Saturday, August 2, 2008
The elephant in the University
I was going to avoid making commentary on the Memorial presidential search for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the over abundance of commentary already being made, but ignoring the elephant in the room in this case has almost become impossible. And it's probably more important than Russia trying to ban emo and goth culture, which is what I was originally going to write an entry about.
First off, I've interviewed Joan Burke a couple of times and I liked her. I'm a sucker for a polite politician, I must admit, especially one that took the time to call me back when I was a student journalist (okay, I guess I still AM a student journalist, but whatever), even if she did end a few interviews asking me what I was doing in school like some aunt I hadn't seen since I was *this* high.
We've got a great deal on tuition and education in the province and we owe a lot of it to her — or perhaps to Danny, which is what brings me to my point. Burke is suddenly admitting to interviewing and vetoing presidential candidates for the University, which is dicey at best, but I find if very interesting that all the blame and ire is falling on her while Danny Williams seems to be getting off scot free. When was the last time anything happened in that government that Danny didn't know about?
Tom Rideout, you say. Yes, the man acted of his own accord, and look what happened to him — not only was he demoted, but his fellow cabinet ministers hung him out to dry claiming he bullied them into giving him extra money for his constituency (after finding out there will still communities in his riding without paved roads, I can't say I blamed him). Rideout was leader of the Progressive Conservative party at one time, not to mention premier of the province and deputy premier under Danny, and NO ONE in his party stood up for him.
The Muse first heard rumblings of something fishy happening vis-a-vis government interference with the University's presidential search during the winter semester, and even asked Burke if she was involved in the vetoing of any candidates. She denied any involvement or knowledge of such interference. Perhaps we worded the question incorrectly, or maybe she hadn't actually vetoed any candidates yet — but then why were the rumours flying already?
I don't think Burke is totally blameless for this intrusion into Memorial's autonomy — she is a very strong willed and independent person, in my experience. But It's no secret that Danny likes to be in control (really, what premier doesn't?), so I wouldn't be at all surprised to discover that he was the puppet master in this scenario. We'll just have to wait and see if Burke will go down in flames for this, bring the whole government with her, or if it will all blow over in the face of oil money and more jobs for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.