It seems that Memorial University President Gary Kachanoski is
frustrated with the Government, though it is a bit late to express that
sentiment. Memorial largely ignored the warning signals about debt and risk to civil
society from a decade of overspending by successive government Administrations.
When the University ought to have sounded the alarm, it instead finds itself in
the same boat as every other institution.
budget this year. In addition, the Government threatened to cut the subsidy to
the University by a commensurate value of the increase if tuition fees were
hiked for local students. Said a clearly disappointed University President, the
province has to decide what kind of university it wants.
|Memorial University President, Dr. Gary Kachanoski|
as a tool for anything other than pricing the quality of its offerings. But
diffidence over this issue has a long history. Local students are still paying
the 1999 course rate! By what measure, except in the arena of raw politics, is
that sensible; inflation never having been declared dead, especially in the
over-heated economy (until recently) of this Province?
But what did he expect? It’s not as if the Government is equipped to recast
complicated public policy issues any more than it is willing to acknowledge the
current fiscal crisis. From a more competent Minister, the University President
may not want to hear the limited range of options anyway. The question Kachanoski
raises is not a matter of what the Province wants but what it can afford.
and employee touched by a provincial government dollar, from healthcare to education,
from MUNFA to NAPE to CUPE, hopes that, at worst, the status quo will be
maintained. It is faint hope to be sure and held only because all have been
willingly complicit, with the government, in the denial of our fiscal
Newfoundland and Labrador. Whether or not individuals have attended as students,
most have a notion of how it impacts our economy, our society and our people on
a personal level — their intellectual development, quality of life and careers.
is integral to the conversations held in our living rooms and at the dinner table. No one wants to see Memorial upbraided or in
any way diminished. This is not merely sentiment. A diminished Memorial
University implicitly represents a poorer province, a fact reconfirmed in a recent
story by the Economist magazine based upon a look at “1,120 studies across 139
countries” which confirmed “rising returns” from investments in education. Such
a conclusion won’t surprise many in this province. But, realistically, when the
coffers are completely empty and the fight begins over what institutions and
services are most entitled, Memorial will still be in a scramble against health
care, social services and a whole lot more.
complained that its infrastructure was poorer, its offerings fewer and its
salaries less than that afforded by its counterparts in Atlantic Canada. In the
past decade, many of those deficiencies have been sated — though not all. Infrastructure
still lags. The pension plan is still modestly deficient, prospects for growth,
including a Law School, are in tatters. The initial cuts to its operating
budget are likely irreversible. Indeed, it should be dawning on Memorial that this
might not be another ‘one-off’ but the start of a trend.
all Memorial’s senior leadership, were unaware of the extent to which the fiscal
integrity of the province has been imperilled.
Government gave official acknowledgement that, by their own numbers, more than
$400 million (more objective analysts put the figure at $500 million-plus) will
be required for rate mitigation, was this not the clincher?
financial state, the Premier having declared in February 2016 that it was
having problems raising debt in the long-term bond market? Has not the Net and
Total Debt of the province continued to worsen?
a row — all well exceeding $1 billion — with the promise of more deficits to
come? Is not Kachanoski’s upset over what might be a very modest cut in its
operating budget premised on anything more than — dare I say it — ivory tower thinking?
union leaders cower over the potential costs to giving the government rebuke, to
whom should the public look for leadership? Should it not be to the province’s
only University — both its administrative and academic leadership?
as to the implications and seriousness of the problem, for solutions and for guidance
as to an appropriate public response? Is this not also how institutions cement
their indispensability when threatened by competing interests?
institution whose first claim is to objectivity and independence, and to the
assertion that it is not the Government’s but the Province’s University?
to publicly chastise our recalcitrant political leadership. But Memorial has
other tools — the ability to draw on national and international expertise, to provide
larger-than-life focus to issues, including through the Harris Centre, to ultimately
sound the alarm for a society clearly and unmistakably in a state of peril.
Alongside the others, Memorial refused to be offside.
decision the University consciously made. The academic and the administrative leadership
can point fingers at each other if they wish, as to who should have stepped up.
But such an argument within a single University, in this small town, is likely
to invite questions of dysfunction more than any other.
might have openly campaigned for better public administration, including for
more realistic tuition fees. I suggest that they have something to learn about
democracy and about public policy. In the Joey Smallwood years, when
Newfoundland and Labrador was much poorer, students loudly opposed his
arbitrary and often corrupt leadership notwithstanding his famed — and
short-lived — policy of free tuition.
in respect to giving Dwight Ball or the Gerry Byrne enlightenment; some things
are beyond everyone’s grasp. But whether the perception is the reality or not,
Memorial has assumed a reputation for bloat — not unlike the government — which
it has failed to dispel.
nearing bankruptcy, and whether it could have been the one institution that
stood tall amidst so many on bended knee.
to assess if the standards and innovations to which it lays claim will now also
include the word lean.