Last week, there was much public outrage about the findings of the Auditor’s General report into Memorial University. As I stated on the radio show On The Go with Anthony Germain, while I knew the situation at MUN was bad, I didn’t realize how bad it was until the report was released. My criticism of administrative bloat and misspending at the top levels of MUN has been vindicated, especially regarding former President Vianne Timmons.
Germain stated, “Long before the Auditor General placed MUN under her microscope, there was a student who was constantly raising questions about how Memorial University spends its money. Matt Barter also was the first to shine a spotlight on ten of thousands the former president spent on renos and redecorating her office, and some of that was highlighted in the Auditor General’s report.”
Furthermore, Germain stated, “You [Matt Barter] started to become a real pain in their neck because of tuition, and as you were protesting the increase in tuition, you started filing these access-to-information requests and finding these nuggets, these embarrassing nuggets and I don’t think they actually knew what to do about you.”
In an interview with MUN President Pro Tempore Neil Bose, Germain asked him, “How do you come away from this [Auditor General] report without concluding or thinking that there’s some element of either incompetence given the lack of oversight or perhaps even corruption?”
Official Opposition education critic Barry Petten stated on VOCM OpenLine, “The leadership right now, there’s no change there. I mean, Ms. Timmons left, but we got no real new people in, so it’s the same… There needs to be a cultural shift at MUN in general.”
On December 2, 2021, after many articles reporting on Timmons’s misspending, I decided to protest Timmons at a public event. When she was speaking, I held up a small stop sign off to the side that read, “STOP VIANNE! No to tuition hikes and out of control spending!”
Shouldn’t a university encourage its students to stand up when they see injustice?
While Timmons is gone, her lackeys are still here. Student Code of Conduct Officer Jennifer Browne and Chief Risk Officer Gregory McDougall launched what I see as a targeted operation against me. They weaponized the Student Code of Conduct to silence one of the administration’s most vocal and effective critics. Browne banned me from campus for three months, persecuted me through the Student Code of Conduct, and then gave me a one-year probation sentence. MUN’s handpicked investigator stated that the campus ban was not warranted.
Chief Risk Officer Greg McDougall was the complaint in the Student Code of Conduct case even though he wasn’t in attendance at the event where my protest action took place. A year later, on December 2, 2022, McDougall confronted students from the MUN Students’ Union who served Timmons a pink slip at a public event and made serious threats against them. He said that the students acted irrationally and that their sign was silly.
It is often said that the cover-up is worse than the crime. There is no doubt that both Jennifer Browne and Gregory McDougall used their positions, Browne as Conduct Officer and McDougall as Chief Risk Officer, to protect Timmons and to smear dissidents. Not only did they try to protect Timmons’s $500K salary and benefits, but they also tried to protect her lavish spending, like $60,000 on office renovations and the use of search firms to recruit 15 management and executive positions at a total cost of $1.1 million with five of the 15 staff (33%) recruited through this method no longer employed by the University.
They also tried to protect themselves as the Director of Student Life Jennifer Browne and Associate Vice-President (Academic) Students Donna Hardy Cox spent over $184K to renovate their offices. Memorial increased the Chief Risk Officer’s salary from $174,245 to $198,400 a year.
If Memorial University is serious about cleaning itself up, then a good first step would be to terminate those who were a part of the Timmons reign.
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.