On Campus

Province won't interview Memorial's presidential picks

After controversy last year, university chairman says process will be "open, transparent and accountable"

The Newfoundland and Labrador government won’t interview candidates for Memorial University’s presidency, the chairman of the school’s board of regents said Thursday.

“The minister of education will not be involved in interviews,” Bob Simmonds said at a news conference. “The process we will follow in finding a new president for Memorial University – and please note these words – will be open, transparent and accountable.”

Simmonds said the independent search committee tasked with finding Memorial’s next president will decide on a preferred candidate and pass that recommendation on to the government, as was done in the past.

The controversy surrounding Memorial’s presidential search erupted last year after Education Minister Joan Burke said she personally interviewed and rejected candidates for the position.

Burke’s involvement sparked accusations from some faculty and the university administration that the government violated the school’s autonomy – an allegation she has denied.

Under provincial law, the cabinet has the authority to approve or reject an independent search committee’s selection for Memorial’s president, though approval has long been considered a formality.

In many other provinces, universities don’t need the approval of their provincial governments to select incoming presidents.

Simmonds said if the government were to reject the search committee’s recommendation for president, he would quit his post.

Memorial’s acting president Eddy Campbell was one of the two presidential candidates that the provincial government dismissed. He has been recommended for the presidency of the University of New Brunswick and is expected to take office this summer.

Memorial has been without a full-time president since December 2007, when Axel Meisen announced his resignation earlier than planned.

– The Canadian Press