Removals disrespectful, professor says

Terry Roberts
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Former regent acknowledges government's decision 'surprising,' but offers no criticism

Education Minister Joan Burke's decision to remove four volunteer members of Memorial University's Board of Regents before their terms had expired was "disrespectful," says a MUN senator and professor at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.

"It sends a very troublesome signal," said Paul Wilson, adding that it further underscores the importance of university autonomy.

Education Minister Joan Burke's decision to remove four volunteer members of Memorial University's Board of Regents before their terms had expired was "disrespectful," says a MUN senator and professor at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.

"It sends a very troublesome signal," said Paul Wilson, adding that it further underscores the importance of university autonomy.

New board of regents chairman Bob Simmonds, a prominent St. John's lawyer, is also expressing displeasure.

The government has the right to appoint and remove board members, but he has asked that he be advised of such moves in the future.

Burke issued a news release Dec. 11, announcing that Mary Cormier of Corner Brook, Michelle Day of Grand Falls-Windsor, Noreen Greene-Fraize of St. John's and Debbie Singleton of Happy Valley-Goose Bay would join the board.

Burke thanked outgoing members for their service, but there was no reference to the fact that Mary Broderick of Baie Verte, Judy White of Conne River, Kathie Thoms of St. John's and Gaylene Buckle of Corner Brook had been removed well before their three-year terms had expired.

Wilson is especially incensed by the removal of Broderick, the former vice-chairwoman of the board.

Broderick was travelling to St. John's for a Dec. 11 board meeting when she received a call from Burke on her cellphone. Despite having been reappointed to the board for another three-year term by the government just 10 months ago, Broderick was told by Burke that her services were no longer needed and that the board was being realigned.

Wilson said Burke's actions reveal a level of disrespect that was totally unwarranted.

"There is no one that I have spoken to about this that can condone the action on the part of the minister of Education," he said.

When reached at home Thursday, Broderick confirmed the circumstances of her removal. She admitted to being surprised by Burke's decision, but did not criticize the minister or the government of Premier Danny Williams.

When asked if she was upset, Broderick replied, "I know it's within the government's right."

"I was certainly committed to the board," she commented.

Burke defended the changes to the board, saying the dismissals were nothing personal and no reflection on the former regents' abilities. She said it was part of a realignment of the 30-member board, which included the recent appointment of Simmonds and four others.

"... We just thought it would be timely to put some new members on the board," Burke stated.

What's significant about Broderick's dismissal is that she was vice-chairwoman - a position that is voted on by members of the board.

She was also part of a special ad hoc committee established to recommend changes to the Memorial University Act to ensure autonomy for the institution, especially as it relates to the role of the government in the appointment of a president.

The committee was to present its report to the board of regents Dec. 11, but it will now be February before the board and senate receive the report, which was commissioned following a sensational debate over the government's role in the selection of a new MUN president.

The deferral was granted because of the many recent changes to the board and the complex nature of the issue, Simmonds said.

Burke caused a public outcry after rejecting two candidates who were shortlisted by the board for the president's job, and the search process has since been suspended.

Critics say the government's interference will make it difficult to find a credible candidate for the post, and Wilson wonders if Burke's decision to remove Broderick had anything to do with the report.

"It would be a difficult task to convince me this was merely a coincidence," said Wilson, who is also a member of the ad hoc committee.

Burke denies that Broderick's role in writing the report had anything to do with her decision.

"There was nothing I can point to in particular that would have precipitated the replacement of any of the people on the board," she said.

Wilson added, "these kinds of acts just underscore how important it is that the board of regents and MUN have a truly arm's-length relationship from the government."

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College

Geographic location: St. John's, MUN, Corner Brook Happy Valley Goose Bay Baie Verte Conne River

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Recent comments

  • Dan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    This was a way for Burke to get her friend, Michelle Day in the system.....good old boys, oops, girls club!

  • Joe
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Joanie is out for revenge!

  • Dave in NL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    Chris - thanks for your counterpoints.
    I think taxpayers who fund the university need to assess the value of each of the academic programs and research functions you reference and the many others. As many other institutions have done. Thank goodness we have a government who actually cares how the $250million is being spent.
    People are wrecklessly using the word 'autonomy' without understanding the meaning in the context of the university and the relationship with the provincial government. We also need to find a way to eliminate faculty having the privileges of a federal government senator and running consulting companies on taxpayers' time out of taxpayers' facilities. And Chris - look no farther than the two faculties you referenced (Engineering and Business) to see the most blatant examples of this.

