VOCM Open Line with Paddy Daly featuring John Harris

On December 7th, 2022, VOCM Open Line host Paddy Daly spoke with MUNSU’s John Harris.

Paddy Daly: Line number one say hello to the Director of External Affairs at Memorial University Students’ Union, that’s John Harris. Good morning, John, you’re on the air.

John Harris: Hi, how’s it going Paddy?

PD: Doing Okay. How you doing?

JH: Doing good, doing good.

PD: What’s on your mind?

JH: So yeah, just wanted to touch base I heard Vianne Timmons, the President of Memorial on the radio yesterday talking about the protest that went on at the event last Friday. Just wanted to talk about how proud I was to see students stand up for tuition doubling and for accessible education on Friday where we presented a pink slip to Vianne for failing to secure post-secondary education funding from the provincial government.

PD: And how does that work realistically or pragmatically for the president to secure funding because surely, she and other leaders at Memorial University didn’t want to deal with $60 odd million less.

JH: I mean you’d think that would be the case but from what we’ve been hearing from Vianne, just yesterday she was on, or the day before, she was on Anthony Germain, she said the tuition freeze wasn’t working for anybody. So, you know we don’t really have any support for getting the funding back from the government from the president. The president of the university has been in lockstep with the provincial government on this. They’ve been a united front and it really doesn’t seem like to us that she really cares that $68.5 million is being taken away from the university.

PD: Okay and I can’t speak for her on that front. Let me bounce this off you and I know that the tuition freeze was… any thoughts of talking about it was just a non-starter. For many people at the university, and look I pay for my boys to go through, so I got some skin in this game. The tuition freeze at some point was going to come to an end and what we saw was as opposed to getting a tax break on tuition, we saw an increase in fees and we didn’t have any discussions about even minimum hikes in tuition reflective of operational costs what have you. Two percent or whatever the number is because that did not happen and it was always, just my personal, I’ve been talking about this for years, there was always going to come a time when the funding was going to be cut off or decreased to the level where we will see all of a sudden, an explosion in tuition. Did we mishandle the tuition freeze overall given where we are now?

JH: I don’t know if I agree with you there that there’s a determinist aspect to this you know we are the students at Memorial and we are the people of the province and we got a say or what we want to fund and what we don’t want to fund. I think that the students have really been coming together from our protest against the provincial government back All Out Like 99′ and you’ve seen throughout the history of our province and our student movement that students are ready to push, and they want fully funded accessible education and you know a $68 million is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the overall provincial budget you know. The provincial budget, yes, we’re in turmoil as a province but cutting Memorial isn’t going to solve that. We can’t put the debt of the province on the backs of our students and our future.

PD: No argument there. Once again, I do have skin in the game and one of my sons is still at Memorial University. For me, I mean I talk about it in these terms. So, when people are polled come election time what are their primary concerns? It’s the economy and taxes and healthcare and the environment and criminal justice and well down the line, always well down, certainly when we talk about education as provincial jurisdiction, education is always way down the line. When in fact if education was everyone’s primary concern, we would do better in healthcare, the economy, and taxes, and the environment, and all the way down the line. It’s funny the skewed way we look at education and there’s zero argument coming from me that the better educated the populous is the better chance we have of a viral long-term profitable province.

JH: Absolutely, I totally agree with you there Paddy. You know the $68.5 million dollar cut per year is short sighted coming from the Furey government. We really make austerity decisions in times like these that come back to bit us in the but. You know there’s not going to be any good coming from this. Really disappointed to see the president of the university isn’t standing with the students on this one.

PD: Yeah, I mean I don’t know where we go from here… Does it all fall back to the province because I know you’re landing a lot of it in Dr. Timmons’s Office when the amount of money that the province spends with at Memorial University is very similar to the level that the Government of Nova Scotia does but they’re funding 10 universities. So, are you laying it on Dr. Timmons’ office or does the blame or the concern lay with Minister Coady or Premier Furey?

JH: I think they share the blame on this one Paddy because we don’t see any support coming from the administration office on this. They talk out of two sides of their mouths when it comes to protest. At first, they always like to say ‘oh we love peaceful protest you know we encourage it’ and then when peaceful protest actually does happen like we saw on Friday they turn around and intimidate, punish, threaten. There’s a really kind of authoritarian culture coming out of the administration office we’re really disappointed to see. You know we’re not getting any support from the president’s office, so you know there’s the ones who doubled tuition. Yes, it was because of provincial cuts but they’re working together on this one and coming out on a united front so we’re protesting both of them.

PD: The comment coming from Dr. Timmons was that she also says there’s an expectation of appropriate decorum coming from protesters whether they be formal members of MUNSU or anybody else at the university or anybody else who cares about the university. She thinks that she’s not being treated with the level of respect and the type of decorum required even in the setting like the report to the community which was the issue which you’re speaking to there. What do you make of those comments?

