Technocracy at MUN
It seems President Vianne Timmons has a vision for the university that she thinks is best. The problem is she also seems to want everyone to just go along with it and keep their criticisms to themselves. In this world, there is no space for critical posters calling for her to step down. There is no space for a silent protest. Criticisms seem to be treated as an existential threat to her leadership rather than an opportunity for debate. Now, Timmons has self-righteously weaponized a disciplinary procedure to silence my dissent.
According to Investopedia, technocracy is “a model of governance wherein decision-makers are chosen for office based on their technical expertise and background. A technocracy differs from a traditional democracy in that individuals selected to a leadership role are chosen through a process that emphasizes their relevant skills and proven performance, as opposed to whether or not they fit the majority interests of a popular vote.”
In a technocracy, also according to Investopedia, “the acts and decisions of technocrats can come into conflict with the will, rights, and interests of the people whom they rule over.” Moreover, “a powerful, entrenched, unaccountable, and oligarchic technocracy which governs in its own interests.”
Timmons has stated that everyone at MUN must be on “Team Memorial.” She insists that we all share a common goal. But what does that really mean? Does it mean we all work together? Or does it mean we all do as we are told and stay quiet? Does it mean we don’t raise questions about the decisions taken at the top?
After many people thought Former President Gary Kachanoski seemed to live in an ivory tower, Timmons arrived on campus with a smile on her face and went around the community taking selfies with different people. She seems to want to be a local celebrity. Was she trying to be more likable so people would not question the unpopular decisions she would make? The truth is that Timmons is a member of the elite in this province, and, to a certain extent, Canada. She is part of the Order of a Canada, an honor bestowed by the Governor General on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II. She often gives exclusive presentations to influential groups in NL, such as her upcoming presentation to the St. John’s Board of Trade, which non-members can attend but the cost of tickets is $75. The Government of NL appoints several people to the university’s Board of Regents. According to Timmons’s current employment contract, she can be fired at any time without cause by this board. Doesn’t that put her at their mercy? Would she not be hesitant to do anything that would not please them?
The reality is a student’s goal may be to do the best they can with their coursework to obtain a degree. The goal of a professor may be to obtain research grant funding. The goal of a senior administration may be to move up the ladder and career advancement. As is evident by these examples, the actual goals of different groups on campus are very different. But what does Timmons want? It seems to me she wants to enforce and uphold the status quo that she benefits from.
Timmons has blocked several people on Twitter for questioning her lavish office renovations and asking why she banned a student protester. Online, as in person, her approach seems to be to silence critics.
Timmons has stated that students need to be taught how to protest respectfully. Is that really so we do not hurt anyone’s feelings or just so that we do not protest efficiently? There is tremendous power in deciding what constitutes protest or not. We do not want a university where anything, but the mildest criticism constitutes something other than protesting, and is therefore punishable. Would it not be possible to narrow the definition of what protesting is so much that effective student movements become impossible? Perhaps MUN will offer a course in protesting with Timmons’ approval of the materials.
Historically, MUN has been extremely accepting of protesting. In 1972, students took over the Arts and Administration building for ten days when the university president decided to withhold the student union fees that were collected. In 1980, students shut down the parkway on Prince Philip Drive until their demands were met after a student was struck and killed. What would have happened to these protesters if the past presidents had the same view of protesting as MUN does now?
It is no surprise that campaigns against tuition hikes anger those in the post-secondary establishment. University executives waste hundreds of thousands on ineffective strategies to improve the university and on lavish spending all the time. For example, Timmons spent around $60K for an office “refresh.”
The recent decision to ban me from campus is power politics. I believe this will have a chilling effect on future protests and criticism on campus. It seems that the intention is to make an example of me to instill fear in others. Open debate and dialogue have already declined in the university as my posters were taken down and I was banned from 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.