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Again, and most strangely,

June 13, 2009

a letter to the editor of the T-J from a UNB faculty member has somehow got lost. I reproduce it for you here:

Two years ago “Shared Vision” and Enterprise Saint John were responsible for releasing a brief called “Enriching our Future”(PDF) that was partly funded by Irving Oil.  They supported turning UNBSJ into a Polytechnic.

Today these “local voices” are spouting nonsense again about “synergy” and want to relocate the new $21 million Centre of Excellence for Energy and Construction scheduled to be opened at the Grandview Ave. Campus of NBCC to UNBSJ’s Tucker Park campus.

To them, “synergy” is an inevitable force of nature.  All you have to do is bring people together and magically all kinds of creative energy is released by their proximity. No real thought is given to how different institutional cultures work together or how they can become unstuck by their differences or lack of trust. Certainly no thought is given to the level of ongoing funding needed for real excellence in research.

As a faculty member at UNB I never thought that co-location was a bad idea as long as the independence of the university was defended.  Many universities are working creatively with co-location but only after a careful consideration of the fit between the university and the other institutions.  The idea of locating the Health Centre at UNB’s Tucker Park has substance.  It’s next to the hospital; students, faculty and researchers can take advantage of Dal’s new medical program; it fits with our existing nursing program; and it will contribute to the greater public good.

The Centre of Excellence for Energy and Construction is another story. I agree with Education Minister Donald Arsenault that it is best located at NBCC next to the refinery where much of that work is done.

Co-locating willy-nilly or because corporate interests want it so is a destructive idea.  UNBSJ has only a two year engineering program and unless we put significant new resources into building the programme — resources we don’t have — co-location will continue to be a weak idea that will benefit no one, neither students, the people of Saint John, or corporate interests.  I hope members of the public will please think carefully before accepting the empty spin we have been reading over the past two days.

Joseph Galbo
Associate Professor of Sociology
at the Saint John Campus of UNB

Update (17/6/09): I spoke too soon.

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