Gut­ting MUN will not solve N.L.’s fi­nan­cial woes

Northern Pen - - Front page -

Any­one who cares about the fu­ture of New­found­land and Labrador must be alarmed by the prov­ince’s as­sault on our only univer­sity. Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s May 14 col­umn il­lus­trates the sit­u­a­tion starkly. On one hand, we have sus­tained cuts to Me­mo­rial’s op­er­at­ing bud­get; on the other, ris­ing costs, re­flect­ing both in­fla­tion and a crum­bling in­fra­struc­ture that puts MUN’s work­ers and stu­dents in harm’s way. Me­mo­rial’s se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion sees in­creased tu­ition fees as a means to close the gap, but the gov­ern­ing Lib­er­als have made it clear they will re­spond by re­duc­ing the trans­fer pay­ment such that every dol­lar gained in tu­ition fees is matched by one dol­lar less in MUN’s grant from the gov­ern­ment.

Me­mo­rial’s stu­dent unions rightly point out that af­ford­able tu­ition is a ma­jor draw — both to a prov­ince fac­ing a deficit of young peo­ple and to a city that a re­cent study places at the bot­tom of a live­abil­ity list for young Cana­di­ans. And that’s leav­ing aside wider ar­gu­ments for af­ford­able tu­ition, the de­mands of so­cial jus­tice and the long-term eco­nomic ben­e­fits of an ed­u­cated pop­u­la­tion among them. MUNFA, the union rep­re­sent­ing Me­mo­rial’s aca­demic staff, agrees that we must pro­tect Me­mo­rial’s broad ac­ces­si­bil­ity. But, with our stu­dents, we be­lieve the gov­ern­ment must match its pro­tec­tion of tu­ition fair­ness with a com­mit­ment to the in­sti­tu­tion’s vi­a­bil­ity as a cen­tre of teach­ing and re­search.

Wanger­sky sug­gests dras­tic ac­tion: “pick an ex­pen­sive pro­gram that the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment par­tic­u­larly likes, and an­nounce that it’s be­ing dis­con­tin­ued. Heck, maybe a cash-strapped univer­sity can’t af­ford to op­er­ate two cam­puses on op­po­site sides of a big is­land any­more.” We can only hope he is mak­ing this sug­ges­tion in a spirit akin to Jonathan Swift’s “Mod­est Pro­posal” for deal­ing with Ir­ish poverty by sell­ing poor in­fants to the rich for food, as a polemic de­signed to pro­voke. Then again, if the pro­vin­cial Lib­er­als have their way, few enough may be al­lowed the broad ed­u­ca­tion needed to get the ref­er­ence, which amounts to sell­ing (out) our young by other means.

MUNFA’s take? We still see places where Me­mo­rial’s se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tors di­vert funds from the univer­sity’s core teach­ing and re­search mis­sion to the trap­pings of cor­po­ra­ti­za­tion.

Noth­ing sym­bol­izes this bet­ter than the con­tin­ued use of out­side head­hunters for ad­min­is­tra­tive job searches. But no amount of ad­just­ments to the en­ter­tain­ment and mar­ket­ing bud­gets can coun­ter­act cuts of the mag­ni­tude im­posed on MUN by the cur­rent gov­ern­ment — a gov­ern­ment that has com­pounded those cuts by aban­don­ing its obli­ga­tion to ad­dress the un­funded li­a­bil­ity in the MUN pen­sion fund be­fore pass­ing the plan along to the joint re­spon­si­bil­ity of the univer­sity and its em­ploy­ees.

MUNFA mem­bers un­der­stand that we have all been put be­tween this rock and hard place by dis­as­trous de­ci­sions made by pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments, the folly of Muskrat Falls chief among them. But de­stroy­ing New­found­land and Labrador’s pub­lic univer­sity is not the so­lu­tion we need.

In the end, if we lose the means to learn our his­tory, we will be con­demned to re­peat it.

Robin Whi­taker,

Pres­i­dent, Me­mo­rial Univer­sity of New­found­land Fac­ulty As­so­ci­a­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.