JH: Well, that’s the thing Paddy when you have a report to the community where basically we saw what she was talking about. This was an opportunity to pat themselves on the back for a great semester and a great year and the same semester that they’ve made it twice as hard for students to get an education and you know we got to take those opportunities to say you know what we’re not going to let you pat yourselves on the backs, this is a semester where you doubled tuition for all students and you know we’re not going to let you that this is a great semester. So, we just protested it’s important. We have a strong history of protest but as protest so this was very tame, it was you know a few students with a sign, same thing happened last president with Dr. Gary, the pink slip saying resign and any kind of protest they’re not going to be happy with so we’re not going to be accused of being harassing or intimidating when the university has all the power in this situation.

PD: Is there a particular reason why it’s Dr. Gary and Vianne versus Dr. Kachanoski and Dr. Timmons?

JH: You know presidents are people just like you and I you know. I have the same level of respect as I do for you as I do for Dr. Timmons.

PD: That doesn’t sound very good.

JH: The same amount of respect I have my friend or my student or my co-worker. You know I view people on the same plane and I think that the idea of respectability in politics… it’s a sign of authoritarian culture that’s going on at the administration’s office.

PD: And I mean, and you can view me as you see fit but it doesn’t seem like you have much respect for the president of the university and if you have the same level of respect for me that’s interesting, but I can take it, I’m a big boy. Last one that I’ll put out there is – I also asked her about this and we’re been talking about because housing is a crunch whether it be foreign students and/or students moving in to town from Gander to find a home and in the post doc world there used to be a program at MUN called Home Share – you matched up a student with a senior for a cut rate in rent for some household chores and whatnot. The senior wins, the student wins, the university wins, we all win and others looking for housing they win as well. Any thought or talk inside of MUNSU about that because that could really benefit some of the people you are representing.

JH: Absolutely I mean housing is always a concern for us, we have a huge population of students who are constantly coming to us saying that we have problems with our landlord, rent is too high, problems with res, we are constantly engaged on that. We’re always looking for ways to advocate for housing, it’s a huge problem especially you know with inflation going on, the rent rates have skyrocketed.

PD: Appreciate the time this morning John, thanks.

JH: Thanks Paddy, have a good one.

1996: Students take over Parkway

Students take over Parkway

Tracey O’Reilly of the Student Education Alliance, a fledgling high school lobby group which has been very active since a mass demonstration of its own this summer. O’Reilly presented a mock report card to the Tobin government giving them failing grades for cutting public exams, implementing a user fee on busses while some students can’t afford a decent lunch, the cancellation of extra-curricular activities and the utter lack of consultation with young people on the future of education in Newfoundland. “Education is essentially about options and we can never ever let the boys and girls at Confederation Building take them away,” she said.

Actor-turned-activist Greg Malone also spoke at the rally, blasting the government for its mismanagement of natural resources and its failure to provide accessible education to the young people of the province. “We give away our fish, we give away our trees, we give away our nickel, we give away our iron, we give away our hydro. About the only thing we don’t give away in this country is an education,” Malone shouted to the cheering crowd. Malone also said that the deficit crisis is a myth propagated by right-wing think-tanks like the Fraser Institute and corporate driven newspapers like The Globe and Mail, which he called “Toronto’s national newspaper.” “The guys making $6-million or $9-million a year, plus perks, are telling us that the country is in an economic mess and we’re in a financial crisis because some woman getting an extra $30 on welfare is on a spending spree that’s driving the country into the ground,” he said. “We don’t have a deficit,” Malone shouted. “We have deceit.”

After the rally about 1,500 students marched up the Prince Philip Parkway, carrying a black wooden casket with the word ‘education’ written on it, to bring their message to Confederation Building and the provincial government. But when they got there security had locked the doors, and while most students began to assemble on the steps of the building, many began banging on the glass doors demanding that security let them inside. The sounds of glass thumping soon came from inside Confederation Building, however, as a group of mostly high-school students who sneaked in through a side-entrance began to beat on a set of inner doors as they tried to meet the other protestors in the middle. Eventually a small group was let inside to place the black casket in the main lobby before quickly being escorted back outside.

The students rallied for about 30 minutes before Education Minister Roger Grimes came out to face them. But when he arrived Loyola Carey, chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Students, said it was his intention to make government listen to students for a change. “This time Mr. Grimes is coming to listen,” Carey said. “I’ve listened since I was knee high to a grasshopper and now it’s my turn to speak. Students occupied the east-bound lane of the Parkway on their way to Confederation Building. “I’m tired of hearing a lot of wind and nothing coming behind it.” Carey read a list of demands to the minister, saying students want a tuition freeze, with the eventual phasing out of tuition completely, and that students receive grants to attend school instead of loans. When Grimes was finally allowed to speak he was greeted with chants of “bullshit” from the crowd. “It’s always a positive contribution to a debate to say something like that. It’s very helpful to the discussion,” Grimes said to the crowd. Grimes eventually gave the crowd the non-committal reply it expected. “We’ve had a lot of discussions over the eight months that I’ve been education minister with your student representatives and all I can say is we’ve taken the issue seriously,” Grimes said. The education minister quickly went back inside, dodging demands from the crowd to know how much Grimes paid for his education during the days that MUN offered free tuition to all Newfoundlanders.

