Category Archives: Academia

UNBSJ not safe yet

This week’s announcement is a positive step that brings us into a new phase of discussions, but UNBSJ is still far from safe. The government is not guaranteeing that UNBSJ will remain part of UNB or that it would retain a liberal arts focus. This still sounds very much like the polytechnic idea with just a different name, and our university would be greatly diminished. That’s no good.

Saint John, and New Brunswick, needs a strong UNB in Saint John. Without us, UNB would lose a large portion of students, possibly causing it to be pushed out of the national comprehensive university category, leaving New Brunswick with only a series of small regional universities. This would also hurt Saint John, as a separate new institution would not have the degree recognition that UNB has, nor some of the wide shared services offered by UNB. A completely separate university in Saint John is a raw deal for everyone, at least for now.

Instead, we need to remain a strong, high-growth part of UNB, which we currently are. We need to resolve the funding issues that we have with Fredericton, and be allowed to grow at our natural pace without being hindered. This should happen as we work as an important part of UNB, not separate from it

Solidarity unites New Brunswick students

Today, the university and college students of New Brunswick united for the first time in a rally to protest recommendations to destroy three university campuses that we all fought so hard to obtain. I took many photos, and have posted some of the good ones.


Vibrant autumn colours serve as a backdrop for a large vibrant crowd of over 1,000 students from every university in New Brunswick, as well as NBCC campuses. This issue is now a provincial issue, not just a Saint John issue. Shawn, are you listening?


With an aging population and lower birth rates, a large part of our growth will depend on immigrants. At the SJHS session last night, John Wallace talked about how our international student programs attract students from over 30 countries, making this perhaps one of the best ways to grow our population.


Normally, anglophones and francophones speak different languages in this province. Today, we spoke with one clear voice. We are united in protecting our university campuses for future generations.


A polytechnic, by definition, isn’t a bad thing. However, this is simply fancy lingo being used in the PSE report to say “community college”. There’s nothing wrong with the college, but we need both of them as separate institutions. Mashing a university and community college into one institution is like trying to keep ice cream and hot coffee in the same Thermos. Instead of ending up with something great (e.g. coffee ice cream), you’d end up with something that doesn’t really provide the joys of either original ingredient. The same type of problems arises when you go to combine a community college and university into a polytechnic.


Closing UNBSJ, and the north UdeM campuses will certainly be political suicide for the Liberals. Shawn, why give up on a second term so soon? Worst of all, the destruction of a university will be the monster that keeps on giving, as we come to realize new problems caused by going backwards in a way that no community ever has before.


A huge crowd surrounds the entrance to the legislature. Many student leaders spoke to us, as did Dr. Ed Doherty. His speech was more of the same, but I’ve noticed him attempting to emphasize more distance between himself and the report. He’s no longer pretentiously telling us to read the report, but rather emphasizing it is not government policy. Certainly you’d realize a good report within 6 weeks of it coming out enough to quickly claim credit for it, if it was any good at all. Despite our polite demands for his presence, Shawn Graham never showed his face.


We won an impossible fight for UNBSJ back in 1964. Let’s do it again.

SRC appoints PSE Task Force

The UNBSJ SRC has appointed a PSE Task Force to assist them with their mission to save the university. I have been chosen to act in the position of “researcher”, something I’ve been trying to do since the beginning, along with countless others.

At this point, I can’t overstate the importance of everyone’s involvement. Democracy can only happen if we all get involved. If you don’t take part at all, how are you going to explain to future generations that you remained silent while Saint John became the first city in Canada to destroy a university?

Many events are planned for the next week, which you can read about in detail on Living in Interesting Times. This Saturday, a community rally is being planned uptown starting at noon. So far, the weather looks great too!


Just in case you or someone you know thinks this is still rowdy students making a fuss and professors fighting for themselves, take a look at the list of names on the poster above. Many of these people are prominent business leaders whose children and grandchildren can easily go anywhere for a university, so they have no vested personal interest in saving UNBSJ. They are standing up for the good of the community.

