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President Barnard’s message on Reconciliation and Renewal

December 7, 2016 — 

The following message was delivered today at Senate by President David T. Barnard:

This meeting of Senate is both a first and a last. It is the first since the recent strike by the University of Manitoba Faculty Association ended. It is the last of this term and of this calendar year.

I believe that members of the University of Manitoba community are, generally speaking, motivated by the best interests of the University as a whole and, further, that this shared motivation takes into consideration what the University is as well as what it will be in the future as a result of the actions that we take now.

We share commitments to important ideas about the importance of education in providing possibilities for individuals and for communities and societies, the value of academic freedom as a necessary prerequisite for shaping an open society based on an open exchange of ideas and perspectives, the delineation of a bicameral model of governance that is incorporated in this University’s enabling legislation (as is the case with the defining documents of many other universities) and the inherent struggle between our roles as preservers of the broad intellectual tradition that has shaped our world and at the same time leaders who will shape that tradition based on new experiences, ideas, circumstances and discoveries.

In particular, I believe that – certainly for most of us – the commitment to these ideals transcends our self-interest: we know that, for example, for those who teach, the commitment to serving our students and our academic disciplines well, may mean that not all of our own particular interests that could make their ways into curricula will do so.

For those with administrative and leadership responsibilities, it may be that personal preferences on policy, practice or priorities are set aside so as to better serve the broader community.

I trust that this knowledge – the recognition that when we work together towards a common goal, progress requires compromise – can guide us as we commit ourselves now to a necessary process of reconciliation.

If the events of the past months have at times divided some of us, they have also defined with sharper clarity our individual and shared values and interests. We need to rebuild the bridges that unite us all, and I think that today we have a better idea of where we need to set our sights to embark on that course.

Each of us pursues the process of healing in a personally meaningfully manner. I – and many of my colleagues – have sought counsel from the Indigenous Elders of our community. A common theme they shared with us was the need to listen.

We cannot reconcile, we cannot build bridges to cooperation and collaboration, until we truly listen.

As a leadership team, I and the vice-presidents with whom I work, have committed to listening carefully to the voices that make up our University community. There are stories and meanings and principles that are important to the many constituencies that make up this university, and in the coming year we intend to lean in and hear as many of those as possible. There is a time to explain one’s self, and there is also a time to receive the explanations of others.

The end of the year approaches. A casual glance at the world around us reminds us that there are larger issues than our own interests, our own institution, our own borders – issues to which as members of the academy we are uniquely positioned to contribute. If we work together, we can make an important difference in those conversations and help build a better world for all.

Let us take the precious time the holidays offer to rest and to reflect. When we return in the New Year, I hope to join all of you in a spirit of partnership and collaboration, reconciliation and renewal.

Thank you. I wish you all the best for the holiday season.





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