Carey was quite obviously not impressed with what Grimes had to say. “You ever hear the saying ‘same old, same old?'” Carey asked the crowd. “Well, add a word onto it: Same old, same old bullshit.” The majority of students then moved to occupy the four-lane stretch of the Parkway immediately in front of Confederation Building. The impromptu sit-in lasted for about 20 minutes before the crowd realized that traffic was being re-routed and quickly moved down the road to have a seat in the middle of the Parkway’s intersection with Higgin’s Line. By now the crowd was down to about 600 people, but continued to chant loudly and for more than 20 minutes backed up traffic for miles, causing some frustrated commuters to drive their cars over the curb and up sidewalks to get around the mass of protestors. The protest was part of a national week of action being organized by the Canadian Federation of Students. Students across Atlantic Canada held simultaneous, but smaller, demonstrations in their respective cities to protest government cutbacks.

Originally published in The Muse on October 25, 1996.

1995: Students march on Confederation Building

Protesting proposed changes to education…

Students march on Confederation Building

By MUSE STAFF

The much awaited National Day of Student Strike in protest of Lloyd Axworthy’s proposed social reforms began as hundreds of students crowded the gym at Memorial University’s (MUN) Thomson Student Centre (TSC). Eventually the crowd numbered in the thousands as students from MUN, Cabot College, the Marine Institute and other institutions filled the entire gymnasium and all three floors of the TSC. The rally began around noon on Wednesday, January 25, with Paul Thornhill, Vice President Internal of the Council of the Students’ Union (CSU) spurring the demonstrators on with strains of Aretha Franklin playing in the background. “We’re telling the government of this country to reconsider your priorities,” said Thornhill. “Rethink your programs, an education in Newfoundland is a priority.” ‘Today you’re joining with over 450,000 post secondary students,” said Craig Adams, National Executive Member of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), “and we’re kicking it off here in St. John’s, Newfoundland with the biggest show of support that I’ve ever seen in my life.” Representatives from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, the Young Liberals, CSU, the New Democratic Party of Newfoundland and the Progressive Conservative party of Newfoundland were on hand to show support for the demonstration. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about where the students stand on this issue,” said Jack Harris, MHA for St. John’s East. “Having access to post secondary education is our opportunity for ourselves, for our families, for our children to overcome many obstacles.” Greg Malone, leader of the activist group Power for the People was also in attendance. “The people who are making these decisions for you have had their educations paid for to the tune of 80 percent,” said Malone. “Now they’re looking over their shoulders at you and are planning to cut the bridge that brought them across over to their future.” Provincial Conservative party leadership candidate Layola Sullivan remarked that about 4000-5000 students would be shut out of post secondary institutions if the proposed changes were enacted. “What galls me is that Premier Wells is encouraging the federal government to make these cuts.”

The initial rally wound up at about 1:00 pm with the protesting students moving outdoors to begin stage two of the demonstration, a march en masse to the office of Bonnie Hickey, Liberal member of Parliament for St. John’s East. Approximately 4500 marchers stormed the Prince Philip Parkway walking into oncoming traffic. Traffic was halted as they proceeded ahead of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC), so protestors changed lanes occupying both sides of the highway. Traffic was slowed for a considerable amount of time leading to a warning from the RNC. According to Darrell Hynes, V.P. Academic of the CSU, the RNC had said that the protest was “out of control.” Upon arriving at Hickey’s office, protesters were told that she was not there, nor could she be reached by phone at her office in Ottawa. A press release was issued by her office regarding the concerns of the protestors. “The government released a discussion paper to get input and ideas from Canadians on proposals to reform our social security system,” said Hickey. “The students who have gathered for today’s rally have been involved in the broad based consultations from the beginning. They want to ensure that their voice has been heard, and I can assure them that it has been.” Continuous chants of “Axe the Ax,” “Shame,” “No more Cuts,” “Hey Ho the Ax Got to Go,” and “Enough is Enough” could be heard outside the office. The rally moved onward to the Confederation Building where students continued to express their view on the discussion paper and Axworthy’s proposed cuts. Spirits continued to run high even as numbers dwindled with the poor weather conditions to about 2000 according to Adams. Winston Baker, Director of Treasury, spoke privately with The Muse about his concerns for the students and the proposed actions that Axworthy may take. He suggested the possibility that any change that Axworthy may make with regards to social programs would be compensated through increased taxes. After much anticipation Chris Decker, Minister of Education, appeared on the steps of the Confederation Building to announce that along with ministers from the Atlantic provinces he will be meeting with Axworthy next Monday to state that in no uncertain terms they are not in favour of the proposed After spending hours in the snow the demonstrators began to disperse at about 3:00 pm. Final estimates of the size of the demonstration placed between 4500 and 5000 students participating.

Written by Michael Connors and Lynn Thomas with files from Gabriella Fisher, Kyna O’Neill, Lorie Keating and Duleepa Wijayawardhana.
Photos by Peter Galgay.

Number of students protesting in major Canadian cities on Jan 25th:

St.John’s – 5000 rallied and marched in protest
Halifax – 1500 marched in protest
Fredricton – 50 to 100 manned picket lines
Montreal – 10 000 to 15 000 picketed and marched
Toronto -10 000 to 15 000 marched to the mayor’s residence
Ottawa – 1000 to 2000 marched on Parliament Hill
Hamilton – 1500 protested
Winnipeg – 3500 marched and picketed
Edmonton – 250 to 300 rallied
Regina – 700+ attended picket lines
Victoria – 5000 gathered in a rally
Vancouver – 1500 to 2000 rallied in the downtown area
(Compiled with the help of Canadian University Press.)