  • Quuens
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    What is government doing in the University system in the first place? My AMA at Queens would be so all over these people that they would never see a position in office again. Time MUN stands up to these people who try to dictate terms and conditions. Government needs to fear the people, not the people fear government.

    Take a stand now, failing to do so will see MUN become a joke in the worlds educational system as little more then a push over.

  • Aubrey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    According to Joan Burke, there's nothing she can point to, in particular, that would have precipitated the replacement of any of the people on the board. Guess that's why the reason given for yanking these four board members is the old 'realignment of the board' nonsense. It's more than passing strange that Bob Simmonds, board chairman and local pit bull lawyer,merely expressed displeasure at the non reason given by Joan Burke, considering the fact that Mary Broderick was the vice chairwoman and served only 10 months of a 3 year term. Had the matter been pursued, though, it may have resulted in further realignment of the board and Bob Simmonds getting a call on his cellphone, from Joan Burke, similar to the call received by Mary Broderick. What incentive is there for a person to serve on that board, knowing that he/she could be embarrassed by being yanked off the board for no specific reason , before his/her term is up ?

  • Marlie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    Very surprised at some of the new appointments, I would have assumed that a university degree would have been a MUST or is this another case of political appointments, where you really don't have to know anything to get places????

  • Terry
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    To all Regents:

    Watch your back, Joan is getting out the long knives!

    You are going to need more eyes.

  • Graham
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    The Williams dictatorship has struck again. Get use to it my friends. Thats what absolute power does to people. To all those who elected him I HOPE YOUR VERY HAPPY. He provided the distraction in Grand Falls and Joan did the deed at Memorial just as he had planned.

  • Mark
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    I am shocked and appalled at this ridiculous political interference with MY UNIVERSITY. If these appointments go through my degree will be in the mail. I have graduate degrees from more respectable institutions that I can associate with.

    Minister Burke has taken to replacing significant positions with her drinking buddies. She has gone on cruises with people on this list for Christ sake. She hides behind her women empowered crusade while delivering a mindless agenda and pointless patronage and interference.

    To those of who suggest this is the work of Danny Williams, I have to say that I find it impossible to believe that he would take such an abrupt turn into the field of astounding stupidity. I have to assume these are Liberal and NDP crusading in guise. It would be unbelievable for Mr. Williams to put this in the hands of Minister Burke without basic due diligence into some of the moronic catastrophes that are being proposed for these positions. If in fact Mr. Williams stands by his Minister, thereby granting tacit approval to some of Minister Burkes drinking buddies taking significant roles in the single most important institution in Newfoundland, he errs in judgement far beyond his good buddy Steve with respect to the character of Newfoundland and Labradorians and MUN grads in particular.

    M.King B.Sc. 1991

  • Rob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Joan Burke and Government display no respect for anyone who does not bow to their view. It is all about absolute power and control of everything, and unfortunately has absolutely nothing to do with what is best for the university, and for the continued growth of quality education. That has been obvious in everything Burke has said publicly.
    Incredibly, the Minister says throughout this sorry process that she is not interfering in Memorial's autonomy! No wonder she has neither the respect or confidence of the education community.
    The sad truth is that most people in the education community are afraid to speak out, because the vindictive nature of this Minister and Government are well known. It wouldn't surprise me if the next chapter in this story is the outright selection and appointment by the Government of the next President, justified by finding some archaic system somewhere else that still defies the almost universally accepted proper practice in civil societies.
    Of course if people don't speak up, they will continue to get away with this one step at a time.

  • Paul
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    I agree with Dave. We need oversight.

  • Pierre
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Premier Williams and Minister Burke will not be satisfied until whats left, which isn't much, of the University's reputation is destroyed. Let me guess, the new members support the idea of a University in Corner Brook. Minister Burke should be made to resign because of the damage she has done to the University, she has turned it into a national joke.

  • Juanita
    July 02, 2010 - 13:19

    She was also part of a special ad hoc committee established to recommend changes to the Memorial University Act to ensure autonomy for the institution, especially as it relates to the role of the government in the appointment of a president.

    This is the key phrase regarding the removal of Mary Broderick. Clearly, the government is not very happy with members of the board who are pushing back against the interference of the government regarding the appointment of a new president. They are probably anxious to replace these members with people who will be on the same page as the government.

