MUN Vice-President (External Relations)’s Inbox: Ode to Newfoundland part 2

A recently obtained ATIPP request reveals all emails sent/received by Memorial University Vice-President (Advancement and External Relations) Lisa Browne regarding Ode to Newfoundland from October 26th to November 24th, 2022. See ATIPP file 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.

VOCM Open Line with Paddy Daly featuring Matt Barter

On December 7th, 2022, VOCM Open Line host Paddy Daly spoke with Matt Barter.

Paddy Daly: Line number 1, Matt you’re on the air.

Matt Barter: Hi Paddy.

PD: Hi Matt.

MB: Yes, I’m phoning in to respond to the comments made by MUN President Vianne Timmons last week. Did you want to fill listeners in on what she said?

PD: About the protests?

MB: Yeah, and about me.

PD: Yeah well, I mean I asked very specific questions. I used your name directly in conversation with Dr. Timmons. What she said, I guess I’d just be paraphrasing because I can’t remember verbatim what she did say but basically it’s about there’s a time and a place and the decorum that’s required for protesters. She’s talking about she feels like there’s been a lack of respect and again maybe I’m missing some of it but I remember the conversation obviously. But that’s sort of the summary about what she said, is that how you heard it, Matt?

MB: Yes, but I also heard her say that she said that there’s a difference between protest and harassment.

PD: Right, yes.

MB: But I don’t agree that my protest that I did was a form of harassment and actually last week I was at Government House because I was nominated for the Human Rights Award and Lieutenant Governor Judy Foote said that everybody has the right to protest, and she said that includes me.

PD: Okay, right.

MB: So, I really don’t agree with her on that. Also, she said that there was an independent report done which there was, but MUN got to handpick the investigator.

PD: Have you seen the report?

MB: Yes, I have. Have you?

PD: No, I haven’t.

MB: Oh no, I posted it on my website so anybody can go on and have a look at it.

PD: What does it say? Give us the Cole’s notes.

MB: So, the investigator the sanctions that they recommended was 1) That I reframe from personal attacks and the second sanction is that I not be allowed to protest inside an event but the university administration they didn’t go with the sanction recommended by the investigator instead they gave me one year probation.

PD: One year until you are allowed, I’ll use that word, until you’re going to be able to protest at events or on campus, period?

MB: No, one-year non-academic probation.

PD: Oh, okay.

MB: So, they went with a sanction that is like ten times more severe than the investigator recommended.

PD: It’s certainly and like I said to her many people consider the way that the university has handled protests, whether it be poster campaigns or members of MUNSU who went to I think it was the report to the community event last week and were asked to leave, they weren’t forced to leave is now my understanding but I guess Dr. Timmons was pretty displeased with it all I’ll use that word. So, give the folks just a quick understanding of exactly what the protest that you held, what was involved?

MB: So basically Dr. Timmons was giving a public address so I got up and stood to the side holding up a poster and on the poster I said ‘Stop Vianne: no to tuition hikes and out of control spending.’ So, my protest it was different from the MUNSU students last week because I didn’t block Dr. Timmons from the audience I just stood off to the side.

PD: Okay well I think you know university settings have long been the home of protest and discourse. I mean if you look back, I think it was sometime in the 70s there was a massive sit in of hundreds of students inside the administration building.

MB: It was actually thousands of students.

PD: Okay, thousands of students at the administration building and those days are coming again, you can feel it.

MB: Yes, and did you see the video of the Chief Risk Officer confronting the students?

PD: I did.

MB: He told them that he was going to remove them from university committees, in my view that is highly inappropriate behaviour.

PD: It certainly without question heavy handed.

MB: It is yes, absolutely. But I really like what the students did, and I think the students who did it are brave not knowing what the repercussions would be and last week you had John Harris on and he said there’s a culture of authoritarianism from the administration office and I agree with him.

PD: I’m sure you do, it’s in lockstep with your own thoughts on it and the blog postings and the like that you send along to me which I appreciate. Anything else you want to say this morning Matt before we say goodbye?