Originally published in The Muse on January 27, 1995.

CBC On The Go with Anthony Germain featuring MUN President Vianne Timmons

Anthony Germain and Vianne Timmons.

On December 5th, 2022, Memorial University President Vianne Timmons took part in a segment on CBC Anthony Germain’s show “On The Go.” Below is a transcript of the episode:

Anthony Germain: I have a guest in the studio and much to talk about, going to follow up on a story we brought you on Friday about Memorial University and hopefully talk about some other issues other than student protests and tuition because I think we’ve done a fair bit of chewing that over but we’ll start with that. A MUN Student Union rep came in the studio as you may recall, to tell us that university officials were a bit heavy-handed when they threatened to forcibly remove protesters from an event on campus, Jawad Chowdhury, Executive Director of Advocacy told us that they were there to give the president a symbolic pink slip and be explained why:

Jawad Chowdhury: Vianne Timmons, Dr. Vianne Timmons failed to secure sufficient public funding for Memorial University, she also misspent of the existing public funds on lavish salaries and office renovations and administrative bloat, exploiting international students by differential fees, saddling students with mountains of student debt, failure to develop a university budget that does not double tuition fees and ensure an accessible education for all.

AG: Now that was Jawad Chowdhury, Executive Director of Advocacy for Memorial University Students Union speaking here with me on Friday. Now, I did challenge Jawad when he said that he thought that should be zero tuition and the reaction from many listeners was well ‘you gotta pay something’ and unfortunately, we’ve now reached a point where you have to pay more than you used to. Vianne Timmons is president of Memorial University and she’s in the studio with me now. Welcome to the program.

Vianne Timmons: Thank you. Thank you so much Anthony.

AG: Lots to talk about, we’ve got lots of time so I’m glad you made it in here. So, lets start with whatever it was that happened late last week. Do you think that MUN officials were a bit heavy-handed with how they reacted to what the students did?

VT: Well, I was there. Students came in, we were doing a report to the community, we had an audience, and we were doing it from six sites on all the things the university has done with communities over the last year and the students ended up blocking me from being able to interact with the community. I did not hear anyone threaten them. I did go over to them Anthony myself; I thanked them for coming and I asked if they could just stand to the side so that I could see the audience and interact.

AG: So, when I saw on social media, basically for people who are listening there was like a big pink slip I mean the size of a giant billboard really so were you behind that?

VT: Yes, they blocked me from interacting with the audience. So, they were quite close to me. So, I just asked them if they could move to the side so I could interact with the audience and they declined and so I did not do the question-and-answer period and at the end of the time they stayed there quietly, they were quiet, but they were blocking me from seeing or interacting with the audience. At the end I just wanted to say thank you to the people for coming and they followed me to block me again. I went to the side and then someone stepped and just said like “you’re too close to her” and so I just thanked the audience and that was it. That was my interaction with them.

AG: Right, so then, I’m trying to remember the gentlemen’s name who told them that he was going to disinvite them from some committees or something like that so what’s that?

VT: So, Anthony I’m the chair of Senate and students are on many, many, many committees and I’m not removing them from any. He has some informal interaction with them, looking at student safety, student conduct and he may or may not choose to continue those committees, they’re informal, those his that he initiated.

AG: But that’s a punitive nature, right?

VT: I have not talked to Greg about that so I don’t know but sometimes on the spur of the moment you say something but definitely students are not going to be removed from any official university committees. I chair Senate, they’re on Senate committees, they’re on the board, they’re continue to play that role, an important role and be there.

AG: Now Vianne Timmons, it’s not your first rodeo in academica or at any university I mean it surely can’t come as any surprise to you that students are getting a little fisty when it comes to fighting their perception that tuition increases are unacceptable, right?

VT: No, that’s true. I do find my experience here though is that students, well I’ll just use Friday as an example, in my eleven years as previous president, it would be unusual for students to interrupt a community event that was celebrating community. That they chose to do, that’s fine. There are many ways for students to express their concerns and we do still have the lowest tuition in Atlantic Canada. That was really important to us that we made sure it was accessible. We’ve also invested millions into scholarships and bursaries. So, you know we are doing our best to make sure university’s accessible to all students.

AG: I guess the fact that they’re willing to go to these lengths, is it a question of them being rude or crossing a line or is it a manifestation of the level of dissatisfaction with how prices have increased?

VT: I don’t know. I can’t speculate why they do it, but I will say the world itself has changed over the last decade you know with social media, the Trump effect I think people feel more comfortable saying and doing things that they wouldn’t have a decade before and often people like myself women are targets for that kind of disrespect behaviour. I’m not saying the students were, they were not disrespectful to me at the event, but they disrupted the event, and they blocked my ability to interact with the audience.

AG: Right, so is any kind of security review as a result of this?

VT: We’re going to look at the security protocols. There was no security, no security went up to them or interrupted them and I want students to be able to protest and have the space to protest but it’s disconcerting as a women when they rush up to you and they block you. We have to learn from it and figure out how to do both things, keep people safe and make sure that students right to protest is honoured.

