At a time when some are describing Memorial University as being in chaos, forty-five alumni candidates are running for the school’s governing body. On August 7th, 2023, I interviewed Board of Regents candidate Mary Feltham. We discussed her interest in serving as a Board member and her views on Government funding cuts, tuition increases, collegial governance, the confidentiality agreement, the corporate influence and privatization of the University, free expression, and student protests. See the interview below:

Why did you decide to put your name forward to be a candidate for the Memorial University Board of Regents? 

As a recent alum, I am passionate about the happenings of Memorial University and would love to see it flourish to help improve the future of our province. I value the education I received while attending Grenfell Campus and the Western Regional School of Nursing and all the opportunities I was given while pursuing my post-secondary educational career. I want to continue to be a part of helping Memorial to be the institute that offers accessible education and unique life experiences for all. 

What experience and skills do you have that would make you a good board member? 

I am an advocate and am dedicated to uplifting marginalized voices. I have been involved in the student union since 2015, allowing me to gain leadership skills. I have been provided with opportunities to engage in various training sessions allowing me to build my abilities to respond to concerns through a trauma-informed lens. I have participated in various committee meetings within Memorial, including Senate. 

Where do you stand on the Government’s decision to remove the $68.4 million tuition offset grant? 

I strongly oppose any decisions to defund education. I know that investing in education benefits everyone. I have been vocal in requests to the Government for increased funding to Memorial to help the University be able to offer high-quality and accessible education to anyone who wishes to pursue post-secondary education.

Where do you stand on Memorial’s decision to raise tuition? 

I disagree with any increases to tuition or the implementation of new mandatory auxiliary fees. Tuition needs to be accessible, and when tuition increases, it adds to financial barriers to people being able to obtain their right to pursue their careers in post-secondary education.

What do you think of the Government cutting millions of dollars of funding to Memorial’s operating budget in the past few years? 

I am disheartened to see the continuous cuts in funding to Memorial’s operating budget, as it has resulted in Memorial raising tuition to increase the burden on its students. I strongly believe these cuts need to be reversed, and funding restored to Memorial’s operating budget with direct instructions on what it is intended to be used for.

Do you agree with the additional compulsory student fees that Memorial implemented in the last few years, including the Student Services fee ($50/semester) and the Campus Renewal fee ($50 per course/semester)? 

I do not agree with additional compulsory student fees. These added fees contribute to financial barriers to education. These fees are often used to offset cuts from the Government, meaning the budget for Memorial does not change, and students will see no change in services to them, despite paying more. I was pleased to see the Government provide funding of $10M to offset the Campus Renewal fee and I hope this becomes a permanent investment. 

What do you see as Memorial’s role in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador? 

Memorial plays a vital role in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the only University we have here; the education people receive from Memorial helps our future flourish. Memorial also helps bring opportunities for diversity to our province, which is something to be celebrated.

What are your thoughts on collegial governance? 

It’s important for there to be ongoing transparency and collective agreements. I believe acting in a collegial governance framework is in the best interest of the University. I understand this was one of the main points during the MUNFA strikes, and I stood alongside them on the picket line to show my solidarity and agreement that collegial governance is necessary. 

The Board of Regents currently has a mandatory confidentiality agreement for board members. Do you agree with it? Why or why not? 

I understand that there are some conversations that require confidentiality, especially when they concern safety. However, I would love to see a shift to “in-camera” sessions instead of entire confidentiality. I feel this would allow for safety to be maintained and allow for opportunities for people to speak freely while maintaining a level of transparency and accountability.

In your opinion, should Board of Regents members be allowed to speak publicly regarding decisions of the board and issues pertaining to Memorial? 

I do think it is important for Board of Regents members to be able to speak publicly regarding their decisions. It is important for people to have the right to express their concerns. The current Code of Conduct does allow for people to express concerns, but it is stated that these concerns should be addressed within the appropriate committee spaces. I agree that raising concerns within these spaces is important and should be encouraged, as it allows for fruitful discussions and opportunities for action to occur. However, if an individual is speaking as themselves and not on behalf of Memorial or the Board of Regents, then they should be able to speak openly on their opinions.

What are your thoughts on the University using external search firms to fill senior administration positions? 

This is probably the aspect I have the least knowledge of. I would need to continue to look into the various ways senior administration has been hired and the outcomes of it. I know the hiring for the Grenfell Vice President has been an open search, which I fully agree with – it has allowed community members to get to know potential candidates and provide feedback. I think exercising collaborative methods at any opportunity is vital.

What do you think of the growing corporate influence and privatization of Memorial? 

It worries me when Memorial is being treated as a business rather than a public service. Education is a right, and it is crucial that everyone is provided with an opportunity to obtain the education they desire. I would like to see the focus remain on how Memorial can provide high-quality, accessible education for all.

What are your thoughts on freedom of expression and academic freedom? 

A key point I continuously mention is that education is a right. As such, I believe it is important that people have the ability to learn in spaces that are safe and meet their needs. If there is something that hinders someone’s opportunity to learn, they must be able to speak openly on that so it can be adequately addressed. If someone were to use the concept of freedom of expression with the intent to hurt another or not provide an accommodation service, I would be concerned and not agree. However, true freedom of expression and academic freedom is essential to ensuring that education is maintained as a right.

What are your thoughts on student protests? 

I appreciate students speaking up on matters that impact not only them but also their peers. I have participated in many student protests, and I believe it is crucial for students to have the ability to speak out and have their needs appropriately addressed. 

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. If folks wish to talk more about any of this with me, I would be willing to be contacted by email ( or over my Facebook Page, “Mary Feltham for Board of Regents.” Voting is ongoing until August 22nd, and people can vote for up to 6 candidates. 

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.


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