MB: Yes, I’d like to send a message to Dr Timmons. Dr. Timmons: you are a phony, and you should not govern this institution.

PD: Thank you, Matt.

MB: Thank you.

2016: All Out Nov 2

On November 2nd, 2016 students went all out in support of accessible post-secondary education.

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.

VOCM Open Line with Paddy Daly featuring John Harris

On December 7th, 2022, VOCM Open Line host Paddy Daly spoke with MUNSU’s John Harris.

Paddy Daly: Line number one say hello to the Director of External Affairs at Memorial University Students’ Union, that’s John Harris. Good morning, John, you’re on the air.

John Harris: Hi, how’s it going Paddy?

PD: Doing Okay. How you doing?

JH: Doing good, doing good.

PD: What’s on your mind?

JH: So yeah, just wanted to touch base I heard Vianne Timmons, the President of Memorial on the radio yesterday talking about the protest that went on at the event last Friday. Just wanted to talk about how proud I was to see students stand up for tuition doubling and for accessible education on Friday where we presented a pink slip to Vianne for failing to secure post-secondary education funding from the provincial government.

PD: And how does that work realistically or pragmatically for the president to secure funding because surely, she and other leaders at Memorial University didn’t want to deal with $60 odd million less.

JH: I mean you’d think that would be the case but from what we’ve been hearing from Vianne, just yesterday she was on, or the day before, she was on Anthony Germain, she said the tuition freeze wasn’t working for anybody. So, you know we don’t really have any support for getting the funding back from the government from the president. The president of the university has been in lockstep with the provincial government on this. They’ve been a united front and it really doesn’t seem like to us that she really cares that $68.5 million is being taken away from the university.

PD: Okay and I can’t speak for her on that front. Let me bounce this off you and I know that the tuition freeze was… any thoughts of talking about it was just a non-starter. For many people at the university, and look I pay for my boys to go through, so I got some skin in this game. The tuition freeze at some point was going to come to an end and what we saw was as opposed to getting a tax break on tuition, we saw an increase in fees and we didn’t have any discussions about even minimum hikes in tuition reflective of operational costs what have you. Two percent or whatever the number is because that did not happen and it was always, just my personal, I’ve been talking about this for years, there was always going to come a time when the funding was going to be cut off or decreased to the level where we will see all of a sudden, an explosion in tuition. Did we mishandle the tuition freeze overall given where we are now?

JH: I don’t know if I agree with you there that there’s a determinist aspect to this you know we are the students at Memorial and we are the people of the province and we got a say or what we want to fund and what we don’t want to fund. I think that the students have really been coming together from our protest against the provincial government back All Out Like 99′ and you’ve seen throughout the history of our province and our student movement that students are ready to push, and they want fully funded accessible education and you know a $68 million is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the overall provincial budget you know. The provincial budget, yes, we’re in turmoil as a province but cutting Memorial isn’t going to solve that. We can’t put the debt of the province on the backs of our students and our future.

PD: No argument there. Once again, I do have skin in the game and one of my sons is still at Memorial University. For me, I mean I talk about it in these terms. So, when people are polled come election time what are their primary concerns? It’s the economy and taxes and healthcare and the environment and criminal justice and well down the line, always well down, certainly when we talk about education as provincial jurisdiction, education is always way down the line. When in fact if education was everyone’s primary concern, we would do better in healthcare, the economy, and taxes, and the environment, and all the way down the line. It’s funny the skewed way we look at education and there’s zero argument coming from me that the better educated the populous is the better chance we have of a viral long-term profitable province.

JH: Absolutely, I totally agree with you there Paddy. You know the $68.5 million dollar cut per year is short sighted coming from the Furey government. We really make austerity decisions in times like these that come back to bit us in the but. You know there’s not going to be any good coming from this. Really disappointed to see the president of the university isn’t standing with the students on this one.

