June 20th, 2024

Bond between professor and student is the heart of U of L

By Lethbridge Herald on February 17, 2022.


Letter: An open Letter to University of Lethbridge President, Mike Mahon:

As a resident of Lethbridge with a child to reach university age in a few years, I have a vested interest in the university here. Although I am not a faculty member or an academic, I am well acquainted with many in Lethbridge. The last couple of years has given a crash course in understanding the extraordinary dedication of these people who have often gladly doubled their workload to deal with the students’ needs, for instance preparing their courses both concurrently online and in-class and working even harder with students who feel stressed.

Although they have been often worried and harried by the special demands of these times, the focus of these people has been so overwhelmingly on the student experience and student health. As an outsider I can only stand back and admire them. The faculty members I personally know literally live for their work, for the students, and, up until today, for the institution. Indeed they have felt part of the institution in the sense that their loyalty to the student body, present and future, has been a tangible and central part of their lives. 

You could say this bond between teacher and student is the beating heart of the university.

The question now is how is the attitude of the administration going to affect this devotion?

I have watched with interest the unsigned circulars sent from the administration to the student body and the general public and I have to say they paint a picture I do not recognize at all. We are asked to believe that faculty demands are unreasonable and that the administration has been working tirelessly and in good faith to prevent a strike.

Some people with little knowledge of the university or of academics generally might just believe these messages.

But the students won’t. Neither will anyone acquainted with even a small number of faculty members. In a town this size, this will translate into most people who are interested in sending their children to university.

The misrepresentation seems like the most extraordinary betrayal. Firstly, the faculty association was pushed into a strike they were desperate to avoid. I know this for a fact because I know many of them have had sleepless nights about their students and their work even before the strike. 

Not being able to work and work with their students is the biggest penalty they could pay. But secondly, the administration has done its best to tarnish the faculty association and by extension the faculty members.

The loss of faith and heart that will result from this will be incalculable, as will the long-term damage to the institution. Faculty will leave to other institutions where their work and devotion to their students will be better appreciated. And as any administrator knows it’s the highest capacity people who will leave first, the people with the most energy and with skills other universities will most want.

The most tragic thing about this is that the provincial government which is leaning so hard on Alberta’s universities has a zero chance of being re-elected in 2023. By appeasing the provincial government and taking such a hard line against ULFA, the administration is bowing to the will of a government that is weak and on its way out. 

This was the time when defiance and a strong unified voice from the university’s presidents might actually have worked.

As a parent who still believes his child’s future might involve the University of Lethbridge, I would ask you and the board to reconsider the position before even more serious damage is done.

Paul Butler


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