Ongoing tensions between the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers [AUNBT] and the university administration surfaced once again last month after an open letter to president Eddy Campbell was published by the union.
On Nov. 24, UNB president Eddy Campbell sent an email to faculty, staff and others associated with the UNB community stating his regrets about last year’s strike and how it has affected the campus as a whole.
The AUNBT published an open letter response to this email on Dec. 6, critiquing Campbell’s vagueness and lack of responsibility taken for the strike.
“President Campbell’s letter was much too little, much too late,” said Miriam Jones, president of the AUNBT. “He, as well as the rest of the upper administration and the Board, persist in describing the concerns of academic staff as emotional, something we need to ‘get past.’”
“While there are certainly emotions on both sides, UNB management has failed to acknowledge that the academic staff have substantive criticisms of the direction taken by the upper administration and the Board.”
Campbell said he wasn’t surprised when he received the open letter and the criticism from the AUNBT, but that he was more concerned with overcoming the differences.
“My interest, however, is in working with people who are interested in moving forward with the very important work of the University of New Brunswick, not in picking apart the criticisms the AUNBT might have about me or my letters,” Campbell said.
In the AUNBT’s open letter, Jones wrote that the association wanted an apology and acceptance of responsibility from president Campbell before proceeding to open discussions about where to go next.
“We are not so much looking for an apology as an acknowledgement of the real issues, and genuine accountability for choices made,” Jones said.
Beyond his Nov. 24 email, on Nov. 25 Campbell proposed the possibility to the Fredericton Senate of hiring a consultant to meet with members of the UNB community and discuss how to proceed.
“It should be clear that it is not our intention to hire a big consulting company. What I have in mind, and have asked our Senates to consider, is to bring in an individual or individuals who are impartial and highly respected, who would listen to people … and let us know what they heard,” said Campbell.
Jones and the AUNBT, however, see hiring a consultant not only as a waste of money, but also as an unfair action towards the UNB community.
“I think we should forget about spending money on consultants and design our own internal process, rather than deflecting responsibility elsewhere,” said Jones.
Campbell maintains that administration was not in favour of the strike taking place.
“One of the points that tends to get lost in all of this is that the university administration did not vote for the strike,” said Campbell. “I’ll also point out that labour disruptions are horrible in every way imaginable. Everybody involved should make every effort to avoid them.”