PD: Yeah, I mean I don’t know where we go from here… Does it all fall back to the province because I know you’re landing a lot of it in Dr. Timmons’s Office when the amount of money that the province spends with at Memorial University is very similar to the level that the Government of Nova Scotia does but they’re funding 10 universities. So, are you laying it on Dr. Timmons’ office or does the blame or the concern lay with Minister Coady or Premier Furey?

JH: I think they share the blame on this one Paddy because we don’t see any support coming from the administration office on this. They talk out of two sides of their mouths when it comes to protest. At first, they always like to say ‘oh we love peaceful protest you know we encourage it’ and then when peaceful protest actually does happen like we saw on Friday they turn around and intimidate, punish, threaten. There’s a really kind of authoritarian culture coming out of the administration office we’re really disappointed to see. You know we’re not getting any support from the president’s office, so you know there’s the ones who doubled tuition. Yes, it was because of provincial cuts but they’re working together on this one and coming out on a united front so we’re protesting both of them.

PD: The comment coming from Dr. Timmons was that she also says there’s an expectation of appropriate decorum coming from protesters whether they be formal members of MUNSU or anybody else at the university or anybody else who cares about the university. She thinks that she’s not being treated with the level of respect and the type of decorum required even in the setting like the report to the community which was the issue which you’re speaking to there. What do you make of those comments?

JH: Well, that’s the thing Paddy when you have a report to the community where basically we saw what she was talking about. This was an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for a great semester and a great year and the same semester that they’ve made it twice as hard for students to get an education and you know we got to take those opportunities to say you know what we’re not going to let you pat yourselves on the backs, this is a semester where you doubled tuition for all students and you know we’re not going to let you that this is a great semester. So, we just protested it’s important. We have a strong history of protest but as protest so this was very tame, it was you know a few students with a sign, same thing happened last president with Dr. Gary, the pink slip saying resign and any kind of protest they’re not going to be happy with so we’re not going to be accused of being harassing or intimidating when the university has all the power in this situation.

PD: Is there a particular reason why it’s Dr. Gary and Vianne versus Dr. Kachanoski and Dr. Timmons?

JH: You know presidents are people just like you and I you know. I have the same level of respect as I do for you as I do for Dr. Timmons.

PD: That doesn’t sound very good.

JH: The same amount of respect I have my friend or my student or my co-worker. You know I view people on the same plane and I think that the idea of respectability in politics… it’s a sign of authoritarian culture that’s going on at the administration’s office.

PD: And I mean, and you can view me as you see fit but it doesn’t seem like you have much respect for the president of the university and if you have the same level of respect for me that’s interesting, but I can take it, I’m a big boy. Last one that I’ll put out there is – I also asked her about this and we’re been talking about because housing is a crunch whether it be foreign students and/or students moving in to town from Gander to find a home and in the post doc world there used to be a program at MUN called Home Share – you matched up a student with a senior for a cut rate in rent for some household chores and whatnot. The senior wins, the student wins, the university wins, we all win and others looking for housing they win as well. Any thought or talk inside of MUNSU about that because that could really benefit some of the people you are representing.

JH: Absolutely I mean housing is always a concern for us, we have a huge population of students who are constantly coming to us saying that we have problems with our landlord, rent is too high, problems with res, we are constantly engaged on that. We’re always looking for ways to advocate for housing, it’s a huge problem especially you know with inflation going on, the rent rates have skyrocketed.

PD: Appreciate the time this morning John, thanks.

JH: Thanks Paddy, have a good one.

1996: Students take over Parkway

Students take over Parkway

Tracey O’Reilly of the Student Education Alliance, a fledgling high school lobby group which has been very active since a mass demonstration of its own this summer. O’Reilly presented a mock report card to the Tobin government giving them failing grades for cutting public exams, implementing a user fee on busses while some students can’t afford a decent lunch, the cancellation of extra-curricular activities and the utter lack of consultation with young people on the future of education in Newfoundland. “Education is essentially about options and we can never ever let the boys and girls at Confederation Building take them away,” she said.