Next Tuesday, another very important rally will unfold in Fredericton. The rally, which will take place outside the legislature, coincides with a caucus meeting. Some sources indicate that the government is fearing this day somewhat, as a large demonstration in the capital city will almost ensure coverage on the national news, and make the rest of the country aware of the insanity trying to be pushed through here. Bus loads of people are expected from all parts of the province.

For more details, contact me personally or check out Living in Interesting Times.

Well wishes to Save UNBSJ from ASU President

In his original reply to my e-mail, President Michael Crow of Arizona State University (ASU) confirmed some details about his university, but didn’t seem to address the situation happening here in New Brunswick.

As you may recall from my earlier blog post, I had attempted to get ASU and other universities involved by making them aware that their good name is coming up in our news media as “examples” of universities-turned-polytechnic. In the case of ASU, they merely have one polytechnic campus of many as part of their university. The Commissioners have attempted to mislead the public to believe that their proposal here has been already carried out in other jurisdictions.

I followed up with this reply.

President Crow:

Thank you for your reply. I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to help me understand Arizona State University’s mission with your helpful insight.

It makes sense that ASU responded to the mandate from the Arizona Board of Regents by expanding to its current four-campus model, adding new campus models such as a polytechnic to complement your previous offerings. Suppose there had been a suggestion to convert the Tempe campus from a university into a polytechnic geared towards career programs in a specific industry, with a decreased focus on university degree programs. How would you respond to such a suggestion?

As unreasonable as that may sound, that is the proposal for my university. My city would be the first in Canada to ever lose a university, and the only one of its size to be left without one. Regretfully, the writers are degrading the good name of Arizona State University in an effort to associate its long history of continued academic excellence with a plan that would cripple access to higher education in my city. Your university is being misrepresented in order to forward this agenda-driven report.

Perhaps this is a concern for you, as I’m sure you appreciate the value of a full university education and keeping it accessible to all. Would you be willing to send a letter supporting the University of New Brunswick to the Premier of New Brunswick (who will make the final decision on the recommendations) and maybe the provincial newspaper? Perhaps you’d like to clarify that Arizona State University is a full university, not a polytechnic, and how this allows your school pursue new opportunities to change with the times through initiatives such as “One University in Many Places”.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Paul Saulnier
4th Year Computer Science UNBSJ

Commission on Post-Secondary Education report: link
Premier of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham: link or e-mail
Telegraph-Journal: link
University of New Brunswick, Saint John Campus: link

I received this reply from him:


Thank you for your e-mail. It is obvious that you are very passionate about this issue and I appreciate your desire to maintain your university. As you have already relayed the relevant facts as they relate to the structure of Arizona State University and its four campuses, there are few additional details to add. However, the subject of university design is an important one to ASU and you may find some of the resources on my website to be helpful. The document published by the Arizona Board of Regents titled, “A Redesigned Public University System” might be of particular interest to you.

I wish you well as you continue your campaign and hope that the aforementioned information will be helpful in understanding ASUâ??s approach to university design.


Michael M. Crow

As you can see, he stops short of offering the kind of direct support that I was hoping to receive. However, Dr. Crow was good enough to reply and offer his words of encouragement, which I believe means a lot coming from the President of a university with over twice as many students than all the New Brunswick universities combined.

So what about the report he refers on his web site? Let’s take a key look at some elements in the report that make sense for Arizona as well as New Brunswick and practically everywhere else.

“First and foremost, the university system must coordinate its efforts to complement those of the community colleges in Arizona. The community colleges will continue to be expected to be the first source of educational opportunity at the lower-division level in communities that lack the critical mass to support a baccalaureate institution.” ( page 30 )

According to Rick Miner, Arizona State University converted into the type of polytechnic being proposed for Saint John, that is, a merger of a university and a community college. That’s not what the Arizona State University President has told me himself.

Perhaps Saint John falls into the category of lacking a “critical mass to support a baccalaureate institution”, thereby requiring only a community college (or something similar like a polytechnic). If that’s the case, then how does the smaller city of Fredericton have enough critical mass to support 2 universities, or the Moncton area enough to support 2-3? If we’re going to play the population and critical mass card, Saint John clearly belongs in the lead.

