On May 22, Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac was removed from her position as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan. The university’s Board of Governors made the decision after Busch-Vishniac removed tenured professor Robert Buckingham for publicly criticizing the university’s budget cuts. In case we’ve already forgotten, Buckingham had written a letter to the Saskatchewan government lambasting USask’s cleverly titled austerity plan, TransformUS. Quickly after, Busch-Vishniac was given her own letter of termination and Buckingham was reinstated, although not to his original position as dean.
Arousing this now three-month-old story gives us, at UNB, a moment to be thankful. Thankful that president Campbell did not fire every single professor who endorsed their faculties’ non-confidence votes.
I don’t mean to bring up USask’s tragedy to simply make a jab at president Campbell. The reality is, removing Busch-Vishniac as the head of USask is not going to solve the systemic and administrative problems they are facing. While I fully support our faculty councils’ non-confidence motions and would love to see them responded to with something more than “it’s nice that our faculties do things!” the reality is that the problems our university is facing — from corporatization, to prioritization, to troubling enrolment, to partisan government funding — will not be solved by the removal of a few of the highly-paid faces of UNB.
No doubt UNB is in the midst of a difficult time. We’re still recovering from a strike and one-ply toilet paper is still being used in student bathrooms (I won’t get into bathrooms as I seem to remember a certain other columnist got in trouble for that). However, we’ve also gained some ground. Carleton Hall no longer has asbestos in it (I think) and only one of the sinks in the building still can’t be drunk from because of the possible presence of lead. The chair of the Board of Governors is trying to say something or other to the student body for the first time in my memory. The administration is even being so considerate as to relieve students and faculty of the stress and work of rewriting the UNB Act. It’s an amazing time to be at UNB.
I’m not even being sarcastic about the last statement. It really is an amazing time to be at UNB. President Campbell, VP academic Tony Secco, VP finance and administration Daniel Murray, and others are gradually becoming figureheads of this university. Sure, they work hard and decide things then make massive amounts of money. They also have a certain aptitude for ignoring the voice of the university they actually run. They take a cue from the provincial government on this one: make decisions first, do public consultation later. And that’s why it’s an amazing time to be here. Before us, in the next eight months is a period in which we — students and faculty — can remind our province, its government and our university leadership that we are the ones who make up UNB. Students. Faculty. We are the university.
If we carry on thinking that a new party after the fall election will save New Brunswick, that a new administration will return UNB to its former glory, or that new brand managers will increase the university’s enrolment, then we are severely erred. Whether it’s Eddy Campbell or Dorine at the Tilley Cafe running the university, nothing will change or get better until we as a student body realize what we can do if we started to give the slightest sentiment of caring about our school, our education.
This isn’t an ad for first year students to get involved in the Student Union. Although I wouldn’t discourage you. This is an encouragement to think of new ways to tell our administration that its students matter far more than its profits. This is a reminder to go out to those rallies or protests. This is a suggestion to write, call or meet those making decisions that we should be making. Have you met any of our administrators? Well, why not try? If nothing else, I bet Tony will be slinging coffee every Tuesday this year. Don’t let the man down.
Perhaps, like USask, we will see the day where the reality of Eddy’s obviously disconnected decision-making and bloated contract will set in and he’ll be let go. If that were to happen, it is imperative that we remember that the problem has not been solved. Presidents and officials can only do so much. We are their limiting power. We fail when we consolidate the solution into these figureheads. While the administrations’ brand managers may be working their hardest to emphasize that administrators are some kind of cornerstone to the university, they are in fact one of its smallest parts (although it seems we may soon have more administrators than students). As a student body we decide what this university is, what it means, and what it will do. Lately, it seems we’ve forgotten that.
And for the record, Dorine for president.