    Does the government not realize that if they continue to meddle in the running of the university Board of Regents, and in the process of appointing a new president, they are risking the possibility that MUN may lose it's accreditation as a university in Canada? If that happens, the university will become completely useless, as no one will want to attend a university that is not accredited to gain degrees that will be meaningless in the professional / academic world. And for those of us who already have our degree from MUN, we will be in possession of a worthless piece of paper that cost us thousands of dollars.

    The government needs to back off before we reach that end.

  • Kenneth
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Please STOP blaming Joan Burke for all of this. It's not fair of you to post negative posts on her involvement. Joan is in over her head as a Cabinet Minister. She doesn't work out of the Premier's office and is not calling the shots. As in any dictotorship she is merly doing what she is told. Place the blame where it belongs and may God be with Joan in her search for a clue.

  • Sandy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:15

    Joan is just doing Danny's dirty work. It also shows how little respect the Government has for Mr Bob Simmonds...let it find out from the news media !

  • M
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    Here is the lady who is supposed to have interviewed candidates for the President of MUN and somehow determined they were not suitable. Now she replaces Board members some of whom have recently been appointed for a 3 year term giving the reason as a realignment of the 30-member board . What a load of Hog-Wash! What are Ms. Burke's qualifications for interviewing a university president and determining who the best candidates are for the Board? I cannot imagine Mr. Simmonds taking this blatant interference. What a slap in the face to those 4 members who were removed before their terms expired! Maybe the time has come for Ms. Burke to be removed before the whole education system is put on its heels.

  • DIsgusted
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    I am completely disgusted with the political interference within the university. Each time the government directly affects the university, it discredits the academic integrity of the institution, degrading the credibility of each and every one of the degrees they have presented. Within the academic community, MUN's reputation is becoming tainted and continues to be eroded by continual political interference. The piece of paper I have on my wall is now worthless. Government, take your fingers out of this pie before you do irreparable damage to the university's reputation. Then see how many students attend the institution.

  • Chris
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    With all due respect Dave, taxpayers are not exerting control Danny Williams is. You mention declining populations and focusing on a leaner more cost effective enterprise. Opening another university in Corner Brook will achieve this? Its a huge momentary investment for such a small student population one you suggest is getting smaller. Another mini-MUN means much more administrative costs another senate, board of regents, countless committees, and so on.

    As for irrelevant courses, let me know when the Business Faculty and School of Engineering ceases to be relevant. Might as well throw in the Medical and Nursing Schools while youre at it. And who needs math anyway? Perhaps students can pay their tuition and MUN will hand over the degree. The more you pay, the higher the degree. Yeah, lets look past academics .

    The issue here is the meddling by Williams, Burke et al; interfering with the running of whats legislated as an autonomous institution. Their actions fly in the face of the MUN Act. Perhaps Danny will introduce legislation that more suits his needs drowning out the voices of dissent.

  • Walter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    The days of tenured professors using decade old lesson plans to teach irrelevant courses while running consulting companies out of offices us tax payers fund is OVER

    They were over decades ago, if they ever existed to begin with.

  • Dave in NL
    July 02, 2010 - 13:10

    I think is is great that taxpayers are finally exerting control over the operations of the second largest line item on the province's expenses. With declining populations and utilization by the people for whom the institution was built, one must focus on creating a leaner, cost effective, better run enterprise. The days of tenured professors using decade old lesson plans to teach irrelevant courses while running consulting companies out of offices us tax payers fund is OVER. Sorry, MUNFA. Like many North American universities, we need to look past academics to be university executives and seek the leadership of business people.
    Autonomy needs to be redefined, because it sure as heck was never intended to mean here's a quarter billion dollars of the public's money now go do what you like.

  • Avalon Observer
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    As usual, Minister Burke is handling this affair with all the finesse and delicacy of a bull in a china-shop.

  • steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    Well....I'm guessing Danny ordered her to do it, he must have told her he only has a handful of friends and relatives left to place in jobs, and boards.....so make haste Joan...do Dannys bidding.

  • Dan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    This was a way for Burke to get her friend, Michelle Day in the system.....good old boys, oops, girls club!

  • Joe
    July 01, 2010 - 20:23

    Joanie is out for revenge!

