UNB Town Hall Review – Part III
Warning: What follows is the third and final in a (brief) series of UNB-centric postings, this time on “separation.”
Many found it “odd,” to say the least, that the Commissioners felt compelled to move beyond their terms of reference and the principle that was to guide their work (one University of New Brunswick with two campuses) to recommend that a protocol be developed laying out the terms to govern any future separation of the two campuses into independent institutions. One questioner at the Town Hall asked whether they might not have missed an opportunity to envision new possibilities and stretch our imaginations about the potential of a bi-campus university. Listening to the Commissioners’ response, I did end up wondering whether they might not (come to) regret “the road not taken.” They noted in their report that there was a pragmatic reason for recommending the separation protocol route along the lines of “we can’t assume a push for separation would never happen, even though we don’t want it to, so we might as well be prepared.” However, in the Town Hall, it was the strategic reason that came to the fore, the idea that, by working through the details of a possible separation, all parties would likely come to realize more fully how beneficial this union really is (sort of a pre-emptive strike in response to the adage “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”).
An interesting strategy, but one I don’t think we need to pursue. A good number of commentaries appearing during the PSE debates of the last year and a half already pointed out how UNB’s profile as a national university is grounded in the contributions of both campuses. The number of “proudly UNB” messages affixed to clothing and vehicles around Saint John suggests the verdict is already in. President McLaughlin too expressed little interest in pursuing this recommendation during what’s left of his tenure.
The Commissioners might have been on to something, the idea that opportunities to work together and exchange information and ideas can build solidarity and collective purpose. It strikes me that directing our energies towards such efforts would be a more constructive way to approach inter-campus relations. Sadly, it’s not clear that this report has kick-started us in that direction. At the end of the Town Hall, there were some vague references to opportunities for further input, but no clear process was outlined. I left feeling more wary than rejuvenated. No doubt the Senates will have an important role to play as these specific recommendations go forward for further discussion. My final thought? Be vigilant!