AG: So, how long have you been in the job now?

VT: Two and a half years.

AG: Okay, so it’s been quite the two and a half years.

VT: It has been quite the two and a half years.

AG: You’re timing has been quite something. Has it been what you thought it would be?

VT: No, not at all. So, I took the job before we had COVID. Right, I started April 1st right when COVID hit. First thing I faced was extreme budget challenges and we had to look at the tuition and the 20 year freeze on tuition was it working for anyone? So, we had to take a look at that. We’ve done really amazing things though in that two and a half years. We opened a Labrador campus which has been doing phenomenal work, we launched a strategic plan, we’re educating nurses in Gander and in Labrador. We are starting a continuing distance ed program. There’s so many amazing things that have gotten shadowed I think by some negativity so that why the report to the community was important to kind of celebrate in the past year, all six sites have done amazing work and we wanted to share it.

AG: Right, when you say it’s not what you thought it would be. What do you mean? Has it been nastier than you thought?

VT: Yes, it’s been much nastier than I thought. You know I’m coming home right so the idea of the warmth and welcoming of Newfoundlanders, which is there, it absolutely is, but I think I’ve been surprised at how nasty people are and I’m a real believer in debate and discussion and dissent even but I’m not accustomed to the personal attacks I had. I have found that pretty tough over the past two and a half years.

AG: Personal from commentators, or students, or colleagues, or who?

VT: Oh, it’s been from students, not commentators in the media but from public. They don’t like a decision, it is not uncommon for me to have an email that is full of profanity, talking about running me out of town or a number of other things and Anthony I want people to give me their opinion and I respect it when I get it. I’ve listened to every email I read, I watch social media and when they give me thoughtful, constructive feedback or critiques a decision the university made I’m really happy and I’m honoured they feel they can do that. It’s the nastiness that I’m finding disconcerting.

AG: Certainly no one wants to deal with nastiness or toxicity, but I wonder if part of you is also a bit sensitive that if you’re too defensive you risk coming across as a little precious.

VT: Yeah well, I hope I haven’t come across as too defensive but when someone swears at you and tells you that they’re going to run you out of town I think it’s okay to be defensive and to be protective a little bit.

AG: I want to change focus now, talk about the Ode to Newfoundland. You or the university took a bit of flank for dropping the provincial anthem from recent convocation ceremonies. I know that when you had your update you addressed this issue. What have you learned?

VT: So, you know I’ve learned a lot about how people feel about the Ode and I will tell you that the three different opinions are all strong. An opinion that we should have never removed it from convocation, the opinion that the Ode needs to be changed and an encouragement to promote that discussion and then people being very appreciative that we’re not singing the Ode at convocation. So those three views are strong and are varied. There is no consensus on it which is really important for a university to generate a discussion about you know tradition and things that we do that we sometimes haven’t put thought into and for many of our Indigenous faculty, staff, and students this has been an important decision. What I love about a university is we teach our students that words matter and in this case they listened to the words and came to me and said words matter.

AG: So, I’m not quite sure I understand though. Does that mean that you are going to put the Ode back or that you want the Government to change the Ode or what? I’m a little confused.

VT: We changed Oh Canada lyrics. At this point Senate is going to have a discussion on it and I’ll wait for that. I want to hear from the Senators, they’re thoughtful and after that then I’ll convene a group and we’ll make some decisions.

AG: Because I think in some ways, I mean I took a lot of flank on the show because I made the point that you just did about Oh Canada lyrics change and anthems can be modernized and not to mention it’s the Ode to Newfoundland and not Labrador so there’s exclusion as well. It’s not so much that, I’m more, I wonder if once you start going down the road that we’re not going to do this because it reflects a colonial era, and you are Memorial University of Newfoundland named after a colonial arms force. How far do you go with what you unravel? I mean we’ve seen Ryerson change its name.

VT: This is a very common discussion at universities and Ryerson did have to change its name.

AG: They want McGill to change its name. I mean how far does this go?

VT: I think it’s a conversation that could go far. You know there’s pressure on us to look at the name of our buildings and campuses so there is a presidential task force that’s beginning that discussion to look at that. So, I think it’s important that we change and grow as a society and what better place to lead change that a university?

AG: This is why Vianne Timmons it’s better to name buildings disciplines than people.

VT: I know. I know.

AG: Alright that’s a lot of serious stuff, I meet, and we interview a lot of people on the show thank to the departments and brains over at Memorial University. What would you say are the top two things you’re proudest of over across the street from us right now? To end on something positive.

VT: Well, the proudest thing I am is not across the street, it’s in Labrador and the Labrador campus for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to look at the python for example it’s a research farm that’s part of our Labrador and to look at the food that they’ve distributed this year. It is a phenomenal story. It was part of our report to the community. It is such a great story to look at the Bonne Bay Research Aquarium Centre you know in Norris Point and the thousands of visitors it had there. To look at what our physicians, our researchers, and our clinicians do all through Newfoundland and Labrador. Identifying you know genetic cause of hearing loss and looking at that you know. There are so many good stories that are so important to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. And I’m just so proud to be part of this university that does such amazing work.

