Skip to content

Dear Diary,

September 19, 2008

Oh my goodness what a whirl the last twenty-four hours have been! It felt like it was September of 2007 again, and that was not a nice feeling. In case you don’t get the local paper, Diary, I am referring to the announcement that Nora Kelly is to be seconded — it would appear she is not retiring, as was originally reported — to UNB for a year. No, wait, two years. Oh well, awhile, anyway; the reports are contradictory. She will still be paid by the N.B. government. At least, we think so; Shawn Graham would or could not answer that question when asked by reporters. So, anyway, she is supposed to come to UNB. To do what, you may reasonably ask, Diary. Well, that isn’t clear either. President McLaughlin said that he will release a job description “in the next couple of weeks.”

Pretty vague, you might say, Diary, and you would be correct. Why am I so worried, then?

Well, because Nora Kelly is the Deputy Minister in the Department of Post-secondary Education. You remember, the department that tried to decommission us last year and turn us into a government-subsidized just-in-time training facility for energy hub workers? What, you thought that was all water under the bridge? (or oil through the pipeline?) Well, so did I, but someone should tell my gut because it tried to climb out of my throat when I read McLaughlin’s notice.

But I calmed down. Considerably, and without alcohol, unlike at least two other of my colleagues.

However, now that I am calmer, I am thinking. And I have some questions. And what is a diary for, if not for recording our scattershot thoughts? So here goes:

  • If this is a bona fide position, why was there no posting and no public search? Do they want it to look like a patronage appointment, a sinecure?
  • If they took the trouble to announce it, why did they not include a job description? Is is because the real job is to implement the government’s “Action Plan”? Again, without a job description (and proper search), this looks like either a patronage appointment and we need to find her something to do, or we just took on board an axe-person.
  • As Linda Hansen just pointed out, not just Federal guidelines may be at issue here, as was mentioned in the paper today; provincial guidelines may be as well.
  • The University is already moving ahead with various initiatives to appease the provincial government’s demands that we be accountable to their political agenda: for one thing, there are discussions taking place about the proposed “consortia” in F’ton, and for another, Saint John College is hiring someone (with “external funding”) to work on developing partnerships with business and industry. As appeasement appears to be UNB’s strategy, at least until the next election, is Nora Kelly’s new job to further this agenda? Shawn Graham is quoted as saying, “she’ll also be a very important conduit between the reforms we’re undertaking here through post-secondary education and the work that has to be undertaken at UNB as well.” Now granted he might not be the most reliable source, but such a statement does give one pause.
  • Every time there is a search for an administrator at a university, up to and including the search for a president, there are those who argue that a manager should be hired rather than an academic. Indeed, some university presidents encourage the view that they are CEOs by calling the upper administration their “management team” and using other sorts of business speak. No reports yet of university jets, but it can only be a matter of time. People who think this way see no reason for a university president to be someone who had an academic career; people who think this way argue that a manager-is-a-manager-is-a-manager, and academics are in fact not always the best managers. They are painfully slooooooow, because they are part of a structure of collegial governance where, irritatingly, the wider university community is represented. (You would be surprised, Diary, at how often the “slooooow” criticism comes up. As if no-one remembers the tortoise and the hare.) People who think this way might look at Nora Kelly — smart, connected, highly efficient, extremely capable, all too used to making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear — and think that she might be a refreshing change for UNB. That’s as may be, but the fact remains that you don’t get an MBA to be Pope because he or she — well, I guess “he” — would be more “efficient”, and you don’t get a non-academic to be a university president. All the other universities would laugh at us.
  • On the other hand, Diary, perhaps Ms. Kelly has grown sick of working for the Keystone Cops and has “gone native.” Good heavens, who could blame her? She must be a saint. But even in that case, the questions about the process remain: no job posting, no job description, possible conflict of interest. Not to mention, making the announcement at the end of the week just as the Saint John upper administration are off to a management retreat and no-one is available to answer questions from either the media or members of the university community.

What I said earlier about not using alcohol?

Scratch that, Dear Diary.

  1. Jeremy permalink
    September 20, 2008 12:05 pm

    Sorry, but does this remind anyone of Harry Potter (I think “Order of the Phoenix”). I’m not saying that Nora Kelly is like Dolores Umbridge (yet), but I feel a little bit like “The Ministry is interfering at UNB.”

  2. Linda Hansen permalink
    September 21, 2008 7:44 am

    Good catch …

    The parallels and potential parallels are scary:

    *Dolores Jane Umbridge was Senior Under-Secretary to Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. In her ambition for glory, she climbed her way to Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, High Inquisitor and Headmistress of Hogwarts.*
    *Under Educational Decree Number 23, her power was increased as she was appointed the first-ever “Hogwarts High Inquisitor”. She used this position to evaluate and harass the teachers at Hogwarts.* []

    But I thought she was currently incarcerated in Azkaban?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: