Many people in Newfoundland and Labrador are familiar with Memorial University President Vianne Timmons’s misspending, such as her $60 thousand office renovation and the over $338 thousand the administration spent on a Campus Master Plan that includes a skating rink. However, Timmons’s history of misspending started long before her time at MUN.
In 2013, as president of the University of Regina, Vianne Timmons faced accusations of misspending funds. According to CTV, faculty members “claimed non-academic positions have increased while teaching jobs have been cut, that education is being hurt, and that donor funds are being mismanaged. They also said there are questions of transparency over how money is spent.” This happened while students’ tuition rose by 2.8 percent each year at U of R.
Under Timmons, the University of Regina overpaid two staff members by almost $380,000. The university administration did not disclose this to the Saskatchewan government or the provincial auditor until the media published the story.
As a result, over 60 faculty members signed a petition demanding a non-confidence vote against Timmons and Provost Tom Chase. An associate professor in the English department, Susan Johnston, one of the leaders of the petition, asked the university budget to be made public “line-by-line.” The Advanced Education Minister at the time, Rob Norris, stated that the situation was unacceptable and asked the Ministry of Justice to review it.
However, the petition was defeated at a special meeting of the university council 135 to 134 with one spoiled ballot and three abstentions. Over 300 people attended the meeting.
Six years later, on December 12, 2019, the white smoke emerged from Memorial University, and a new president-designate, Dr. Vianne Timmons, was announced. But some said that it was a puff of black smoke.
In October of 2019, MUN’s Faculty Association (MUNFA) wrote a letter questioning the secretive nature of the search for a new president. They argued that “such secrecy violates the core values of openness and shared decision-making that ought to guide our public university.”
MUN is a publicly funded institution, and closed-door processes limit searches. This way, the successful candidate is only required to prove to a select few and not the larger MUN community and the province that they are the best person for the position.
The university chose to limit its options for a better future by not embracing new ideas and ways of doing things. There has been a tendency among MUN officials to lock themselves into a way of thinking and uphold and enforce the status quo instead of being more flexible and open.
The administration is determined to conduct lavish external searches with headhunting firms for administrative positions instead of having capable people at MUN do it like faculty members, staff, and students.
Were the short-listed candidates asked about their past financial history, and if so, to what degree was it considered? Were they asked their views on tuition costs? Were they asked if their views align with the mandate of Memorial to be accessible?
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.