Actor-turned-activist Greg Malone also spoke at the rally, blasting the government for its mismanagement of natural resources and its failure to provide accessible education to the young people of the province. “We give away our fish, we give away our trees, we give away our nickel, we give away our iron, we give away our hydro. About the only thing we don’t give away in this country is an education,” Malone shouted to the cheering crowd. Malone also said that the deficit crisis is a myth propagated by right-wing think-tanks like the Fraser Institute and corporate driven newspapers like The Globe and Mail, which he called “Toronto’s national newspaper.” “The guys making $6-million or $9-million a year, plus perks, are telling us that the country is in an economic mess and we’re in a financial crisis because some woman getting an extra $30 on welfare is on a spending spree that’s driving the country into the ground,” he said. “We don’t have a deficit,” Malone shouted. “We have deceit.”

After the rally about 1,500 students marched up the Prince Philip Parkway, carrying a black wooden casket with the word ‘education’ written on it, to bring their message to Confederation Building and the provincial government. But when they got there security had locked the doors, and while most students began to assemble on the steps of the building, many began banging on the glass doors demanding that security let them inside. The sounds of glass thumping soon came from inside Confederation Building, however, as a group of mostly high-school students who sneaked in through a side-entrance began to beat on a set of inner doors as they tried to meet the other protestors in the middle. Eventually a small group was let inside to place the black casket in the main lobby before quickly being escorted back outside.

The students rallied for about 30 minutes before Education Minister Roger Grimes came out to face them. But when he arrived Loyola Carey, chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Students, said it was his intention to make government listen to students for a change. “This time Mr. Grimes is coming to listen,” Carey said. “I’ve listened since I was knee high to a grasshopper and now it’s my turn to speak. Students occupied the east-bound lane of the Parkway on their way to Confederation Building. “I’m tired of hearing a lot of wind and nothing coming behind it.” Carey read a list of demands to the minister, saying students want a tuition freeze, with the eventual phasing out of tuition completely, and that students receive grants to attend school instead of loans. When Grimes was finally allowed to speak he was greeted with chants of “bullshit” from the crowd. “It’s always a positive contribution to a debate to say something like that. It’s very helpful to the discussion,” Grimes said to the crowd. Grimes eventually gave the crowd the non-committal reply it expected. “We’ve had a lot of discussions over the eight months that I’ve been education minister with your student representatives and all I can say is we’ve taken the issue seriously,” Grimes said. The education minister quickly went back inside, dodging demands from the crowd to know how much Grimes paid for his education during the days that MUN offered free tuition to all Newfoundlanders.

Carey was quite obviously not impressed with what Grimes had to say. “You ever hear the saying ‘same old, same old?'” Carey asked the crowd. “Well, add a word onto it: Same old, same old bullshit.” The majority of students then moved to occupy the four-lane stretch of the Parkway immediately in front of Confederation Building. The impromptu sit-in lasted for about 20 minutes before the crowd realized that traffic was being re-routed and quickly moved down the road to have a seat in the middle of the Parkway’s intersection with Higgin’s Line. By now the crowd was down to about 600 people, but continued to chant loudly and for more than 20 minutes backed up traffic for miles, causing some frustrated commuters to drive their cars over the curb and up sidewalks to get around the mass of protestors. The protest was part of a national week of action being organized by the Canadian Federation of Students. Students across Atlantic Canada held simultaneous, but smaller, demonstrations in their respective cities to protest government cutbacks.

Originally published in The Muse on October 25, 1996.

