The election for Memorial University’s Board of Regents Alumni representatives is in its final stretch. On August 16th, 2023, I did a follow-up interview with candidate Jeffrey Blackwood. We discussed the election process and his campaigning up to this point, along with his thoughts on the Indigenization of Memorial, resources on campus, the decision to remove the Ode to Newfoundland from convocation, a mandatory U-Pass program, the idea of free education, and the president’s compensation.

How did you find the election process and campaigning up to this point?   

The process has been pretty smooth up to now, and I’ve personally been keeping my campaigning to a minimum.

What are your thoughts on the Indigenization of Memorial?

If by this question, you refer to Memorial introducing more curriculum and supports to Indigenous people; then it’s certainly something I approve of. If Memorial is going to continue to tout itself as accepting of all cultures; then, they need to show that with action and not just words. We need to be astutely aware of all actions in the name of true reconciliation.

What are your thoughts on the state of mental health resources on campus?

What do you think of Memorial’s sexual harassment and assault policies and resources?

In your opinion, is Memorial an accessible campus and are there sufficient resources and supports for persons with disabilities?

All three of these questions I would have the same answer for; there will always be room for improvement. During my time at Memorial, I always thought the resources were sufficient all around and the policies worked. But I’ve been a graduate now for 14 years – a lot has changed, and improvements need to be made on a constant basis to meet the current needs. Needs change, policies change, necessary supports change. Memorial needs to be constant in making the necessary and appropriate changes.

Do you agree with the administration’s decision to remove the Ode to Newfoundland from convocation ceremonies?

This is one thing I certainly disagree with. Newfoundland and Labrador is unique in that the Ode is the official Provincial Anthem. Other provinces may have “official songs” or “unofficial anthems,” but the Ode has been a part of provincial history for almost 120 years. Re-adopted as official in 1980, it is an important piece of our culture. It would have been better to present the concept of elimination to a public forum as opposed to a closed-door decision and to propose options if the issue was inclusivity, as we have been led to believe.

Would you support a mandatory U-Pass fee for all students?   

Transportation around the city can be troublesome. Partnering with Metrobus to provide passes for students for a set fee per semester would solve many transportation issues and accesses for thousands of students. It would have to be a reasonable fee, with an option to opt out if transportation is already accessible for an individual.

K-12 is free, and an undergraduate degree is now equivalent to what a high school degree used to be, as research by several sources state that over 70 percent of jobs now require some form of post-secondary education. What are your thoughts on the idea of free education?

The idea of “free” education is a bit of a misnomer, as nothing is truly free: K-12 is publicly funded through provincial taxes and federal funding. To provide free post-secondary education; money has to come from somewhere. To properly fund post-secondary education in any province would likely result in a huge increase in provincial taxes, and with a declining population such as Newfoundland and Labrador, with a percentage that (due to economic status) do not have to pay taxes, the increase would be substantial to the current taxpayer base. While post-secondary education should be as accessible as secondary education, research into how much it would truly cost needs to be done.

Memorial recently hired a President Pro Tempore with a salary of $434,000. Do you agree with the president being paid this amount? What should the compensation be for Memorial’s next president?

In researching university president salaries across Canada, the salary that Memorial offers is on par with every other Canadian university. If the offered salary and benefits package is reduced, the level of competition for the position could also reduce. Memorial is one of the best universities in Canada and deserves to have an individual at the helm who is duly qualified, and the salary/benefits should reflect that qualification. People who apply for such a position have decades of academic experience behind them, much the same as doctors with their years of training and expertise. If we want the best at the helm, we have to be prepared to pay for the best.

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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