16 December 2009

The die is cast aside

“The die is cast!”

That’s what then-education minister Joan Burke said back in 2007 when the current provincial administration unveiled its plan to give Sir Wilfred Grenfell College something called “autonomy” from Memorial University. 

She was arrogantly dismissing concerns raised about the feasibility of creating a second university in the province.

Burke even used the word “independent” in a news release in 2007 - “Grenfell College is about to gain independence…” – something she predicted would happen in 2008. 

Well, in 2009, none of the promises came true.

And you can tell none of the promises came true because the announcement was made by Darrin King, the education minister, and not Danny Williams, the premier behind the whole drive.

You can also tell there’s nothing to get excited about because the release is gigantic – 13 paragraphs – and there are no fewer than five media contacts.  The way these things usually go, the less positive news there is, the more names are listed as media contacts.

Under the proposed approach, Grenfell will lose its separate and proud identity, becoming instead something to be called Memorial University  - Corner Brook.

It also won’t get a separate president or senate, as recommended by two consultants hired in 2005 to look at the whole idea of Grenfell “autonomy”.  Their Option 1A was the one supposedly on the books to be implemented.

Instead, the current senior official – named the Principal – will continue to be called the Principal and will report directly to the President of Memorial.  And there will be a separate budget presented to government through Memorial University in St. John’s.

Whoopee ding.

The whole thing looks suspiciously like the consultant’s Option 2A  but without the administrative clout of having a separate president for the new university at Corner Brook.

And what were the disadvantages noted for that by the consultants, you may ask?

  • common Senate reduces Grenfell’s academic autonomy and
    development potential;
  • little change from current unsatisfactory situation.

That’s right.  The consultant’s considered that the approach government ultimately  would actually reduce Grenfell’s autonomy and offer little change from the status quo.

Looks like the die for Grenfell autonomy Joan Burke talked about wound up getting cast alright, cast aside.

Expect lots of negative reaction to this as the magnitude of the broken promise starts to sink in for people in Corner Brook.