- Thermal Audit
Higher Education in Newfoundland and Labrador
Memorial University of Newfoundland is currently out of control with a massive, highly paid bureaucracy and ever expanding scope. MUN recently purchased the battery hotel, and wants to add a law school.
Aside from massive cuts in the bloated bureaucracy (while keeping the teaching and technical staff), the whole campus model needs re-evaluation. Why would you send a child into St. John's, have them rack up $1000/month in living expenses, just to sit in a large classroom with 100+ other students watching a lecture in math -- when the internet is full of truly excellent lectures and tutorial from other universities and educators?
Some professors with tenure have gone public. Consider this recent mechanical engineering yearbook page: (legible text below)
"As you can imagine, over the years, I have seen many classes move through the program here at MUN. I found that your class contained an interesting mix of characters. From a project point of view, it was probably the best.
Some of you were not treated very well by the people running the program here. When you needed them most, they let you down. They owe you an apology. Some who started with you are no longer here. Many were just victims of a system which ignored problems in itself and made decisions as if everything was normal. Some potentially good engineers will never become engineers because of this.
When I graduated, I new very little. When I was a student, there was just too much stuff thrown at me to really learn anything. Most if what I know I picked up on my own, either because I needed to know it or I just wanted to know it. I suggest you follow this approach from now onwards.
I hope you find a good job and get to work with good people. If you run into bad people, I suggest you look for another job or, better still, create your own."
Some students have gone public: Please watch the following video - it is not technical and rather entertaining and pathetic at the same time.
The majority of the professors are good, so it isn't simply a case of getting rid of exceptional cases. The administrative bureaucracy is the larger problem. It is focused on endless expansion and empire creation, not on the core mandate - education. Many things are run by committee and there is an inside joke along of the lines of "What is a committee?" "Something with at least six legs and no brain". When irresponsible decisions are made, there is nobody to hold accountable because "it was the committee". Individual accountability with consequences is required otherwise there is no accountability.
There is trend towards tailoring research to commercial interests. This is a great deal for oil and mining companies that want publicly subsidized research, cheap laboratories and naming rights for campus buildings. These companies should hire their own research scientists and maintain their own labs.
A far better use of public resources is to allow a mix of research based on professorial interests and directed research towards solving provincial issues. How about civil engineering solving St. John's Riverhead sewage treatment woes or finding the cause of the ruts in the outer ring road that cost us a quarter million dollars a kilometer to grind and resurface?
The battery hotel, shown here with its roof membrane hanging off, was purchased for $9.5 million. The interior had been neglected for a long time, and the proposed upgrade budget is $16.2 million. Is $25 million a wise expenduture in times of fiscal restraint? A residence within easy walking distance would make more sense.
- Change the focus from Research to Teaching. Research is great, but not if the education part isn't up to expectations. Professors should not be threatened "publish or perish" and should be rewarded with promotions for teaching excellence.
- Make all non-labratory courses available as distance courses. Final exams can be written at public schools. Offer a fair payment to the teacher that monitors the exam and collects the exams.
- Arrange course availability so that students from outside St. John's can attend for a year and get the laboratory portions of physics/chemistry out of the way. This wouldn't work for engineering or medicine, but certainly would for many other degrees.
- Eliminate most of the senior management and several vice presidents. They aren't needed. Professors used to do most of the administrative work themselves. If there is too much administration work, then eliminate the procedures that do not add value.
- Force retirement of elderly professors if they are unfortunate enough to lose their minds (dementia, Alzheimer's).
- Stop using Master and Ph.D. students and sessional appointments to teach courses. This has been done to get cheap labor. Use permanent faculty to teach, and require accountability. Allow lectures to be recorded.
- Create MUN textbooks for all basic courses, or adopt open source material. The millions spent in bookstores is a huge burden on parents. Many textbooks cost $180 each and there is a new edition every year with only trivial changes. To circumvent this, many students simply download pirated copies of all their books using bit-torrent software. With the current trend towards draconian (brutal) copyright laws, most of our children are now criminals.
- Disallow professors from opting out of student evaluations.
The faculty union may be a problem and resist every change. However, the driving force behind them unionizing in the first place was abuse from the bureaucracy. As for the student union, it has become complacent and dependant on office space provided by the university and automatic fee collection via student registration. Students: Rather than run for the student union, create a new one. You will learn more about politics and have a real chance of improving things.
The MUN campus infrastructure is a mess. It is unfortunate that beginning with the construction of the engineering and business buildings in the 1970s, that parking lots were covered with new buildings, and with the exception of the earth sciences building, zero new parking was added. Parking is a huge issue -- it is insane that many students have no choice but to park illegally and receive a parking ticket every day or else miss class.
An expensive solution is a large parking garage just for students. For example, the new parking garage near the medical school cost $14.2 million and most of it is not available to students. An inexpensive option is to encourage distance education and reduce the on-campus student population.
A walk through the engineering building reveals water leaks everywhere from deteriorating heating pipes (just look at the ceiling tiles), foundation cracks and general dis-repair. There is a great deal of deferred maintenance.