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LETTER: Is MUN’s student union adequately representing students?

The two new residences at Memorial University in St. John’s. At left is the Shiwak student residence and at right is Cluett.
MUN's St. John's campus. — File photo

Memorial University’s integrated planning committee released an operating budget report in April. This report includes recommendations such as increasing tuition for Newfoundland students and establishing a tuition policy that consists of an annual inflationary factor tied to the Consumer Price Index.

On April 25, the MUN Students’ Union responded to this report in a CBC article. There are many questions to be asked regarding these public statements made by the student union such as it being a “morbid” situation — the battle between government and the university administration, the suffering of the university, the MUNSU fee annual inflation increase, the areas where cuts are being made, the need to change the current tuition model, no analysis from the student union, administrative bloat, and a lack of information from the student union. The student union’s comments raise several questions for me.

1) What does the student union mean when they state, “It’s a very, very morbid situation,”? What do they mean by morbid? How is it a morbid situation?

2) What is the battle they speak of between the university administration and the provincial government? The president of Memorial University, Gary Kachanoski, is not organizing community meetings explaining why the government is wrong. They seem to work together... In fact, government meets with the university on a regular basis. If the student union is suggesting that they are not meeting, this is naive on the student union’s part.

3) Why is the student union taking the university’s word at face value that they’re suffering without asking what that actually means? Does it mean they’re cutting professors? Cutting Lab technicians? Does it mean they’re reducing administrative staff? How many $600-administration dinners have been eliminated?

4) The mandatory costs of education at MUN is tuition and fees. The student union is partly responsible for the total costs going up as MUNSU fees increases by inflation each year. Why is the student union not including this?

5) What are the areas MUN have been cutting or not cutting?

6) If the university has been able to manage its budget with cuts and no tuition increases for N.L. students for years, why would they need to change that?

7) Why is MUNSU not presenting an analysis of the data regarding the university budget and financial situation to students?

8) How come the student union does not mention the massive amounts of administrative bloat? Does the student union not consider this issue to be important? Does this mean the student union is not opposed to lavish spending by the administration?

9) Why is MUNSU not talking about the increase of administrative staff at MUN while at the same time there is a decreasing number of students? Does the student union think that reducing the high number of administrative staff is not necessary?

10) Why are students paying a student union fee if the student union is not doing research, analyzing, and presenting information to students?

There needs to be more discussion on these issues especially among the student body.

A resident of St. John’s made a powerful statement to me about my last letter regarding behind-the-scenes budget talks at MUN and I wanted to finish this letter with their message:

“In the history of anything that has to do with struggle for equality, the change doesn’t come from decision-makers spontaneously. It comes from the struggle of the “underdog” – in this case students. We need student activism now more than ever.”

Matt Barter

MUN student

St. John’s

Related letter:

LETTER: MUN’s behind the scenes budget talks

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