“Arizona’s universities and community colleges would continue to collaborate and work closely together. Specifically, higher education centers would exist throughout rural Arizona via cooperative agreements with the community colleges, and additional centers would be created as the regional universities forge new alliances with community colleges.” ( page 8 )

Here you see yet more clear recommendations for universities and community colleges to work together in collaboration and alliances, not mergers. If you read more in this report created for Arizona under somewhat similar circumstances (government desire to re-evaluate post-secondary education), you’ll find more facts and justification for the importance of universities. This is backed up by considerable research and data, something that was unfortunately missing from the Disadvantage New Brunswick report.

Unfair comparison to Arizona State

To sell the report on post-secondary education, Dr. Rick Miner has, on a couple occasions, used Arizona State as an example of a university that has transitioned to become “Arizona State Polytechnic Institute”. He actually used that name in last Monday’s open house. This is completely false, as my quick research shows that they do have a polytechnic as one of 4 total campuses within their university. Clearly, the Commission is trying to use the good name of Arizona State University (ASU) and others to push this agenda-driven report.

I took the liberty of e-mailing ASU President Michael Crow to briefly summarize what is happening here, and see what he has to say about it. This was a long shot especially since over 50,000 students attend this huge university, and perhaps he might have been too busy to reply to me.

Here is the e-mail I sent:

I am student at the University of New Brunswick campus in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada (UNBSJ). We are currently in the midst of a major fight to save our university from being closed to make way for a new polytechnic institution to replace it as well as our local community college. This idea has come from a report produced by an “independent” commission formed by the government to look at post-secondary education options with two commissioners, one of which, Dr. Rick Miner, who is part of an advocacy group that promotes polytechnics in Canada.

My concern that leads me to write to you is that false statements are being made involving your university by these commissioners to support their agenda-driven report. In a radio interview, Dr. Miner claims that Arizona State University is one example of a school that has transitioned from a university to become a polytechnic institute. (To hear it yourself, refer to “The Report on Post Secondary Education” for Sept. 17, external link) This seems to be very incorrect, as quick research on your web site shows that you are indeed still a university, and that only one of your many campuses is a polytechnic. Please correct me if I am wrong here. This is very different from what we would have here in Saint John, as the university would disappear, and be replaced by the polytechnic which would be independent from the other schools. Thereâ??s nothing wrong with a polytechnic, but I support only in addition to our existing university.

I would be delighted to hear back from you with your thoughts about these statements, and your response to how your fine university’s name is being used as ammunition against a university on the other side of the continent. I know we certainly wouldn’t like it here if advocacy groups from somewhere else tried to drag our institution into a political debate by twisting facts and presenting a skewed vision of how we operate.

A couple days later, I did receive a reply:


Thank you for your e-mail. You are correct that we are a university that encompasses multiple campuses, one of which is a polytechnic. Arizona State University is comprised of four campuses of equal quality and differentiated focus. The Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the Arizona university system, has assigned ASU a specific mandate to enhance access to higher education in our state. As a result, ASU currently absorbs over 90% of the growth in our university system and, in order to accommodate this growth, it was necessary for us to expand beyond our first campus in Tempe. It became imperative to establish additional campuses in the Phoenix metropolitan area and to align our curriculum so that each campus has its own specific areas of academic concentration. We call this strategic approach “One University in Many Places.“?

I hope this information is helpful and I thank you again for writing.

Michael M. Crow

His message provides reinforcement to my earlier research. Their strategic approach is somewhat similar to what is happening in New Brunswick, in that the government has given directives to a university. The important difference here is that they didn’t close their university in order to open a polytechnic or other type of school. They added new campuses in the same city with their own focused efforts. The same could exist in Saint John with separate polytechnic/college and university institutions.