AG: Alright so the nastiness, you’re not going anywhere, right? You’re sticking around?

VT: Right at this minute in front of you I am not going but one of the challenges is that there’s been a lot of transition at the university. I’ve had five Vice-President’s Academic since I come in two and a half years. Now this is something that’s happening everywhere, in other universities, in businesses, there’s a huge turnover of senior administration.

AG: Is it like retirement?

VT: Many reasons, they’ve left for many reasons, retirements, illness, leaving for a different job. All three have happened in one post in the provost’s office. So, you know it’s a challenging time to recruit and keep senior leaders right now in the country.

AG: Last question, sort of on the misfiring brain, is the law school still going ahead?

VT: Not at this time. But what is going ahead which I’m really excited…

AG: Because I don’t know a single lawyer in town who think it’s a good idea.

VT: Well, there’s many judges that do because they know the importance of law reform. But that right now is park, what we are doing is focusing on is looking at continuing education arm of the university to offer programs on evenings and weekends, to look at a life span approach, we’re looking at a senior’s college and early children learning. Stay tuned for that, right now that a really exciting change we’re going to make to the university.

AG: Okay well listen I’m really glad you could in, lots covered there, and I hope we should make this a regular thing.

VT: I would love that, Anthony. Thank you.

AG: Thank you Vianne Timmons.

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.

Respectful Learning Environment policy consultation submissions

A recently obtained ATIPP reveals consultation submissions for the proposed Respectful Learning Environment policy from October 1st, 2022 to November 3rd. Download file below:

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.

MUN Student Code consultation submissions

ATIPP.

A recently obtained ATIPP reveals consultation submissions for the proposed Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities policy from October 1st, 2022 to November 3rd. Download file below:

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.

CBC On The Go with Anthony Germain featuring MUNSU’s Jawad Chowdhury

Anthony Germain and Jawad Chowdhury.

On December 2nd, 2022, MUN Students’ Union Executive Director of Advocacy Jawad Chowdhury took part in a segment on CBC Anthony Germain’s show “On The Go.” Below is a transcript of the episode:

Anthony Germain: Students at Memorial University says administrative officials went over the top today when they threatened to remove students from a university event. Members of the student union and their supporters held up a giant pink slip with President Vianne Timmons name on during the university’s public report to the community. Jawad Chowdhury is Executive Director of Advocacy for Memorial University’s Student Union and he’s in the studio with me. Good afternoon.

Jawad Chowdhury: Good afternoon.

AG: So, before we get to the threat sir, can you describe the scene? What were students doing?

JC: Right, so today was the president’s report to the community and it was an event where the university essentially portrays all the good work that has been done but over the past year, we’ve seen that students have been under stress from the tuition fee hikes and living cost and so students today chose this event because it was a perfect fit, we could also express our message to the community and we went there with a pink slip that essentially said Vianne Timmons our president was fired and we cited the following.

AG: Just before you say that I should point out this is a very big pink slip, it is not like a sheet of paper like I’m holding.

JC: No, it’s a 3 by 4 feet pink slip.

AG: So, it’s a giant pink slip.

JC: It is a giant pink slip. So, the pink slip had the following on it, it said that Dr. Vianne Timmons failed to secure sufficient public funding for Memorial University, she also misspent of the existing public funds on lavish salaries, office renovations and administrative bloat, exploiting international students by differential fees, saddling students with mountains of student debt, failure to develop a university budget that does not double tuition fees and ensure accessible education for all.

AG: Alright so you listed what you believe are the president’s shortcomings. Was this kind of a disruptive thing? Were you there with blow horns and blasting messages or was this, what kind of protest was it?

JC: So, President Timmons at the beginning of the event presented her speech and students took the stage right after that and presented the pink slip. It was very peaceful, there were no words exchanged.

AG: But you weren’t invited to the stage?

JC: No, we were not invited to the stage. We were invited to the event yes.

AG: Okay, so you got up there on stage. So, this sounds like a stunt like a typical protest stunt, right?

JC: It is a protest, yes.

AG: What was the reaction? What happened?

JC: Well, after we got there the university administration threatened to remove us from the stage using Campus Enforcement to which we said yes we are open to it but no actions were taken but then we left very peacefully once the event was concluded and once we came out we were met by the Chief Risk Officer at MUN who threatened to kick students out of university committees because of the actions that we just did.

AG: Now it just so happens that there was someone there, like everywhere with a phone and so somebody decided to record. I think we have some of that, so I’ll get Ken to share that with the listener.

Greg McDougall: MUNSU next Thursday… with committees it’s not happening, I’ll find other students who want to be involved with it, you are silencing other students’ voices… We worked with you very hard… offered up open dialogue to set up a meeting with us. This was not a positive way forward…

Ely Pitman: Maybe you should take 24 hours to think on it.

GM: No, I actually already emailed in terms of those meeting and stuff going forward. We’ll involve students but we’re not going to work through that anymore.

Isabel: There’s no change without direct action and disruption, there’s never been.

GM: But the point was made from being up there, you could have asked tough questions.

Student: We’ve been asking tough questions; the answers haven’t been there!