1995: Students march on Confederation Building

Protesting proposed changes to education…

Students march on Confederation Building


The much awaited National Day of Student Strike in protest of Lloyd Axworthy’s proposed social reforms began as hundreds of students crowded the gym at Memorial University’s (MUN) Thomson Student Centre (TSC). Eventually the crowd numbered in the thousands as students from MUN, Cabot College, the Marine Institute and other institutions filled the entire gymnasium and all three floors of the TSC. The rally began around noon on Wednesday, January 25, with Paul Thornhill, Vice President Internal of the Council of the Students’ Union (CSU) spurring the demonstrators on with strains of Aretha Franklin playing in the background. “We’re telling the government of this country to reconsider your priorities,” said Thornhill. “Rethink your programs, an education in Newfoundland is a priority.” ‘Today you’re joining with over 450,000 post secondary students,” said Craig Adams, National Executive Member of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), “and we’re kicking it off here in St. John’s, Newfoundland with the biggest show of support that I’ve ever seen in my life.” Representatives from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, the Young Liberals, CSU, the New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and the Progressive Conservative party of Newfoundland were on hand to show support for the demonstration. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about where the students stand on this issue,” said Jack Harris, MHA for St. John’s East. “Having access to post secondary education is our opportunity for ourselves, for our families, for our children to overcome many obstacles.” Greg Malone, leader of the activist group Power for the People was also in attendance. “The people who are making these decisions for you have had their educations paid for to the tune of 80 percent,” said Malone. “Now they’re looking over their shoulders at you and are planning to cut the bridge that brought them across over to their future.” Provincial Conservative party leadership candidate Layola Sullivan remarked that about 4000-5000 students would be shut out of post secondary institutions if the proposed changes were enacted. “What galls me is that Premier Wells is encouraging the federal government to make these cuts.”

The initial rally wound up at about 1:00 pm with the protesting students moving outdoors to begin stage two of the demonstration, a march en masse to the office of Bonnie Hickey, Liberal member of Parliament for St. John’s East. Approximately 4500 marchers stormed the Prince Philip Parkway walking into oncoming traffic. Traffic was halted as they proceeded ahead of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), so protestors changed lanes occupying both sides of the highway. Traffic was slowed for a considerable amount of time leading to a warning from the RNC. According to Darrell Hynes, V.P. Academic of the CSU, the RNC had said that the protest was “out of control.” Upon arriving at Hickey’s office, protesters were told that she was not there, nor could she be reached by phone at her office in Ottawa. A press release was issued by her office regarding the concerns of the protestors. “The government released a discussion paper to get input and ideas from Canadians on proposals to reform our social security system,” said Hickey. “The students who have gathered for today’s rally have been involved in the broad based consultations from the beginning. They want to ensure that their voice has been heard, and I can assure them that it has been.” Continuous chants of “Axe the Ax,” “Shame,” “No more Cuts,” “Hey Ho the Ax Got to Go,” and “Enough is Enough” could be heard outside the office. The rally moved onward to the Confederation Building where students continued to express their view on the discussion paper and Axworthy’s proposed cuts. Spirits continued to run high even as numbers dwindled with the poor weather conditions to about 2000 according to Adams. Winston Baker, Director of Treasury, spoke privately with The Muse about his concerns for the students and the proposed actions that Axworthy may take. He suggested the possibility that any change that Axworthy may make with regards to social programs would be compensated through increased taxes. After much anticipation Chris Decker, Minister of Education, appeared on the steps of the Confederation Building to announce that along with ministers from the Atlantic provinces he will be meeting with Axworthy next Monday to state that in no uncertain terms they are not in favour of the proposed After spending hours in the snow the demonstrators began to disperse at about 3:00 pm. Final estimates of the size of the demonstration placed between 4500 and 5000 students participating.

Written by Michael Connors and Lynn Thomas with files from Gabriella Fisher, Kyna O’Neill, Lorie Keating and Duleepa Wijayawardhana.
Photos by Peter Galgay.

Number of students protesting in major Canadian cities on Jan 25th:

St.John’s – 5000 rallied and marched in protest
Halifax – 1500 marched in protest
Fredricton – 50 to 100 manned picket lines
Montreal – 10 000 to 15 000 picketed and marched
Toronto -10 000 to 15 000 marched to the mayor’s residence
Ottawa – 1000 to 2000 marched on Parliament Hill
Hamilton – 1500 protested
Winnipeg – 3500 marched and picketed
Edmonton – 250 to 300 rallied
Regina – 700+ attended picket lines
Victoria – 5000 gathered in a rally
Vancouver – 1500 to 2000 rallied in the downtown area
(Compiled with the help of Canadian University Press.)

