiculous shape, with open holes in the walls and exposed pipes.” The student then says, “There’s pretty much nothing blocking it off either.”

See the pictures below:

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.

Why post-secondary education should be free

Students marching to Confederation Building on November 2nd 2016 in support of free post-secondary education.

Access to post-secondary institutions results in a more educated and healthy population. It can lead to lower costs for the healthcare and prison systems. The provincial government is stuck in the mindset of what is best to do short-term, for economic reasons, rather than what’s best for the long-term well-being of the population.

Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) has been the most accessible university in Canada for many years, with a history of making access a priority due to its affordable tuition rates. But in recent years, the provincial government cut over $30 million in funding for MUN’s operating budget. As the administration does not want to give up their big salaries and the perks they feel entitled to, their immediate solution has been to increase revenue via student fee hikes.

Tuition for Newfoundland and Labrador students was frozen for a long time. However, in 2017, the administration implemented new fees, including the Student Services Fee ($50) and the Campus Renewal Fee ($50 per three-credit course up to a maximum of $250). The mandate of MUN to educate the people of the province was lost. We have moved backwards.

In 2019, the administration proposed a model of tuition that they referred to as a “progressive” model, where tuition will be raised for everyone, but there will be grants for students who cannot afford it. Essentially, it seemed to be the idea of taking money away from the more well-off students and giving it to less-advantaged students. It is not the university’s role to redistribute wealth in society. The main issue with their proposed model is deciding who qualifies for grants and who does not. There are already several cases where students do not qualify for student aid because their parents’ income threshold is too high. Therefore, they have to find other methods to obtain the money needed, such as working long hours. Some even opt not to attend university. Many students at MUN use the food bank because they are in so much debt due to tuition that they cannot afford to put food on the table.

On July 9th, 2021, in addition to the newly implemented fees, new president Vianne Timmons announced that the university will more than double tuition for new NL students who enroll in Fall 2022 from $2,500 per year to $6,000 a year. Current students will pay tuition at the current rate but with a four percent annual increase from Fall 2022 to 2025 until 2026, when it will be adjusted to the new level. This is despite Vianne’s promise to current students on May 3rd, 2021, that tuition will remain unchanged; she stated, “There will be no student who is presently enrolled in Memorial that will be compromised.” Vianne lied!

As a result of MUN’s decision to increase tuition, the government ended the 21-year tuition freeze by cutting the $68 million grant they provided the university with to cover the tuition freeze. Instead, they expanded the province’s grants and loans program, which will cost them significantly less at around $18 million annually.

The value of an undergraduate degree is now equivalent to what a high school degree used to be. Research by several sources states that over 70 percent of jobs now require some form of post-secondary education, with that number steadily increasing. Without the education necessary, people are stuck with low-paying, insecure employment, some even without sufficient wages to cover living expenses.

The idea of decreasing fees at MUN for the students of this province, even perhaps to the point of elimination, is not a radical idea and has existed in the past. In March of 1965, then Premier Joey Smallwood announced free tuition for those in the province. However, there were flaws in Premier Smallwood’s proposed plan.

The Muse.

Commentator Rex Murphy, who was involved with the student council at the time, gave a speech about the concerns that students had regarding the plan, which only included first-year students. According to The Gazette, “Mr. Murphy’s speech received much media attention, and Mr. Smallwood was asked to comment on the matter. Amongst cutting words for Mr. Murphy, he appeared to make a shift in policy, announcing that free tuition for second-year students was in the works. By October, the premier had established a plan which granted free tuition to all Newfoundlanders; students were even offered ‘living salaries’ which ranged between $50 and $100.”

An article in The Muse titled “JOEY’S DREAM – FREE TUITION” states that, on Tuesday, October 5th, 1965, Premier Smallwood announced his plan for free tuition in MUN’s gymnasium that was filled to capacity with students and faculty. It was also broadcasted to overflow areas, including the Little Theatre and Dining Hall. Premier Smallwood received a standing ovation and cheers.

