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Letter to the editor | Response to Richard Kemick’s Neutrality Op-Ed

Richard Kemick recently claimed that the SU created an illusion of neutrality which was “in effect entirely self-interest.” In one of their most pivotal decision, the UNBSU posted a count online of how much money students were losing based on their $48 per day figure. With every roll of that counter it became further entrenched as the ghastly totem of UNB’s lockout/strike and the UNBSU’s reason for ‘neutrality.’

I grew up so poor that I am waiting for a place in a David Adams Richards novel. Poverty gave me my only virtue: some meager sense of altruism. Don’t misread me, I like balanced budgets and profits just as much as VP Gauvin. Yet, aptly, Henry Ford said that “a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”

An overwhelming amount of rhetoric coming from our two major student organizations was the loss of educational time quantified as a financial sum. There are two problems here. First, the UNBSU intentionally promoted the notion of education as a strictly financial institution. And second, many students bought into that notion so intensely that the self-interest of the SU became the self-interest of the student.

My education and childhood have taught me two things about money: that it is the central consideration when it comes to driving personal decisions and that money being such a locus of society is its greatest hindrance.

My classes may cost something like $48 dollars per day, however, my real investment in them is my willingness to be educated. My concern for finances falls second to the real privilege of university: the opportunity to learn. The strike was a missed opportunity.

There were two sides negotiating: AUNBT who argued, yes, for money, but principally, for comparability and the Administration who ‘did not have the money.’ AUNBT’s language focused on a larger vision for UNB. The Administration’s vocabulary focused on finances.

The UNBSU pivoted their argument on the terms of the administration while neglecting to speak of the larger visions of AUNBT. The UNBSU and the Administration, either intentionally or ignorantly, were arm-in-arm. Both institutions were on the side of cash-money. This side, UNBSU named ‘neutrality.’

The UNBSU claimed to be fighting for student’s interest. Throughout the strike, President Whitney spoke as if he had divined the impulse of students. I would be quick to remind him that voter turnout is a paltry 17.9%. When his own council meets, 17.9% isn’t even halfway to having quorum.

The strike was an opportunity for the UNBSU to consider how students might become more engaged in the operation of UNB. Instead, they prioritized imparting a self-interested agenda which some students ultimately internalized. If you don’t believe me, read the unnerving anger on the UNB Student Action Group Facebook.

During this strike, UNBSU confirmed their relevance to a very specific group of self-serving individuals while demonstrating their completely inconsequential place in the structure of the university. Why is this? Because rather than choose a side, they chose neutr… ahum. Money.

– Micah O’Donnell-Gillies


  1. KenSpragg Reply

    Agreed.  If your teachers are talking about the quality of education and the bureaucracy is talking only about money, and you claim “neutrality” but then also focus on the money, whether you mean to or not, you’ve taken a side.  Penny-pinching at the expense of educators imparts only greed and ignorance.

  2. Mark V Reply

    Just to play devil’s advocate here, were not the teachers striking about being paid a competative wage? Did they not want to compare to the other universities of the same size? So did they also not strike for money?
    It is all about money on all sides.
    What no one is saying though is that the school is grossly underfunded by the province with almost 70% of the schools funds coming from the province all 3 groups… Teacher, Students and Admin should all be telling the legistalure that we (as a institute) need to compare to the rest of canada.
    The AUNBT is UNB, the students are UNB, the admin is UNB… We are all one big (albeit awkward) family and instead of fighting with ourselves we should be all working together to get what we deserve from the people who manage our tax dollars.

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