  • Dave in NL
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Chris - thanks for your counterpoints.
    I think taxpayers who fund the university need to assess the value of each of the academic programs and research functions you reference and the many others. As many other institutions have done. Thank goodness we have a government who actually cares how the $250million is being spent.
    People are wrecklessly using the word 'autonomy' without understanding the meaning in the context of the university and the relationship with the provincial government. We also need to find a way to eliminate faculty having the privileges of a federal government senator and running consulting companies on taxpayers' time out of taxpayers' facilities. And Chris - look no farther than the two faculties you referenced (Engineering and Business) to see the most blatant examples of this.

  • Quuens
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    What is government doing in the University system in the first place? My AMA at Queens would be so all over these people that they would never see a position in office again. Time MUN stands up to these people who try to dictate terms and conditions. Government needs to fear the people, not the people fear government.

    Take a stand now, failing to do so will see MUN become a joke in the worlds educational system as little more then a push over.

  • Aubrey
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    According to Joan Burke, there's nothing she can point to, in particular, that would have precipitated the replacement of any of the people on the board. Guess that's why the reason given for yanking these four board members is the old 'realignment of the board' nonsense. It's more than passing strange that Bob Simmonds, board chairman and local pit bull lawyer,merely expressed displeasure at the non reason given by Joan Burke, considering the fact that Mary Broderick was the vice chairwoman and served only 10 months of a 3 year term. Had the matter been pursued, though, it may have resulted in further realignment of the board and Bob Simmonds getting a call on his cellphone, from Joan Burke, similar to the call received by Mary Broderick. What incentive is there for a person to serve on that board, knowing that he/she could be embarrassed by being yanked off the board for no specific reason , before his/her term is up ?

  • Marlie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    Very surprised at some of the new appointments, I would have assumed that a university degree would have been a MUST or is this another case of political appointments, where you really don't have to know anything to get places????

  • Terry
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    To all Regents:

    Watch your back, Joan is getting out the long knives!

    You are going to need more eyes.

  • Graham
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    The Williams dictatorship has struck again. Get use to it my friends. Thats what absolute power does to people. To all those who elected him I HOPE YOUR VERY HAPPY. He provided the distraction in Grand Falls and Joan did the deed at Memorial just as he had planned.

  • Mark
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    I am shocked and appalled at this ridiculous political interference with MY UNIVERSITY. If these appointments go through my degree will be in the mail. I have graduate degrees from more respectable institutions that I can associate with.

    Minister Burke has taken to replacing significant positions with her drinking buddies. She has gone on cruises with people on this list for Christ sake. She hides behind her women empowered crusade while delivering a mindless agenda and pointless patronage and interference.

    To those of who suggest this is the work of Danny Williams, I have to say that I find it impossible to believe that he would take such an abrupt turn into the field of astounding stupidity. I have to assume these are Liberal and NDP crusading in guise. It would be unbelievable for Mr. Williams to put this in the hands of Minister Burke without basic due diligence into some of the moronic catastrophes that are being proposed for these positions. If in fact Mr. Williams stands by his Minister, thereby granting tacit approval to some of Minister Burkes drinking buddies taking significant roles in the single most important institution in Newfoundland, he errs in judgement far beyond his good buddy Steve with respect to the character of Newfoundland and Labradorians and MUN grads in particular.

    M.King B.Sc. 1991

  • Rob
    July 01, 2010 - 20:10

    Joan Burke and Government display no respect for anyone who does not bow to their view. It is all about absolute power and control of everything, and unfortunately has absolutely nothing to do with what is best for the university, and for the continued growth of quality education. That has been obvious in everything Burke has said publicly.
    Incredibly, the Minister says throughout this sorry process that she is not interfering in Memorial's autonomy! No wonder she has neither the respect or confidence of the education community.
    The sad truth is that most people in the education community are afraid to speak out, because the vindictive nature of this Minister and Government are well known. It wouldn't surprise me if the next chapter in this story is the outright selection and appointment by the Government of the next President, justified by finding some archaic system somewhere else that still defies the almost universally accepted proper practice in civil societies.
    Of course if people don't speak up, they will continue to get away with this one step at a time.

  • Paul
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    I agree with Dave. We need oversight.

  • Pierre
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Premier Williams and Minister Burke will not be satisfied until whats left, which isn't much, of the University's reputation is destroyed. Let me guess, the new members support the idea of a University in Corner Brook. Minister Burke should be made to resign because of the damage she has done to the University, she has turned it into a national joke.