A “done” deal CAN be undone

Some people are easily discouraged by this issue. Even though they support UNBSJ, they feel this is a done deal that is going to go through anyway. Judging by Shawn Graham’s comments lately, he seems intent on pushing this through since that’s easier than checking first to make sure that doing so isn’t only the hugest mistake in the history of the world. (Enjoy that statement, there would be a lot less drama and history classes available in Saint John with a polytechnic!)

Getting discouraged is NOT an option for this issue. Let me tell you that this “done” deal (if it really is already set in stone) is one that WILL get UN-done. We must fight to keep a university in Saint John using a wide variety of methods, and getting as many different groups and types of people involved as possible. Friends of yours that own a business, work for a business, or are in some position of power anywhere are all in a position to be affected even indirectly by what the university, and they all should have a say. The Premier can only ignore support and facts supporting UNBSJ for so long before he will have to pause for a second, and listen to what people are really saying instead of what is contained in an agenda-driven report.

If you don’t do this, go to the shame corner right away! Rick Miner and Jacques L’Ecuyer (Commissioners of Committed on Post-Secondary Degradation) will keep you company there.

Supporting UNBSJ

Before I begin, I must note that I have recently purchased a brand new wireless keyboard from Staples, so I may make some typing mistakes. Please forgive me, as no one benefits in a world of typos.

On Monday, I was very proud and happy to have been part of such a spirited and peaceful rally in Uptown Saint John in support of our university. For my readers not from the local area, you may not be aware that Saint John’s campus of the University of New Brunswick has become threatened by a report released last week by the Commission of Post-Secondary Destruction (oops, sorry, that’s Post-Secondary Education. Stupid keyboard!). In short, it is their plan to improve post-secondary education by closing Saint John’s only university (as well as two other small ones) and replacing it with a bastardized “polytechnic”. One of the Commissioners is Rick Miner, a former vice-president of UNBSJ turned traitor. His portrait hangs in the UNBSJ library, albeit with a few improvements since the report came out.


Don’t worry, he was already blind enough before to not be able to see what New Brunswick really needs and does not need.

Monday began with classes as usual, until it was time to board a free shuttle bus for uptown to attend the Rally in King’s Square.


My whole argument, which is common among many supporters, is that we have nothing to lose by adding a polytechnic to Saint John. However, this must NOT come at the expense of our university which we have been building for 40 years.


This is not a small issue for Saint Johners. The rally was a huge success with 2,000 people showing up for the march down to Ed Doherty’s office. Everything went entirely peaceful. Ed Doherty gave a speech which did not support protecting UNBSJ at all, which no one in the crowd was enjoying whatsoever. The crowd was chanting “bullshit” a few appropriate times. Ed eventually got a bit frightened by our peaceful protest, and went into hiding in his office.

At this point, one of my professors, Dr. Littlejohn, took the microphone after the crowd began chanting his name.


He’s a real nice guy, very passionate about this issue. He’s also well connected, and knows his stuff about this issue. He is a friend of Ed Doherty’s and the Liberal party and helped them with their speeches in the last election. As difficult as it is, Dr. Littlejohn is going against these people to call them out as the liars they are being and pleading with them to do the right thing.

Later in the day was the presentation by the commissioners at the Delta hotel. Before they arrived a half hour late because of a flight delay (probably as a result of flying too high in their dream world), the mayor spoke, or tried to anyway…


Norm (approaching microphone): Oh, come on, let me speak.
Elsie (rushing up to speak a second time): Oh don’t you worry, I will let you speak. (not exact quotes)
And then they both spoke a bit, and Mayor Norm said the council meeting was starting, and that’s why no councillors will be present.

Not long after, the commissioners (shown below, disturbing image warning!) made their entrance to a crowd chanting “traitor” in a room which the Delta had to expand to accommodate everyone. This set the mood for the night.


Many of their statements were so ridiculous that the crowd broke into laughter. A few lies also slipped through, some unfortunately undetected. Dr. Miner (left) justified the report saying that Arizona State University is one example of a school that used to be a university, but is now a polytechnic. I thought, wow, maybe this idea has actually flown in some places. This would have been a good response on their response, if it wasn’t a lie. A quick visit to the school’s web site shows that they are actually still very much a “university”. Wikipedia reveals that only one of their many campuses is a polytechnic, and was opened in 1996. This is a far cry from an all out conversion of a university to a polytechnic.