Originally published in The Muse on January 27, 1995.

CBC On The Go with Anthony Germain featuring MUN President Vianne Timmons

Anthony Germain and Vianne Timmons.

On December 5th, 2022, Memorial University President Vianne Timmons took part in a segment on CBC Anthony Germain’s show “On The Go.” Below is a transcript of the episode:

Anthony Germain: I have a guest in the studio and much to talk about, going to follow up on a story we brought you on Friday about Memorial University and hopefully talk about some other issues other than student protests and tuition because I think we’ve done a fair bit of chewing that over but we’ll start with that. A MUN Student Union rep came in the studio as you may recall, to tell us that university officials were a bit heavy-handed when they threatened to forcibly remove protesters from an event on campus, Jawad Chowdhury, Executive Director of Advocacy told us that they were there to give the president a symbolic pink slip and be explained why:

Jawad Chowdhury: Vianne Timmons, Dr. Vianne Timmons failed to secure sufficient public funding for Memorial University, she also misspent of the existing public funds on lavish salaries and office renovations and administrative bloat, exploiting international students by differential fees, saddling students with mountains of student debt, failure to develop a university budget that does not double tuition fees and ensure an accessible education for all.

AG: Now that was Jawad Chowdhury, Executive Director of Advocacy for Memorial University Students Union speaking here with me on Friday. Now, I did challenge Jawad when he said that he thought that should be zero tuition and the reaction from many listeners was well ‘you gotta pay something’ and unfortunately, we’ve now reached a point where you have to pay more than you used to. Vianne Timmons is president of Memorial University and she’s in the studio with me now. Welcome to the program.

Vianne Timmons: Thank you. Thank you so much Anthony.

AG: Lots to talk about, we’ve got lots of time so I’m glad you made it in here. So, lets start with whatever it was that happened late last week. Do you think that MUN officials were a bit heavy-handed with how they reacted to what the students did?

VT: Well, I was there. Students came in, we were doing a report to the community, we had an audience, and we were doing it from six sites on all the things the university has done with communities over the last year and the students ended up blocking me from being able to interact with the community. I did not hear anyone threaten them. I did go over to them Anthony myself; I thanked them for coming and I asked if they could just stand to the side so that I could see the audience and interact.

AG: So, when I saw on social media, basically for people who are listening there was like a big pink slip I mean the size of a giant billboard really so were you behind that?

VT: Yes, they blocked me from interacting with the audience. So, they were quite close to me. So, I just asked them if they could move to the side so I could interact with the audience and they declined and so I did not do the question-and-answer period and at the end of the time they stayed there quietly, they were quiet, but they were blocking me from seeing or interacting with the audience. At the end I just wanted to say thank you to the people for coming and they followed me to block me again. I went to the side and then someone stepped and just said like “you’re too close to her” and so I just thanked the audience and that was it. That was my interaction with them.

AG: Right, so then, I’m trying to remember the gentlemen’s name who told them that he was going to disinvite them from some committees or something like that so what’s that?

VT: So, Anthony I’m the chair of Senate and students are on many, many, many committees and I’m not removing them from any. He has some informal interaction with them, looking at student safety, student conduct and he may or may not choose to continue those committees, they’re informal, those his that he initiated.

AG: But that’s a punitive nature, right?

VT: I have not talked to Greg about that so I don’t know but sometimes on the spur of the moment you say something but definitely students are not going to be removed from any official university committees. I chair Senate, they’re on Senate committees, they’re on the board, they’re continue to play that role, an important role and be there.

AG: Now Vianne Timmons, it’s not your first rodeo in academica or at any university I mean it surely can’t come as any surprise to you that students are getting a little fisty when it comes to fighting their perception that tuition increases are unacceptable, right?