GM: In a public form like this?

Isabel: We’ve asked for a personal meeting with Timmons and never got it, it is not an escalation at any point.

GM: I’m just stating that you are silencing students’ voices. We allowed it and we respect protest.

Isabel: You’re pricing students out, there’s no one or the other – it’s not a silencing of anybody.

GM: As a student protest is part of it, bringing forth that, that’s a very important message to share about the cost of education and access to it like that is the role of the student unit, union and it is fully supported by this university but it’s finding positive paths forward.

Isabel: How do you think we have ever gotten any wins with education? Tuition was doubled at this university in the late 90s and students didn’t get that reversed by asking for it politely. That’s not what happened. Also, we did no harm by anyone by coming here. We just disrupted the meeting, we brought our message here and this is the only way to be heard at a public forum.

GM: You only serve to silence other students voices.

AG: So, can you describe, I mean I seen it, who’s the Risk Officer?

JC: Greg McDougall.

AG: So, Greg McDougall comes out and he says you’re going to be disinvited from some committees or something?

JC: Yes, so apparently there was some university committee that was going to get striked next Thursday and he said he’s not going to invite the union anymore but he’s going to open it to the general student body and like the thing is all students at Memorial are the union, we are over 10,000 strong and so there is no way of kicking students out of university committees.

AG: Okay we’ll see what happens with committees, but it sounds as though that’s a direct consequence of whatever happened on the stage with the giant pink slip, right?

JC: That is correct, and I would also like to mention that President Timmons on multiple occasions has inspired students to protest, she also mentioned that protesting is a student right and that is contradictory to that statement.

AG: I think he was saying that too though in what he was trying to say to the students who were there, right? Were you there when this happened?

JC: I was there, yes.

AG: So, what’s happened with the relationship?

JC: Well, the relationship with the university admin has not been good since long because tuition fees doubled, tripled for local students here at Memorial and so that’s where the relationship was actually damaged and so this is our way of being disruptive at getting our voices heard.

AG: What do you actually want from them? The president has done what the president has done so tuition has gone up, I suspect you are realistic, and you don’t expect that to roll back do you?

JC: We do, so you know back in the late 90s tuition fees also doubled, students organized, protested got us a tuition fee freeze which is how Memorial had the most affordable tuition in the country for 22 long years and so after the tuition fees went up, we protested this November 2nd we marched to the Confederation Building. We made our stance clear to the Government. We met with the Government and every time in those meetings the Government says that Memorial was going to raise tuition anyway, they came to the Government proposing that and the Government approved it. Whereas if you go to the university admin, they say that the government cut funding and so tuition fees are going up.

AG: Right, so you’re getting explanation from both sides blaming each other.

JC: Exactly, it’s a lot of back and forth and students are tired of it.

AG: What’s the solution here?

JC: The solution is to provide free accessible education so that everyone can have access to education.

AG: So, what are you studying at MUN?

JC: I study business.

AG: Okay, so you study business, you’ve seen the balance sheet of the province, you think that they can afford to have free tuition in this province? Really?

JC: This is an investment if you think about it so.

AG: We would have to restructure the entire finances of government though, wouldn’t we? Like no tuition people pay nothing.

JC: See tuition at Memorial only makes up roughly 20 percent of Memorial’s budget, rest of it comes from research investment and external funding.

AG: And government funding?

JC: And government funding, yes. So, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador historically committed to free education before and so we believe this is possible again and we’ve been advocating for it since very long and we are hopeful.

AG: So, what will MUNSU do next, it sounds as though you’re not going to be welcome at these committees. What’s next?

JC: Only time can tell but will have an active presence on campus, we will have an active presence on all the Senate committee that we are currently on, and we will continue to advocate for students in all those spaces.

AG. Right. I did hear in that video somebody urging the officer, what’s his name again?

JC: Greg McDougall.

AG: Yeah, to take a breath and think on it for 24 hours.

JC: That was Ely Pitman our Executive Director of Student Life.

AG: Alright, I get the feeling that your points of view aren’t going to change if you wait 24 hours?

JC: See students have been voicing these concerns for long. It’s not about 24 hours for us. This been coming since last year. And there’s no way of stopping us, students will get what they deserve.

AG: Okay Jawad, I appreciate you coming in. Thank you very much. That’s Jawad Chowdhury, Executive Director of Advocacy for Memorial University’s Student Union… The students making their point, they’re still angry about increases in tuition and they want a break on the price, maybe as much as Jawad said free education, at the very least rolling back to where it was.

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.

MUN Chief Risk Officer sparks outrage

Twitter.

Students protested funding cuts and tuition hikes by presenting Memorial University President Vianne Timmons with a pink slip on December 2nd, 2022. A video shows that after the peaceful protest Chief Risk Officer Greg McDougall confronted members of the MUN Students’ Union who were involved in the protest. Many have taken to social media to express outrage over McDougall’s conduct.

Political Science Professor Russell Alan Williams states “This is really disheartening. Student participation and dialogue about things like huge tuition hikes does not have to be positive. If you think students are too critical, you don’t just replace them.”

MUN Students’ Union Resource Katherine McLaughlin says, “I’m so disgusted at @MemorialU – ‘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.”

