Education minister interferes in Memorial University hiring
Selection committee told its choices for president not acceptable.
Unprecedented interference by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador in the year-long search for a new president of Memorial University is a threat to the institution’s autonomy and the academic freedom of its staff, charges CAUT.
Education Minister Joan Burke triggered a growing cascade of resignations, finger-pointing and “he-said, she-said” statements, when she stunned those involved in the search process in July by summarily rejecting two top candidates recommended by Memorial’s 18-member presidential search committee.
The committee, created in May 2007 to find a replacement for former president Axel Meisen, includes faculty, students, university board members and representatives from the public and business community.
CAUT has written to Burke, asking for a meeting to discuss her involvement. “Universities, if they are to fulfil their roles, must be free of political influences and outside pressures,” states CAUT’s July 30 letter, which also describes Burke’s action as “unprecedented” and of “serious concern.”
Memorial faculty association president Ross Klein said if the meeting with Burke doesn’t happen by early September, his executive will consider asking for a CAUT investigation. One possible outcome is censure, which would debilitate the university’s chance of attracting not just a president, but any new faculty.
“It is time for the government to apologize for what it’s done,” Klein said. “If government directly interferes in the selection process for a president, they may also interfere in other activities and processes in the university. The loss of autonomy poses a serious threat to academic freedom.”
To read the full article that appeared in the CAUT Bulletin September 2008 issue visit www-archive.caut.ca.