VT: No, that’s true. I do find my experience here though is that students, well I’ll just use Friday as an example, in my eleven years as previous president, it would be unusual for students to interrupt a community event that was celebrating community. That they chose to do, that’s fine. There are many ways for students to express their concerns and we do still have the lowest tuition in Atlantic Canada. That was really important to us that we made sure it was accessible. We’ve also invested millions into scholarships and bursaries. So, you know we are doing our best to make sure university’s accessible to all students.

AG: I guess the fact that they’re willing to go to these lengths, is it a question of them being rude or crossing a line or is it a manifestation of the level of dissatisfaction with how prices have increased?

VT: I don’t know. I can’t speculate why they do it, but I will say the world itself has changed over the last decade you know with social media, the Trump effect I think people feel more comfortable saying and doing things that they wouldn’t have a decade before and often people like myself women are targets for that kind of disrespect behaviour. I’m not saying the students were, they were not disrespectful to me at the event, but they disrupted the event, and they blocked my ability to interact with the audience.

AG: Right, so is any kind of security review as a result of this?

VT: We’re going to look at the security protocols. There was no security, no security went up to them or interrupted them and I want students to be able to protest and have the space to protest but it’s disconcerting as a women when they rush up to you and they block you. We have to learn from it and figure out how to do both things, keep people safe and make sure that students right to protest is honoured.

AG: So, how long have you been in the job now?

VT: Two and a half years.

AG: Okay, so it’s been quite the two and a half years.

VT: It has been quite the two and a half years.

AG: You’re timing has been quite something. Has it been what you thought it would be?

VT: No, not at all. So, I took the job before we had COVID. Right, I started April 1st right when COVID hit. First thing I faced was extreme budget challenges and we had to look at the tuition and the 20 year freeze on tuition was it working for anyone? So, we had to take a look at that. We’ve done really amazing things though in that two and a half years. We opened a Labrador campus which has been doing phenomenal work, we launched a strategic plan, we’re educating nurses in Gander and in Labrador. We are starting a continuing distance ed program. There’s so many amazing things that have gotten shadowed I think by some negativity so that why the report to the community was important to kind of celebrate in the past year, all six sites have done amazing work and we wanted to share it.

AG: Right, when you say it’s not what you thought it would be. What do you mean? Has it been nastier than you thought?

VT: Yes, it’s been much nastier than I thought. You know I’m coming home right so the idea of the warmth and welcoming of Newfoundlanders, which is there, it absolutely is, but I think I’ve been surprised at how nasty people are and I’m a real believer in debate and discussion and dissent even but I’m not accustomed to the personal attacks I had. I have found that pretty tough over the past two and a half years.

AG: Personal from commentators, or students, or colleagues, or who?

VT: Oh, it’s been from students, not commentators in the media but from public. They don’t like a decision, it is not uncommon for me to have an email that is full of profanity, talking about running me out of town or a number of other things and Anthony I want people to give me their opinion and I respect it when I get it. I’ve listened to every email I read, I watch social media and when they give me thoughtful, constructive feedback or critiques a decision the university made I’m really happy and I’m honoured they feel they can do that. It’s the nastiness that I’m finding disconcerting.

AG: Certainly no one wants to deal with nastiness or toxicity, but I wonder if part of you is also a bit sensitive that if you’re too defensive you risk coming across as a little precious.

VT: Yeah well, I hope I haven’t come across as too defensive but when someone swears at you and tells you that they’re going to run you out of town I think it’s okay to be defensive and to be protective a little bit.

AG: I want to change focus now, talk about the Ode to Newfoundland. You or the university took a bit of flank for dropping the provincial anthem from recent convocation ceremonies. I know that when you had your update you addressed this issue. What have you learned?

