This is Part 2 in a two-part series covering an interview with Political Science Professor Dr. Mehmet Caman
Given the context of the recent MUNFA strike, what do the recent decisions made by HSS and Memorial, as a whole, say about the university?
In the context of the recent MUNFA strike, the spotlight is on the pressing concerns surrounding precarious employment and the decisions made by HSS (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) and Memorial University as a whole. Unfortunately, my own job situation and the injustice I am facing lie at the core of these discussions.
Having devoted eight years of my life as a contractual professor, the current state of affairs is disheartening. Despite my contributions to teaching at the Political Science Department, the administration’s decision not to grant me a term appointment for the upcoming semester leaves me feeling unrecognized and undervalued. It is disheartening to think about the message we are sending to our students. Is this the example we want to set? Is this how we prioritize the long-term quality of education and the competitiveness of Memorial University?
The administration’s financially-oriented approaches and neoliberal mindset raise concerns regarding the quality of education. By prioritizing budget considerations over educational excellence, we face the risk of offering fewer courses, having fewer expert professors, and ultimately delivering a poorer educational experience. This decline in education quality not only affects our students’ learning outcomes but also diminishes our competitiveness as an institution.
Furthermore, there appears to be a disconnect between the administration and the individual stories that shape the lives of faculty members. Despite facing persecution and seeking refuge through the Scholar Rescue Fund fellowship, my personal journey remains largely unknown to decision-makers. This lack of awareness underscores the need for more meaningful engagement between administration and faculty, fostering a better understanding of the challenges faced by educators.
Adding to the injustice, the administration has not taken action despite numerous requests from the Political Science Department for better job security. Our appeals for a tenure or long-term appointment, which would provide greater stability, have seemingly fallen on deaf ears, leaving us in a state of uncertainty and vulnerability.
Moreover, the administration’s dismissal of the feedback and demands from the Faculty Union and the broader university community is concerning. By failing to take our concerns seriously, they disregard the importance of faculty expertise, course offerings, and the long-term quality of education. This approach undermines the principles of inclusivity and collaboration essential for a thriving academic environment.
These decisions by the administration reflect a lack of respect for the values of academia and the collective demands of the Faculty Union. Memorial University must reflect on these issues, reevaluate its financially-oriented approaches, and engage in meaningful dialogue and collaboration to address the injustices faced by faculty members. Only through a united effort can we foster an academic environment that upholds the principles of education, values the contributions of faculty, and ensures fairness and equity for all.
What are your thoughts on the various cuts to many departments in HSS, including political science?
As someone deeply invested in the field of political science and a faculty member who has witnessed the impact firsthand, I find the various cuts to departments within HSS, including political science, deeply concerning. These cuts, driven by financially-oriented approaches and a focus on budget considerations, have far-reaching implications for the quality of education and the long-term competitiveness of Memorial University.
By reducing resources allocated to departments such as political science, we face the risk of offering fewer courses and having fewer expert professors. This inevitably leads to a decline in the educational experience we can provide to our students. The knowledge and expertise of faculty members in political science are vital for shaping well-rounded, informed citizens and fostering critical thinking skills. By diminishing the presence of political science within HSS, we compromise the comprehensive education that students deserve and hinder their ability to navigate an increasingly complex world.
Moreover, these cuts not only affect the immediate educational experience but also undermine the long-term competitiveness of Memorial University. As an institution, we must strive to attract and retain top-tier faculty members and provide a diverse array of courses to meet the evolving needs of our students. By limiting resources and opportunities within political science and other affected departments, we risk falling behind other institutions and losing our standing as a leading academic institution.
Have you heard anything back from MUNFA, HSS or the Dean on this matter?
Yes, I have received significant support and engagement from various parties regarding my situation. MUNFA, our Faculty union, has been actively involved and has expressed deep concern. I have had the opportunity to meet with the MUNFA Labour Relations department to discuss my circumstances and explore potential solutions.
Additionally, I am grateful for the support and communication from our new Department Head, Dr. Amanda Bittner. Amanda has been a wonderful colleague and friend, and she shares the concerns of my colleagues within the department. She has taken the initiative to reach out to the Dean of the Faculty of HSS and the University Administration to advocate for greater job security on my behalf.
Moreover, numerous colleagues from the Political Science Department, as well as other departments within HSS and other faculties, have reached out to me to share their support. Their solidarity and encouragement have been invaluable during this challenging time.
I have also received numerous emails from my students and former students expressing their support and solidarity. Their messages have been a reminder of the impact I have had as an educator and the value they place on my contributions. Furthermore, the graduate and undergraduate student societies in the Political Science department are actively preparing a petition to further express their concerns and rally for a positive resolution.
While I am appreciative of the widespread support I have received, I am still awaiting official responses from MUNFA, HSS, the Dean, and the University Administration regarding my situation. I remain hopeful that these discussions and advocacy efforts, coupled with the outpouring of support, will lead to a positive outcome that addresses the pressing issue of job security and recognizes the value I bring to the department and university community.
Is there anything at all you’d like to share or have included in this article that perhaps I did not cover?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my perspective and experiences. There are a few more points I’d like to highlight, particularly regarding my own situation.
Unfortunately, despite the incredible support I’ve received from the university community, I feel that the university administration hasn’t fully recognized my value. It’s disheartening to witness this disconnect, especially considering the previous acknowledgment of my contributions. In a video interview, former President Dr. Timmons expressed that Memorial University was fortunate to have me and signalled the importance of providing more job security. However, the current circumstances raise questions about what has changed and why the administration’s support appears to have diminished.
The overwhelming support from my colleagues, students, and various departments within Memorial University has been immensely meaningful to me. Their solidarity and encouragement have strengthened my resolve during this challenging time. After the recent strike, I had hoped that my job situation would be positively influenced. However, quite the opposite occurred. While I used to have an 8-month term appointment during the strike, I now find myself without any job security.
Moving forward, it is crucial for the university administration to reflect on the evolving dynamics and engage in meaningful dialogue to address the concerns surrounding job security. By fostering a collaborative and inclusive approach, we can work towards a resolution that not only supports faculty members like myself but also upholds the values and aspirations of Memorial University. Together, we can ensure that the university remains a place where individuals are valued, talents are recognized, and excellence is celebrated.
Lastly, I would like to address the broader implications of the current situation at Memorial University. As the only university in Newfoundland and Labrador, it plays a crucial role in shaping education within the province. However, it is disheartening to witness the university becoming smaller in terms of the number of academics, course offerings, and even the closure of some departments.
Education holds great importance, both for individuals seeking knowledge and for the overall development of the province. Memorial University serves as an international symbol for Newfoundland and Labrador, attracting students from around the world. Yet, when the quality of education is compromised, it undermines the university’s position among Canadian institutions and diminishes its national and international competitiveness.
By reducing the number of academics and available courses, we risk diluting the educational experience for students. A rich and diverse curriculum, supported by a strong faculty, is essential for providing students with a comprehensive education and preparing them for future success. It is vital that we prioritize maintaining and improving the quality of education at Memorial University to ensure it remains a highly respected institution.