Student Bruce March states that “The right to peaceful protest and demonstration is of critical importance in a healthy democracy. @MemorialU has shown their blatant disregard for this right in trying to shut down and silence dissent. Its one thing to disagree, it’s another to crack down on opposition.”

Historian Lori Lee Oates states, “If he thinks NL students are going to be quiet and ask for things politely offline, he doesn’t know about the history of student activism in NL.”

Salt Pages NL states, “Change does not happen without direct action – the efforts of MUNSU come from a long tradition of student protest and have been made necessary by the administration’s refusal to listen.”

Nick Gushue says, “It is absolutely key that the University Admin is focusing on civility politics as a way to shift the debate from accessible education to being polite. The Union must be allowed to voice the concerns of the student body through protests like this.”

User @clnewf states, “This is absolutely DISGUSTING!!! This is the type of administration we have at @MemorialU one that puts down students and their union for PEACEFULLY protesting and speaking on behalf of students about the accessibility and cost of tuition!! Be ashamed of yourself @vianne_timmons.”

The Canadian Federation of Students Newfoundland and Labrador states, “MUNSU has shown that in the face of skyrocketing tuition, their voices will not be silenced. Despite the Administration’s best efforts, they will continue to protest and advocate for #accessible and #affordable education for all. The students united will never be defeated!”

Rhea Rollmann says, “Always nice to see finely-shod chaps earning $178,000 a year in publicly-funded salaries tell students to find “positive” ways to talk about the cost of education.”

Alicia Poole states, “LOL so only students who agree with the university administration’s plans to continue to decimate post-secondary education accessibility in the province are able to participate in these conversations? What sort of institution is this becoming? Certainly not one which respects base-level democratic participation or the opinion of students, whom the university is designed to serve (in theory, ofc). As an alumni and current PhD student at @mcgillu, given the cuts to education and student support, this response to student protest, and lack of negotiation with @MUNFaculty, I am embarrassed and losing hope that there will be jobs at @MemorialU to return to that support good research and (which requires) a diverse student body who feel that post-secondary education is within their reach without taking on significant debt. I hope that administration, including @gmmcdoug and @vianne_timmons are able to take the space to see how damaging and harmful their actions are to the future of the province.”

User @GreatAuk709 states, “I am an alumnus @MemorialU and view this action by your risk officer as completely reprehensible.  He and others involved in threatening and demeaning these student representatives should be held accountable and forced to resign. Shame on @memorial.”

Travis Perry says, “And without ignoring the very serious issues of admin interference in governance, it should be pointed out that the Chief Risk Officer is one of the only people not wearing a mask in this video. Governance is not the responsibility of the CRO but managing the University’s response to the ongoing COVID pandemic is. Pretty easy to see where @MemorialU admin stands on the health risks for members of our community, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”

Paul Foote says, “As a @MemorialUAlumni I find this quite disturbing. Protest and demonstrations have been a fundamental element to constructive exchange and discourse throughout academic institutions forever. It’s clear that our institution has lost its values for thoughtful expression of ideas.”

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.

Greg McDougall Tried to Sound Tough with MUNSU. His Body Language Conveyed a Different Message

Greg McDougall.

On December 2nd, 2022, several students protested funding cuts and tuition hikes by presenting Memorial University President Vianne Timmons with a pink slip. After the peaceful protest, Chief Risk Officer Greg McDougall confronted members of the MUN Students’ Union who were involved in the protest. McDougall seemed to be trying to portray himself very sternly to the protestors. He failed.

McDougall did not look comfortable in the video. In fact, I think he looked insecure. His body language in front of the students may have shown how he really felt. My analysis is that, in addition to crossing his arms, he even crossed his legs at one instance. Also there were points where McDougall seem to be biting his lips, holding his hands and walking away from the conversation at the same time. 

I have researched what those mannerisms usually mean and here is what I found that, in my opinion, may be applicable to the situation:

Regarding holding his own hands, on changingminds.org under hand body language, it states, “hands may also hold the self, such as when people hold their own hands, typically for comfort. Wringing the hands indicates more extreme nervousness. Holding the self can also be an act of restraint.” 

Tutorialspoint.com states that “The standing leg cross is a body gesture of defiance, defensiveness and submission.”

According to psychmechanics.com, during a conversation cross-legged body language “can indicate a withdrawn attitude.” And people tend to talk in shorter sentences and reject more proposals.

In my opinion, his communication wasn’t the only instance that day in which McDougall tried to appear one way but come off another. McDougall seems to have wanted to dress up for the event, and I commend him for the effort. However, I would say he also failed in that task. My criticism of his fashion choices would be that he was wearing a jacket and pants that are clearly not the same set. And I don’t think dark shirts look good when worn with a suit. Yet, if I was going with a dark shirt color, I would definitely not pick a tie that is a lighter color than the shirt. And I wouldn’t wear a tie that is broader than the lapel of my jacket. However, I think the worst fashion faux pas was wearing brown shoes with a dark outfit. And I especially disliked that the shoes appear to be square toed and not have any laces.

I think Greg would be more confident and look great in a good suit and with an openness towards a wide range of protest methods. Come over to the light side of the force, Greg!

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.