VT: So, you know I’ve learned a lot about how people feel about the Ode and I will tell you that the three different opinions are all strong. An opinion that we should have never removed it from convocation, the opinion that the Ode needs to be changed and an encouragement to promote that discussion and then people being very appreciative that we’re not singing the Ode at convocation. So those three views are strong and are varied. There is no consensus on it which is really important for a university to generate a discussion about you know tradition and things that we do that we sometimes haven’t put thought into and for many of our Indigenous faculty, staff, and students this has been an important decision. What I love about a university is we teach our students that words matter and in this case they listened to the words and came to me and said words matter.

AG: So, I’m not quite sure I understand though. Does that mean that you are going to put the Ode back or that you want the Government to change the Ode or what? I’m a little confused.

VT: We changed Oh Canada lyrics. At this point Senate is going to have a discussion on it and I’ll wait for that. I want to hear from the Senators, they’re thoughtful and after that then I’ll convene a group and we’ll make some decisions.

AG: Because I think in some ways, I mean I took a lot of flank on the show because I made the point that you just did about Oh Canada lyrics change and anthems can be modernized and not to mention it’s the Ode to Newfoundland and not Labrador so there’s exclusion as well. It’s not so much that, I’m more, I wonder if once you start going down the road that we’re not going to do this because it reflects a colonial era, and you are Memorial University of Newfoundland named after a colonial arms force. How far do you go with what you unravel? I mean we’ve seen Ryerson change its name.

VT: This is a very common discussion at universities and Ryerson did have to change its name.

AG: They want McGill to change its name. I mean how far does this go?

VT: I think it’s a conversation that could go far. You know there’s pressure on us to look at the name of our buildings and campuses so there is a presidential task force that’s beginning that discussion to look at that. So, I think it’s important that we change and grow as a society and what better place to lead change that a university?

AG: This is why Vianne Timmons it’s better to name buildings disciplines than people.

VT: I know. I know.

AG: Alright that’s a lot of serious stuff, I meet, and we interview a lot of people on the show thank to the departments and brains over at Memorial University. What would you say are the top two things you’re proudest of over across the street from us right now? To end on something positive.

VT: Well, the proudest thing I am is not across the street, it’s in Labrador and the Labrador campus for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to look at the python for example it’s a research farm that’s part of our Labrador and to look at the food that they’ve distributed this year. It is a phenomenal story. It was part of our report to the community. It is such a great story to look at the Bonne Bay Research Aquarium Centre you know in Norris Point and the thousands of visitors it had there. To look at what our physicians, our researchers, and our clinicians do all through Newfoundland and Labrador. Identifying you know genetic cause of hearing loss and looking at that you know. There are so many good stories that are so important to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. And I’m just so proud to be part of this university that does such amazing work.

AG: Alright so the nastiness, you’re not going anywhere, right? You’re sticking around?

VT: Right at this minute in front of you I am not going but one of the challenges is that there’s been a lot of transition at the university. I’ve had five Vice-President’s Academic since I come in two and a half years. Now this is something that’s happening everywhere, in other universities, in businesses, there’s a huge turnover of senior administration.

AG: Is it like retirement?

VT: Many reasons, they’ve left for many reasons, retirements, illness, leaving for a different job. All three have happened in one post in the provost’s office. So, you know it’s a challenging time to recruit and keep senior leaders right now in the country.

AG: Last question, sort of on the misfiring brain, is the law school still going ahead?

VT: Not at this time. But what is going ahead which I’m really excited…

AG: Because I don’t know a single lawyer in town who think it’s a good idea.

VT: Well, there’s many judges that do because they know the importance of law reform. But that right now is park, what we are doing is focusing on is looking at continuing education arm of the university to offer programs on evenings and weekends, to look at a life span approach, we’re looking at a senior’s college and early children learning. Stay tuned for that, right now that a really exciting change we’re going to make to the university.

AG: Okay well listen I’m really glad you could in, lots covered there, and I hope we should make this a regular thing.

VT: I would love that, Anthony. Thank you.

AG: Thank you Vianne Timmons.

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.

Respectful Learning Environment policy consultation submissions

A recently obtained ATIPP reveals consultation submissions for the proposed Respectful Learning Environment policy from October 1st, 2022 to November 3rd. Download file 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.