Nfld. & Labrador

Crunch the numbers before building law school, accountant tells MUN

Financial literacy advocate Larry Short says the public deserves more debate and further discussion before Memorial University decides to go ahead with the project.

Retired judge says Memorial's plan would improve access for Indigenous students

Given Memorial's pension liability, aging infrastructure and other financial problems, not everyone agrees a law school makes sense. (CBC)

As momentum for establishing a law school at Memorial University grows, one critic says administrators need to do their homework before shovels hit the ground.

Larry Short, a chartered professional accountant, believes the public deserves more discussion before the university goes ahead with the project.

"We should have a much more open debate about where our institutions are spending the government's money," Short said, pointing out that the government allotted $310 million to MUN in the 2018 budget.

"Every taxpayer of the province should have an opinion as to if this is the right way that Memorial should be proceeding."

Other costs

Short said the university is already looking at ways to cut costs and cope with crumbling infrastructure. 

On top of that, he said, there is a pension fund liability that will have to be covered. 

"Show me why this money is being spent in this fashion, particularly with the large challenges that are currently being faced by Memorial University."

Financial advisor Larry Short wants to see detailed research into the feasibility of a law school at Memorial University. (CBC)

Short said he is not against a law school, but he wants to make sure the university is not overlooking emerging industries like artificial intelligence. 

"We all want MUN to succeed and grow but we also want to say, 'What programs do we need to educate the children of the province so that they are here in 10 to 15 years?'"

Good news for Indigenous students

Retired provincial court judge James Igloliorte said a new law school could have positive impacts on the Indigenous population in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Indigenous students enter professions a fair bit later than [the] non-Indigenous population," he said.

"Particularly for women who have other challenges in their life before they need to concentrate on themselves and their education. So having a local place to come to learn, familiar people, familiar surroundings would be a great help."

Retired judge James Igloliorte believes the university's plan's would give Indigenous students in the province better access to law school. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Igloliorte also believes any university that carries a full complement of programs should include law and justice.

"The sooner it happens from my perspective, the better," he said.

Noreen Golfman, provost and academic vice-president, said operating costs are estimated at $9 million annually, most of which would be covered by tuition fees.

"It will be a challenge for the university with not a lot of money to come up with a new program," said Igloliorte, "but at the same time, Memorial University has met many challenges and has overcome them." 

The university senate has endorsed the plan, but the project still needs approval from the board of regents in order to move forward.

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About the Author

Meg Roberts is a video journalist with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, based in St. John's. Email her at meg.roberts@cbc.ca.