The election for Memorial University’s Board of Regents Alumni representatives is in its final stretch. On August 18th, 2023, I did a follow-up interview with candidate Mary Feltham. We discussed the election process and her campaigning up to this point, along with her 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 campaigning has been going well; I have been very grateful for the support I have received. I did hear from others about the desire to have a forum or group question sheet for all candidates. I appreciate the interview opportunities, much like this, to be able to help answer questions– and I am always welcoming of folks reaching out if they wish to know more during the campaigning period.
What are your thoughts on the Indigenization of Memorial?
I value diversity, and I think it is important for us to move away from colonial structures. I think it is important for our university to continue enhancing our cultural humility and competence. To do this, it is crucial that Indigenous communities are engaged (and appropriately compensated for their contributions) in conversations. As a settler, I would like to hear more from Indigenous communities on how Memorial is improving and what needs to be done to continue our improvements.
What are your thoughts on the state of mental health resources on campus?
As a recent graduate who has availed of mental health resources on campus, I highly value the faculty who work there. The support they provide is crucial. I recognize there are challenges students have faced regarding wait times to see someone and want to advocate for continued enhancements to all campus mental health services, including the Student Wellness & Counselling Centre (SWCC) on the St. John’s Campus and the Counselling & Psychological Services (CPS) at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.
In general, Mental Health is a large passion of mine, as I have completed my BSc in psych, followed by my BSc in nursing to potentially work in psychiatry. While attending Grenfell, I had a MUCEP position with CPS to help promote their services. I also was given the task of finding off-campuses services because it was known by the faculty that they had limitations in what they could provide, and many students need to avail of off-campus/community supports to fill in any of the potential gaps in care received.
What do you think of Memorial’s sexual harassment and assault policies and resources?
I would like to see Memorial’s policies regarding sexual harassment and assault be expanded, focusing on harm-reduction, trauma-informed processes. I have been involved with Grenfell’s Sexual Harassment Board and helped provide feedback on new programs regarding consent that was to be completed by faculty/new students. It was a great starting point, and I would love to help encourage more to be completed to make Memorial safe.
In your opinion, is Memorial an accessible campus and are there sufficient resources and supports for persons with disabilities?
Memorial certainly has aspects that are highly accessible. I was able to get accommodations for writing my exams, and the process was extremely simple, which I was very thankful for. I also saw quick action on Grenfell’s campus when some issues were flagged, like poor lighting and missing high-visibility tape on steps. However, I know not all are so lucky, and I am not sure when the last accessibility audit of all campuses was completed. I do know that students have voiced concerns regarding elevators being out of order, classrooms not having automatic doors, and not having access to assistive hearing devices in certain classrooms.
Essentially, I do think that Memorial strives for accessibility but needs to continue its efforts to maximize accessibility for anyone and everyone.
Do you agree with the administration’s decision to remove the Ode to Newfoundland from convocation ceremonies?
I feel it is important for decisions to be made collectively. I recognize many people were upset with this decision, largely due to the limited consultation, and that is an action I do not agree with. I am in favor of consulting those that are impacted by a potential decision at every opportunity.
Would you support a mandatory U-Pass fee for all students?
I am generally opposed to any mandatory fees. I believe that enhancing our public transportation systems is a part of making education accessible; however, it should not be done by implementing more financial barriers for students. An opt-out system may be an option to explore as long as students are consulted along every step.
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 states that over 70 percent of jobs now require some form of post-secondary education. What are your thoughts on the idea of free education?
I am fully for free education for all. I have been in many protests that are for free education for everyone and plan to continue to advocate for it since it is a feasible reality.
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?
I am aware that the salary for Memorial’s President is much higher than most others across Canada. I am agreeable to a livable wage for anyone working, and people should receive adequate compensation for the work completed. I do not feel that the salary is in line with all other university presidents across Canada. I do not have a specific compensation in mind that I would like to see as I haven’t don’t the complete math to compare across the board what is reasonably accepted and appropriate from our budget. However, the Prime Minister of Canada makes $357,800 annually, so I don’t understand how a President of any institute would be entitled to more.
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.