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Well, we’ve been told

May 14, 2009

So… the editors at the T-J think academics are whiners, “blindly” criticizing a decision to award an honorary degree to the sitting premier.  Rather than thinking critically, it is alleged, the professors, continue to hold to their “cherished notion that government was engaged in a conspiracy against them, which a few brave professors thwarted.”   What a load of gobbly-gook.

Lets look at the facts — the standard in journalism since  the beginning of the 20th century when objectivity replaced  partisanship in the media.

Insofar as the SAVE UNBSJ Campaign was successful — that is, that we still have a UNB campus in Saint John — it was successful because the community rallied behind the campus and told the government it could take the Miner-L’Ecuyer Report and put it where the sun doesn’t shine.   Thousands of people took to the streets to express their views about the proposed changes to post-secondary education in the Port City — not just a “few brave professors.”

From City Hall to the Saint John Trades and Labour Council, there was support for the university, and contrary to the sanguine view of the editors at the T-J,  the jury is still out on the government’s fallback position: “The Action Plan.”

It must also be noted that the claim in today’s opinion piece that those in the Ivory Tower (have they seen the buildings at Tucker Park??!!) believe there is a government conspiracy aimed squarely at the professoriate is based on two faulty assumptions: (1) that we are somehow important in the greater scheme of things in the legislature, and (2) that the government could mastermind such a conspiracy.

In the end, the premier’s political record — whether one sees it as good or bad — is only part of the problem.

Is it not apparent that awarding an honorary degree to the individual who allocates post-secondary education funding is as suspect as faculty accepting gifts from students?  Certainly the faculty and administration take this view in internal matters: there is a policy regarding “gifts” between students and faculty at UNB.

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3 Comments
  1. Jaybird permalink
    May 14, 2009 9:20 am

    I agree — today’s editorial was preposterous. They are accusing those who are protesting the decision as blind and unable to think critically? And then they have the audacity to frame the past year and a half as a positive experience that was the result of debate and the constructive exchange of ideas? When precisely was this – I must have missed it.

    And I don’t see how 100 signatures of protest from faculty and staff can be labelled as “a few.” It was probably just the tip of the iceberg, and the family, friends, and fellow students I have spoken with so far on the subject have been in agreement that the honourary degree makes no sense for May 2009. Why it has to be Shawn specifically at this particular time make no sense. Was there no other qualified candidate? Could they not have waited until the mess he created has subsided? I feel like my honours degree — which I will receive in a couple of weeks — has been tarnished and diminished because of this development.

  2. Jaybird permalink
    May 14, 2009 9:22 am

    One of the only acceptable speeches Shawn could give (at least, according to me, a UNBSJ student):
    ———————

    New Brunswick’s most prominent dunderhead is receiving an honourary degree from UNB at the end of the month, only a year and a half after he threatened to dismantle the institution (a year after he finally, reluctantly, announced he would not follow through with his maleficent scheme). This is a proposal for Shawn’s convocation speech:

    EMCEE: … and therefore am obliged to present the Premier of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham.

    (Cue scattered sound of four people meekly applauding.)

    SHAWN: Thank you, thank you. You’re too kind.

    (In garbled, mangled French.)

    Merci, merci. Je vie pour votre applause.

    (Straightens his tie.)

    I know there’s still another year and a half to go before the next provincial election, but I want to start by making a few promises to you this evening, if you’ll indulge me.

    First, I promise not to turn tonight’s occasion into a platform for me to sound off on issues that have nothing to do with why I am here, as is my habit whenever I am asked to speak at any given function. I will stick only to the subject of universities and university educations.

    I also promise not to use this occasion to rattle off everything that “my Liberal government” has done to make your academic journey a better one, because deep down I know I have failed you in this regard.

    I promise, for once, not to speak like a politician, or like some automaton who cannot speak or think for himself.

    Most importantly though, tonight I promise that I will not, under ANY circumstances, use the following words or phrases: “self-sufficiency,” “action plan,” “trades,” “skills,” “polytechnic,” “Be… In this place,” and “Maritime/Magnifique.” I also promise not to allude to any of the tacky commercials that I am currently starring in, and which were paid for using New Brunswick tax dollars. I acknowledge that this money could have been pumped into postsecondary education over the last few years, during a time when you were each paying a small fortune in tuition fees. Instead, I filmed myself holding a toddler and awkwardly shaking hands with another person who’s since moved to Calgary. But I digress.

