The Board of Regents of Memorial University of Newfoundland is concerned for the autonomy of the university.
The Board is of the opinion that the university’s autonomy has been called into question by recent public statements.
The Board supports and endorses Acting President Dr. Eddy Campbell’s statement of Friday, Aug. 1, 2008.
Memorial University, like the great majority of Canadian universities, must be free to operate at arm’s length from government, while adhering to provisions that allow for appropriate government oversight and accountability. Autonomy is vital if our university is to fulfill its commitments to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond.
The Board recognizes that the process of independent selection of a university president underpins the important principle of university autonomy and the independence of university governance.
The Board’s appointment of a candidate for president must be the result of a fair, thorough and comprehensive process that is strictly in accordance with the provisions of The Memorial University Act.
The Board is concerned that government’s non-acceptance of the candidates and government’s request that the Search Committee continue with its search before a formal recommendation could be made on the Board’s proposed appointee constitutes inappropriate interference in the normal process.
The Board will be consulting with the Senate, the university’s academic governing body, on the matter of autonomy.
The Memorial University Act is clear in delineating government’s role and the Board of Regents is committed to ensuring that role remains within the letter and spirit of the Act.
The Board endorses the suggestion of Dr. Campbell for a meeting with government as soon as possible to clarify the matter.
The Board is concerned that progress in the search for a new president will be severely impaired until such clarity is obtained.
The Board of Regents respectfully recommends to government that it amend The Memorial University Act to better reflect the autonomy of the university and to be more in line with appointment practices at other Canadian universities. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s right of approval dates back many decades and is somewhat unique in Canadian universities. In most other jurisdictions, governments have entirely removed themselves from the process, instead choosing a more appropriate involvement through arms-length mechanisms such as governing boards.
The Board notes the Acting President’s recognition of a productive working relationship with this Minister and her staff, and is committed to see that continue.