For myself and many young people, this is the first local political issue of our lives that we have chosen to become involved with. It’s a great thing to see this involvement, but it’s also disturbing to think about the effects on this province and this city if we destroy our university status and settle for anything else. I will now cement this post as my longest so far on my blog by pasting at the bottom of this post a large part of a letter which I have sent to just about every politician in southern New Brunswick so far.

I would encourage you to do the same, and encourage your family and friends to do the same. There does appear to be a very quick timeline at which this is being pushed through, and it is very possible that we have only days, not weeks or months, to make our voices heard before the process advances too far.

Dear Politicians in New Brunswick: (NO, I didn’t actually this generic greeting, each politician received a customized version of this letter)

I have read the report presented by the Commission on Post-Secondary Education. In addition to this, I have done my own research on the issue, heard from well-connected individuals with the university, and attended the Rally and Delta presentation by the Commissioners on Monday. I do not believe the conversion of our Saint John university to any other type of institution is going to solve our problems. Frankly, I believe the loss of our university would be a tremendous blow to the community that would take us off the map.

After graduating from high school in 2004, I balanced both NBCC and UNBSJ as possible options, before finally deciding on UNBSJ. I appreciated having this choice here in Saint John because it empowered me with the freedom to choose the post-secondary school that worked best for MY needs, not the temporary needs of big business. Going to school here at home has allowed me to remain debt free, an impossibility if I was forced to study in another city. I have also had the option all along to obtain a specialized college education as well in a variety of fields, should I have the desired to do so. I do not need a new polytechnic to gain this ability.

I am now in my 4th year of Computer Science, scheduled to graduate next spring. I have truly benefited by being able to complete my degree here just minutes away from where I’ve grown up, and I am saddened to think that I may be one of the last people to be able to do this in Saint John. This is because on page 27, the Commission’s report states that the three polytechnics proposed would offer first year of some university programs and can offer second year of some university programs where it is possible. Other polytechnics in Canada offer degree programs, but only in conjunction with actual universities located in the same city. I guess it won’t be possible for our polytechnic to do this, since its creation would destroy our university. The report does not even try to hide this since the above statements confirm that 1st and 2nd years are all that would be retained of degree programs if we’re lucky, despite the Commissioner’s statements that few changes if any would be made to the academic programs.

The comparison of the Saint John Polytechnic to institutions such as MIT, Ryerson and Caltech is tempting, until it’s pointed out that these are former polytechnics that have transitioned to become full universities, which is entirely the opposite direction being proposed here. At the Delta presentation on Monday, Rick Miner cited Arizona State University as a university that has transitioned to become a polytechnic named Arizona State Polytechnic, surprising me since I believed that no university would consider this path. This is not a bad response on his part, if only it were true. A quick visit to Arizona State’s web site ( shows that they still call themselves a university, and that only one of its many campuses is a polytechnic which opened in 1996 (see Clearly it’s a struggle to find a university anywhere that has transitioned entirely to a polytechnic. Saint John, Edmundston and Shippagan would be the first cities anywhere to destroy a university for any reason.

I am certainly not against a polytechnic in Saint John, nor am I against increased collaboration between UNBSJ and NBCC as separate institutions free to act independently. However, I firmly believe that any new opportunities must not come at the expense of our existing university structure that we have been building for 40 years that is only now becoming a major contender on the national and international level. We deserve both options in this city, and so do the residents of northern New Brunswick who have benefited from their Université de Moncton campuses as well.

This is one major issue in which many young people have chosen to become politically active for the first time in their lives and for good reason. Even though young people tend to ignore most political issues, this is one issue that is very important to all of us, and the entire community.

Please do everything you can to stand up for our rights, and the rights of young people who will be evaluating their own post-secondary options in future years. Donâ??t let our government sell our potential short for anything or anyone!


Paul Saulnier