    To begin with, I would like to express how deeply grateful I am to receive an honourary degree from UNB. As some of my fellow alumni have already commented, I am someone who “barely got his degree in Education,” and my “performance both inside and outside the classroom were certainly not the stuff of a[n] ‘outstanding individual.'”

    Ah, yes. The glory days… when I got my fellow classmates loaded. Believe-you-me, back then, I had quite the responsibilities. As another alumnus remarked, my job experience consisted “of a semester of student teaching, slinging drinks at Sweetwaters and being Daddy’s assistant.” And now look at me! To this day, I still do the equivalent of a semester of work over the span of a full year, I sling manure now instead of drinks, and I still have that favourable assistantship (and voter apathy) to thank for my rise to the position of Premier!

    So you see? Any of YOU can do what I do. And chances are, since you actually worked your tails off to be here and enhanced your ability to think critically and creatively in the process, you’re probably overqualified for my job.

    (Pauses and unnecessarily takes half a sip of water. Puts glass down, and pauses again unnecessarily.)

    It is my understanding that not just anybody can be acknowledged with an honourary degree. For example, just this week a PhD was given to Dolly Parton. (http://www.confabulous.ca/2009/05/dolly-parton-phd/) With the exception of the part about having to work from 9 to 5, I think Dolly and I have a lot in common. For example, whenever we smile, people often suspect plastic phoniness. Also, Dolly has Double D’s; these happen to be the same marks I got when I attended UNB. And, of course, we both continue to have strong ties to the best little whorehouse in Texas. But I digress.

    This is all to say that I feel humbled to receive UNB’s highest honour, particularly so soon after coming oh-so-close to destroying it as an academic institution. The gullibility of your board of directors, and their willingness to ignore the protests by UNB’s faculty, staff, and students, show that political moves based on strategy and not on merit continue to thrive in our province.

    I began by issuing a number of promises to you, and now — as unlikely as it may seem — I am going to make a number of apologies, if you’ll indulge me. I had help with these — someone else thought them up on my behalf — but I have written down here that the following is meant to be spoken aloud with all due sincerity.

    (Pauses and unnecessarily takes half a sip of water. Puts glass down, and pauses again unnecessarily.)

    I apologize that in 2007, many UNBSJ and UNBF students alike had to devote a great deal of time and effort into protest efforts against me. It is my understanding that some UNBSJ professors had to take time out of their own lesson plans and classes to encourage their students to attend some of the daytime demonstrations.

    I apologize to the 2007-2008 UNBSJ Student Council, who were essentially overloaded beyond what is normally expected of a student countil by the crisis I personally caused.

    I apologize that many of you were fraught with uncertainty on a daily basis, as well as your families and friends who were also impacted by this trepidation.

    I apologize for deliberately staying silent on a critical, vital issue, and for muzzling my faithful sidekick, Mr. Ed when I knew it was the wrong thing to do. If I had simply stated the truth — that I was actually, seriously contemplating something as heinous as dismantling the only university in the province’s largest city — at least you would have known what was going on in my Sweetwatered head. Instead, all I gave you was “no comment” for months and months and months, and I am sorry for that.

    I apologize that my actions have harmed the reputation of UNBSJ, and done further damage by negatively influencing prospective high school students who might have been on the fence about attending their local university. I apologize that I have personally caused financial harm to UNBSJ due to lost enrolment and for the money I needlessly wasted on the l’Ecuyer-Miner report, a document I pushed to have completed in order to justify my desire to dismantle UNBSJ at the expense of increasing funding and infrastructure toward other postsecondary avenues.

    I apologize for risking making UNBSJ the laughing stock of the country, when the rest of Canada found out its premier was not speaking out to keep UNBSJ alive and well, and to devote further resources to this invaluable institution.

    I apologize if, by virtue of having received this honourary degree tonight, I have consequently diminished the value of your own degrees. It is not my intent to cheapen your efforts.

    Most importantly though, I apologize to you for not apologizing until now. These words are long overdue, and it has been grossly irresponsible of me to have waited this long to publicly say these things.

    (In garbled, mangled French)

    En conclusion, je like to dire…

    (Pauses and unnecessarily takes half a sip of water. Puts glass down, and pauses again unnecessarily. Looks around.)

    Go, Dolly, Go! WHOOOO!

    EMCEE: Thank you, Shawn. We will take your apology under advisement and will wait approximately six months to let you know if there will be a “forgiveness presence” in the city of Saint John.

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  1. Too funny « Living in interesting times

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