Free post-secondary education is not a new idea nationally either; World War II veterans were given free tuition after the war years. Most places with free post-secondary education have done so through a federal initiative, like Sweden and Norway.

The federal government should be contributing more to education costs, and it needs to be a priority. Canada needs to introduce a more progressive tax system of income tax by putting an end to offshore tax havens, closing tax loopholes, and increasing taxation on the rich. Public services in Canada are in desperate need of funding, and everybody should be paying their fair share. While tuition costs are only one barrier, it is an important place to start.

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.

Remembering Student Disability Advocate Glenn Roy Blundon

Glenn Roy Blundon.

Glenn Roy Blundon was a student at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN), majoring in Economic Geography. He lived in the Doyle House residence on campus. He grew up in Conception Bay in a town called Bay de Verde.

On February 18th, 1984, Glenn passed away in his 26th year but left an impact still felt today.

There was little to no support for students with disabilities on campus. As a result, in the 1970s, Memorial’s Organization for the Disabled (MOD) was formed but unfortunately was not successful in maintaining membership.

In 1982, the society was renamed Memorial’s Organization for the Disabled II (MOD-II). Glenn became the President and was the spark and driving force behind kick-starting the society again. Under Glenn’s leadership, MOD II successfully raised funds, attained office space, and recruited new members. MOD II’s office was in room 1046 of the Science building.

According to The Muse, in March of 1983, the MOD-II organization “enlisted 30-35 members and appointed an executive and held 15 meetings.”

A t-shirt from Memorial’s Organization for the Disabled II (MOD II).

Blundon wrote a letter in July of 1983 stating MOD-II’s goals, “This organization… as well as being a support group is also a social group… not only for the disabled but for all students who wish to help. When problems arise concerning mobility, etc… we will hopefully notify the required personnel of the university so that the problem will be dealt with in a reasonable fashion.”

According to former MOD-II member Michael S. Ralph, the group’s members had a wide range of disabilities, including “mobility impaired students who used wheelchairs, crutches and/or braces, blind or partially sighted members, and hearing impaired or deaf students.”

The campus was inaccessible, and some professors were known to say that students with disabilities should not be in university; this was a common attitude at the time. Students in wheelchairs had difficulty opening doors, and water fountains were too high for them to reach. Addressing the issues of students with disabilities was not a priority for MUN officials.

Getting the administration to take their concerns seriously was one of the biggest challenges, and the administration was reluctant to meet with MOD-II. There was one incident when the administration agreed to meet, but they asked where the students with disabilities were upon their arrival. This was a time when not all disabilities were recognized, and only some physical disabilities were valid — the image many people had of a disabled person who someone in a wheelchair.

Glenn Roy Blundon on MUN Campus.

The ignorance of the higher-ups made it difficult to improve conditions on campus — but not impossible. The MOD-II group was eventually able to make tangible progress. Glenn said in a Muse article that, with the efforts of MOD II, “conditions are a lot better than when I first came here in 1977.”

The Muse stated in 1983 that MOD-II members were consulted regarding renovations and new construction projects.

Ralph states that MUN spent approximately $300,000 to make campus buildings accessible. Some of the group’s biggest successes, according to The Muse was getting “a spiral cement ramp at the Henrietta Harvey Building entrance; ‘key’ elevators for the disabled in several main buildings on campus; a lift inside the front door of the science building; sidewalk ramps around campus.”

MOD-II also played a role in making residence accessible. Through their efforts, an elevator was installed to connect the tunnel system with two floors of Doyle House and gave students with mobility issues access to the Hatcher House dining hall.

Glenn Roy Blundon.

Along with MOD-II’s efforts to make the campus physically more accessible, they also helped with academics; for example, they volunteered to read aloud exams to students unable to do so independently.

In 1992, MUN opened a centre for students with disabilities dedicated in memory of Glenn. The Blundon Centre provides test and exam accommodations, assistive learning software, alternate textbook formats, help with mobility, etc.

MUN is leaps and bounds more accessible than decades ago, although much more improvement is needed.

Let us thank Glenn for his dedication to equality in leading the way so that we can continue to fight for a more accessible and caring campus.

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.