Open Letter to President Campbell

The following open letter was sent to President Campbell, copied to AUNBT members, on Dec. 6/14. As there has been no response nor acknowledgment of receipt, the letter is now being released publicly. Read it below, or as a PDF:

President H.E.A. Campbell
University of New Brunswick

December 6, 2014

Dear President Campbell,

What follows is an open letter written in response to the message sent from your office to the UNB community via email on November 24, 2014.

That message included the following statement:

The job action was accompanied by the requirement for a myriad of unfamiliar decisions. Some of these caused anger and hurt. Indeed, some members of our community are still unsure of how to move forward. I deeply regret the damage that has been done to our collegial environment, and I have been searching for ways in which we can continue to advance our mission, so critical to our students and to the future of our province.

In an effort to help those who are committed to moving ahead, I invite any individual among our faculty or staff who’d like to discuss this or any other matter to meet with me. Should she or he desire, I can also arrange for any other senior leader to join us. I am committed to these meetings, to finding solutions, and will continue these meetings for as long as it takes.

Subsequently, at the November 25 meeting of Fredericton Senate, you also raised the possibility of hiring a third party consultant to meet with people to discuss these matters.

Discussion has been central to university life through the ages and is always welcome. Aspects of your statement are surprising nevertheless. The strike and lockout were in January, yet your message was not issued until November and your regret appears confined to unspecified events during the strike and lockout. Conspicuously absent from your statement is any acknowledgement of the fundamental academic concerns that gave rise to the many non-confidence motions against policies and actions of you and your senior administration so damaging to UNB’s core mission of research and teaching – policies and actions that began several years before the strike and lockout and still continue. Your term “anger and hurt” has the effect of minimizing these fundamental academic concerns as personal. We are not convinced that you understand the scope or depth of our members’ discontent and distrust, or that their reactions are focused not as much on discrete past events as on ongoing policies and actions.

Compounding your unwillingness to acknowledge the adverse effects of your policies and actions on UNB is the evidence that the Board of Governors continues to support and enable them. For example, in her letter to faculty, staff and students issued on July 27, 2014 Board Chair Kathryn McCain wrote “We continue to have full confidence in our President, Eddy Campbell, and in the senior administrative team.”

A new fundamental concern arose in September 2014 with the release of details of a proposed revision of the UNB Act, in development through a secretive process for a year and half in the absence of prior consultation with AUNBT or the Senates. Contrary to your public characterization of it as a “modernization,” the proposed radical revision is a reactionary reversion and an attack on collegial rights as well as on academic democracy.

We consider it essential to have a full and open discussion of the fundamental academic concerns and accept your message as an indication that substantive discussion may finally begin. That being said, we believe that such a discussion must be preceded by an actual apology in which matters ambiguously referred to in your message are identified and acknowledged, along with acceptance of responsibility by you. Furthermore, it is our view that any such discussion must be conducted in an open and transparent manner. Individual, closed-door meetings fall far short of what is needed to effectively improve the atmosphere at UNB.  Students and other members of the UNB community also are deeply concerned by the policies and actions of you and your senior administration. They too need to be included in the broad, open community-based discussions that need to take place.

Hiring yet more consultants is an option you may choose but may result in more delays and expense. If a third-party consultant is to be brought in it is essential that a small, but broadly representative group made up of members of the UNB community from both campuses, including Administration, Faculty and Librarians, undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and others be tasked with developing the mandate for such an investigation, selecting the investigator, and both receiving and disseminating the resulting report. It must belong to the whole community. We would respectfully suggest, however, that we have the will and the expertise within the University to design and implement our own process.

In the meantime, urgent action is needed to stabilize research and teaching programs. The annual financial statements show that many tenure-track positions can be funded and authorized for immediate advertising and filling. If you and the Board are truly committed to the Overarching Goal of the 2010 Strategic Plan then urgent stabilization action should be taken. Such action would move UNB forward by beginning to address the fundamental academic concerns.

We look forward to your response.

Yours truly,
Miriam Jones
President, AUNBT, on behalf of the Executive Committee

cc. AUNBT membership

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Categories: Communication