  • Juanita
    July 01, 2010 - 20:01

    She was also part of a special ad hoc committee established to recommend changes to the Memorial University Act to ensure autonomy for the institution, especially as it relates to the role of the government in the appointment of a president.

    This is the key phrase regarding the removal of Mary Broderick. Clearly, the government is not very happy with members of the board who are pushing back against the interference of the government regarding the appointment of a new president. They are probably anxious to replace these members with people who will be on the same page as the government.

    Does the government not realize that if they continue to meddle in the running of the university Board of Regents, and in the process of appointing a new president, they are risking the possibility that MUN may lose it's accreditation as a university in Canada? If that happens, the university will become completely useless, as no one will want to attend a university that is not accredited to gain degrees that will be meaningless in the professional / academic world. And for those of us who already have our degree from MUN, we will be in possession of a worthless piece of paper that cost us thousands of dollars.

    The government needs to back off before we reach that end.

  • Kenneth
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Please STOP blaming Joan Burke for all of this. It's not fair of you to post negative posts on her involvement. Joan is in over her head as a Cabinet Minister. She doesn't work out of the Premier's office and is not calling the shots. As in any dictotorship she is merly doing what she is told. Place the blame where it belongs and may God be with Joan in her search for a clue.

  • Sandy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Joan is just doing Danny's dirty work. It also shows how little respect the Government has for Mr Bob Simmonds...let it find out from the news media !

  • M
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    Here is the lady who is supposed to have interviewed candidates for the President of MUN and somehow determined they were not suitable. Now she replaces Board members some of whom have recently been appointed for a 3 year term giving the reason as a realignment of the 30-member board . What a load of Hog-Wash! What are Ms. Burke's qualifications for interviewing a university president and determining who the best candidates are for the Board? I cannot imagine Mr. Simmonds taking this blatant interference. What a slap in the face to those 4 members who were removed before their terms expired! Maybe the time has come for Ms. Burke to be removed before the whole education system is put on its heels.

  • DIsgusted
    July 01, 2010 - 19:51

    I am completely disgusted with the political interference within the university. Each time the government directly affects the university, it discredits the academic integrity of the institution, degrading the credibility of each and every one of the degrees they have presented. Within the academic community, MUN's reputation is becoming tainted and continues to be eroded by continual political interference. The piece of paper I have on my wall is now worthless. Government, take your fingers out of this pie before you do irreparable damage to the university's reputation. Then see how many students attend the institution.

  • Chris
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    With all due respect Dave, taxpayers are not exerting control Danny Williams is. You mention declining populations and focusing on a leaner more cost effective enterprise. Opening another university in Corner Brook will achieve this? Its a huge momentary investment for such a small student population one you suggest is getting smaller. Another mini-MUN means much more administrative costs another senate, board of regents, countless committees, and so on.

    As for irrelevant courses, let me know when the Business Faculty and School of Engineering ceases to be relevant. Might as well throw in the Medical and Nursing Schools while youre at it. And who needs math anyway? Perhaps students can pay their tuition and MUN will hand over the degree. The more you pay, the higher the degree. Yeah, lets look past academics .

    The issue here is the meddling by Williams, Burke et al; interfering with the running of whats legislated as an autonomous institution. Their actions fly in the face of the MUN Act. Perhaps Danny will introduce legislation that more suits his needs drowning out the voices of dissent.

  • Walter
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    The days of tenured professors using decade old lesson plans to teach irrelevant courses while running consulting companies out of offices us tax payers fund is OVER

    They were over decades ago, if they ever existed to begin with.

  • Dave in NL
    July 01, 2010 - 19:46

    I think is is great that taxpayers are finally exerting control over the operations of the second largest line item on the province's expenses. With declining populations and utilization by the people for whom the institution was built, one must focus on creating a leaner, cost effective, better run enterprise. The days of tenured professors using decade old lesson plans to teach irrelevant courses while running consulting companies out of offices us tax payers fund is OVER. Sorry, MUNFA. Like many North American universities, we need to look past academics to be university executives and seek the leadership of business people.
    Autonomy needs to be redefined, because it sure as heck was never intended to mean here's a quarter billion dollars of the public's money now go do what you like.

  • Avalon Observer
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    As usual, Minister Burke is handling this affair with all the finesse and delicacy of a bull in a china-shop.

  • steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    Well....I'm guessing Danny ordered her to do it, he must have told her he only has a handful of friends and relatives left to place in jobs, and boards.....so make haste Joan...do Dannys bidding.