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An excellent

May 16, 2009

letter from Robert Whitney in today’s T-J. Here is the entire letter; the published version was trimmed a little:

Your editorial that condemned UNB Faculty and Staff for distancing themselves from the decision of the UNB Board of Governors to grant Premier Graham an Honorary Degree is misleading on two points.

First, it was not a “few brave professors” that prevented Mr. Graham’s government from accepting the recommendations of the L’Écuyer-Miner report that threatened three university campuses in New Brunswick. Had the protest come only from university faculty, staff, and students, I am certain their voices would not have been enough to prevent the government from implementing the L’Écuyer-Miner report. What forced Graham to back-down was the thousands of people throughout the entire province and from all walks of life who wrote letters, signed petitions, demonstrated in the streets, talked to their MLAs, and spoke in their churches about the need to save access to university education in our communities. By suggesting that it was just a “few brave professors” who resisted Graham’s attempt to impose the L’Écuyer-Miner report on the province, you are misleading your readers about the level of widespread public opposition to the proposed changes.

Second, it seems perfectly reasonable to question the “independence” of the L’Écuyer-Miner report. It was and remains public knowledge that the authors of the report have long advocated that universities should become polytechnics and that post-secondary educational institutions should be controlled by the private sector and by provincial governments. Mr. Miner in particular was on the Board of Polytechnics Canada, so to describe a report co-written by him as “independent” is rather disingenuous to say the least. It therefore seems logical to assume that Mr. Graham got the report he wanted to read and he assumed the only problem would be how his government would implement its recommendations. Thanks to the people of New Brunswick — not university professors — he failed. For the Board of Governors of UNB to grant an Honorary university degree to a Premier who commissioned a biased and rejected report that proposed restricting public access to university education, and that cost taxpayers $1.2 million, is disgraceful.

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3 Comments
  1. Lee Chalmers permalink
    May 16, 2009 10:39 am

    Exactly! Mind you, watching the TJ editorial writer trying to put a positive spin on Mr. Graham’s government’s role in the PSE debacle has some entertainment value. Do you think the TJ’s response might be a bit different had it been, oh I dunno say, Mayor Ivan Court who set up such an “independent” commission, which framed the debate in its pre-consultation discussion paper, expended some good portion of $1.2 million in what appears to have been a pretense of public consultation, only to draw up recommendations that were already flagged in the discussion paper (see the discussion paper: http://www.gnb.ca/cpse-ceps/08-e.asp)? As the TJ writer reports, the government then “assessed the recommendations as falling short of public expectations,” an acknowledgement, from my reading, that the government has been a bit out of touch with the people on this issue (and then there’s early French immersion, and the importance of the ferries to rural communities…). As I read about the cutbacks to our schools, and hear about the struggles of child care centres to stay open in lower-income neighbourhoods and then think about the $1.2 million of taxpayer money squandered on this exercise, I’m wondering how many more government “initiatives” like this we can afford? And as far as the TJ goes, I guess it’s sad but understandable that, with so much spinning required, they have to bypass “dripping mud” and go right into slinging.

  2. Cicciolino permalink
    May 16, 2009 12:27 pm

    Two words come to mind regarding Professor Robert Whitney’s letter in today’s TJ: Eloquence and civility.

  3. May 18, 2009 12:28 am

    Editorial writers who repeatedly call for facts, reason and dispassionate debate while continually labelling academics as “silly,” the cause of riots, “politically correct” (an oxymoron at best), “blind” critically, and an “old-fashioned … mob dressed in threadbare intellectual garb,” deliver copy that reads like a projection of juvenile journalism in search of a competitive voice.

    They sound like anti-intellectuals. No wonder the illiteracy rate in this province is so high. Who do these editors play to? Or does the Premier, who was introduced by the publisher of the Telegraph-Journal at a recent “state of the province address — how about those optics? — phone the publisher and tell him to keep his ducks in line? With an election not far off, I suppose it is possible. What did Columbia University teach in its journalism program?

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