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An Open Letter to the UNBC Board of Governors

To the UNBC Board of Governors
RE: The Appointment of James Moore as University Chancellor

 

Dear Madams and Sirs,

 

As a proud alumnus of the University of Northern British Columbia, I am writing you to express my dissatisfaction with the appointment of James Moore as university chancellor. As chancellor, James Moore is the symbolic head of the university, and I would urge the Board of Governors to consider what appointing Moore to this position says both about the university and its vision for the future.

The University of Northern British Columbia has recently enjoyed a great deal of academic recognition. (Allow me here to extend my congratulations about your first place Maclean’s ranking.) Given these successes, it is only natural, I think, for the university to celebrate itself by installing a former student as chancellor. However, I have strong reservations about the choice of candidate, and I would like to lend my voice to those who have already called upon the university to reverse its decision to appoint Mr. Moore as chancellor. My objection to Mr. Moore’s appointment are twofold: First, the principles—if they can be called so—which guided Mr. Moore as a Member of Parliament are incompatible with the values of UNBC and the broader academic community; and, second, his appointment was made unilaterally by the board of governors without adequate approval from the university senate and faculty.

As a Member of Parliament, Mr. Moore was complacent with the so-called muzzling of government scientists and his government was often hostile to non-vocational postsecondary education. In addition to this, I am deeply troubled by the relationship between the Conservative Party, whom Mr. Moore represented in Parliament, and Universities Canada. The failures of Mr. Moore’s party to engage meaningfully with Universities Canada and its constituent institutions highlights, in many respects, the inappropriateness of his appointment. To be candid, I am not satisfied with Mr. Moore’s attempt to distance himself from his party’s dismal postsecondary education platform.

The Conservative Party’s recent foray into racially divisive politicking is also incompatible with UNBC’s motto—‘En Cha Huna [He/She Also Speaks]—which emphasises the importance of differing cultural and racial voices within the university community. And while we certainly cannot hold Mr. Moore responsible for his party’s more dubious behaviours, we must remind ourselves of Mr. Moore’s contemptible treatment of indigenous communities and economically disadvantaged persons across Canada. His dismissal of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women undermines the unique and delicate relationship which UNBC has established with local indigenous communities. I would invite the board of governors to please consider whether they can, in good conscience, ask Dakelh Elders to continue blessing future UNBC convocation ceremonies with Mr. Moore sitting upon the chancellor’s throne.

My scruples about Mr. Moore’s character notwithstanding, I am also concerned about the appointment procedure. The UNBC board of governors certainly has the executive authority to appoint a new university chancellor. However, such appointments usually follow the recommendations of the university senate—and the faculty and student groups which are represented therein. I am alarmed by reports indicating that UNBC’s senate was opposed to the appointment. The failure of the board of governors to consult the broader university community when appointing a new chancellor is an egregious display of executive entitlement. But, more than this, it suggests a disheartening level of disunity and contention among the university’s governing bodies. Having recently been named Canada’s best undergraduate university by Maclean’s, I am wondering how UNBC will sustain itself when the foundations on which it is built have been so visibly corroded by an unseemly appointment like James Moore.

 

Best Regards,
Brycen Dwayne Janzen, BA, MA (UNBC), PhD Student (McMaster)

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Some Thoughts on Robin Williams

I’ve been thinking about Robin Williams’s passing over the last few hours. Particularly, I’m interrogating the cause of my grief—to the extent that what I’m feeling even constitutes grief—and I’m confused about it. Certainly, other celebrities have perished during my life time (and I’ve often barely noticed) so what makes Robin Williams different?

Is it the hours I’ve spent watching Dead Poets Society as an adult? Is it that Aladdin was the first film I ever saw in theatres? Is it the countless times my old babysitter made my brother and me watch Hook? This was an actor with whom I had something resembling a personal relationship. He never knew I existed—and, to be frank, why would he?—but this is a person with whom I’ve shared many important moments throughout my life. And yet, I do not think this is the reason his departure resonates so powerfully.

Is it, perhaps, the murky business of his mind, that he worked so tirelessly to conceal from his admirers? This seems to be the rub. I understand depression, and I understand the impulse to flee forever from its grip. I understand what it means to be “half in love with easeful death,” and, yet, like so many people who labour under this weight, I’ve taken solace in the expectation that it will all get miraculously better some day. (In my case, I’m lucky: aside from the sort of ambient gnawing that every depressive recognises almost intuitively, my “dark and dusky days” are increasingly rare.) Williams’s passing is a grim reminder, though, that it doesn’t necessarily get better someday. Having spent my life in communities where access to mental health care is extraordinarily limited, I have to be honest and admit that I’ve never been diagnosed with anything. Despite this, in the wake of Robin Williams’s passing, I feel compelled to acknowledge that I have often neglected my mental health. I have taken for granted that my severe depressions, when they do come along, will eventually pass; I’ve taken it for granted, when the black dogs are growling at my door, that the deadbolt will hold; and, worst of all, I’ve put myself in a position where, if I’m ever not equal to the torments of my own faulty neurological chemistry, my friends and family will be left with dozens of answerless questions. Why is Robin Williams’s death so difficult? Because I am unwell and ashamed of it. Williams’s lie mirrors my own lie. And in the end, we’re left with a stern lesson about the importance of taking care of ourselves. Indeed, “The mind is its own place, and in it self / Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n,” and we shouldn’t resent ourselves when we allow ourselves to Fall.

We never deserved Robin Williams—a person that effected so much love and joy in the hearts of many—but we will remember him, and we will be better people for having known him. This is a man who used art to teach, and, in dying, taught many of us, not only the value of life, but the importance of asking for help when we need it.