In an article in The Independent, Rhea Rollman discusses the growing fiscal empire of the university’s Office of the Chief Risk Officer (OCRO). In 2017, the OCRO spent $3.7 million on salaries alone. Rollman states, “Risk management personnel include the people who spend a great deal of time telling students that they can no longer do fun (if remotely risky) things, like have climbing parties at Wallnuts, or sell grilled cheese sandwiches on campus. Students would much rather those millions be spent elsewhere — for instance, in lowering the costs of their education (so they wouldn’t need to host parties at Wallnuts or sell grilled cheese sandwiches as fundraisers).” The OCRO seems to want to regulate every aspect of our lives at MUN, maybe to the point where no events would happen if they had it their way.

A telling example of what I see as the OCRO’s overzealous, prying nature took place when Professor Erwin Warkentin was almost prohibited from leading a class trip to Germany. The OCRO opposed it because they claimed healthcare in Germany is not the same quality as the healthcare in Newfoundland and Labrador, which based on my research, is not even true. The OCRO has made foreign programs difficult to maintain. Warkentin states, “The problem with the OCRO is that they have a one size fits all approach and have little in the way of understanding the world as it actually exists.”

In July 2020, Greg McDougall was hired as the new Chief Risk Officer with a salary of $174,245 a year. Since he’s been on the job, there has been a pattern of inappropriate behavior, and it seems that he is most known for his dislike of student protests and for trying to quell dissent.

On October 7th, 2021, the MUN Faculty Association penned a letter to Former President Vianne Timmons regarding McDougall’s misuse of the University’s Respectful Workplace Policy (RWP). MUNFA was copied on correspondence between an Academic Staff Member (ASM) and McDougall, where he responded to thoughtful, critical questions regarding the implementation of the vaccine mandate with reference to the Respectful Workplace Policy. MUNFA President Josh Lepawsky stated that “Any such use of the RWP to stifle an ASM’s commentary on Memorial’s implementation of the vaccine mandate would constitute a clear violation of the ASM’s right to discuss and criticize policies and actions of the University, as enshrined in Clause 2.04 of the Collective Agreement.”

On December 8th, 2021, McDougall filed a complaint against me, Matt Barter, for peacefully protesting what I saw as out-of-control spending and unreasonable tuition hikes during a press conference by Vianne Timmons, the former president of MUN, who has since been removed following a major scandal. McDougall did not just complain about my protest action on December 2nd, 2021, but also events from 2017, 2018 and 2019 that are in Memorial’s incident management system. Interestingly, McDougall was only appointed in 2020, so he would not have the knowledge or ability to opine on alleged incidents prior to his appointment. Previous Chief Risk Officers did not act on these incident reports, presumably because they recognized that my actions were entirely in keeping with the principles of the Student Code of Conduct. Past Risk Officers as well did not involve themselves in politics.

McDougall complained about a Board of Regents protest I participated in on May 11th, 2017. He also complained about my attendance at U-Pass consultations, in which I questioned the university administration on their plan to impose a mandatory fee on all students. He complained about me showing up to the Provost’s office to request a meeting about fiscal management after the Provost had agreed to meet with me during a public budget consultation. 

Regarding my December 2nd protest, McDougall stated, “Mr. Barter waited for a female member of the University leadership team to move to the podium at the front of the room…” He then stated that the protest was “a form of intimidation and harassment” and gender-based. These statements by McDougall are false.

Former Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Noreen Golfman spoke out and said that Memorial’s actions against me are a “real overreach.” Golfman herself was once a subject of my past protests. Golfman disputed Memorial’s characterization of me deliberately targeting women. She stated, “I just don’t buy it.” She said that she never once felt my protests against her as a senior administrator were personal or that they had a sexist or misogynistic element. Golfman stated, “He [Matt Barter] was a kind of equal opportunity activist as far as I was concerned.”

In January 2022, McDougall was publicly accused of touting a vaccine-injured student. McDougall deregistered dozens of students from in-person classes due to not meeting the university’s vaccine requirements. One student almost died from the first vaccine dose and stated about his interactions with McDougall, “I have been disrespected, stigmatized, harassed, stressed, and discriminated against because of my health status.”

On December 2nd, 2022, McDougall sparked outrage yet again when he confronted members of the MUN Students’ Union after their peaceful protest against funding cuts and tuition hikes, making serious threats against the protestors. Dr. Russell Alan Williams stated, “This is really disheartening. Student participation and dialogue about things like huge tuition hikes does not have to be positive.” MUNSU Resource Coordinator Katherine McLaughlin stated, “I’m so disgusted at Memorial – ‘professionalism’ and ‘positive dialogue’ are weapons used to silence criticism and dialogue. Admin has shown over and over that you either need to support their capitalist pursuits or be silenced, reprimanded, and removed. SHAME.”

On December 6th, 2022, The Independent’s Justin Brake reported that the university had put forward a proposal to change the Student Code of Conduct policy. As Brake points out, these changes are partly in the hands of the administration, who filed the complaint against me for protesting President Timmons. Chief Risk Officer Greg McDougall, the complainant in my case, sits on the committee, along with Student Conduct Officer Jennifer Browne, who chose to impose sanctions on me. The proposed changes in the draft include a section titled “Confidentiality and Privacy” that states “all persons involved in any process related to this Code are required to maintain confidentiality.” Undoubtedly, this proposed provision represents a gag order on students who may find themselves in a similar situation to mine. As I stated in an article on October 19th, 2022, “It would guarantee that MUN could run the entire process against someone in complete secret,” and “the person would be accused, judged, and punished without anyone even knowing. It is worth noting that even after the entire process was over, the accused would never be able to mention what happened.”

My lawyer, Kyle Rees, stated that the Code of Conduct is already problematic because the university itself “can lay a charge against you, have it investigated and decided upon by its own employees.” Moreover, Rees states that efforts to restrict students who may be subjected to the policy to speak out are “really concerning.” Rees is also concerned that students could find themselves unable to speak freely about potentially oppressive situations. Rees states, “We take issue with secret courts in Canada because it leads to potential abuses of power, and the idea that Memorial University is trying to insulate itself from any kind of public discussion over how it’s employing its Student Code of Conduct is troubling.”

McDougall’s salary has since increased to $198,400 a year. The position of Chief Risk Officer is relatively new, having only been created in 2013. For years, the university operated fine without this position. I suggest eliminating the position of Chief Risk Officer and slashing the budget of that unit.

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.


Leave a Reply


%d bloggers like this: