An Open Letter to President Vianne Timmons
March 23, 2010
Dear President Timmons:
We write to you as concerned faculty members of the University of Regina, to urge you to withdraw our university immediately from participation in the "Project Hero" scholarship program. This program, which waives tuition and course fees, and provides $1,000 per year to "dependents of Canadian Forces personnel deceased while serving with an active mission", is a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan and elsewhere. We do not want our university associated with the political impulse to unquestioning glorification of military action.
"Project Hero" is the brainchild of Kevin Reed, a 42-year-old honorary lieutenant-colonel of an army reserve unit in southwestern Ontario, who has said publicly he was inspired by the work of retired Canadian General Rick Hillier. General Hillier, one of the most controversial figures in the recent military history of this country, was the first to introduce "Project Hero" at a Canadian post-secondary institution, just after he took up the post as Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland. Since then, a number of other public Canadian universities have come on board.
In our view, support for "Project Hero" represents a dangerous cultural turn. It associates "heroism" with the act of military intervention. It erases the space for critical discussion of military policy and practices. In signing on to "Project Hero", the university is implicated in the disturbing construction of the war in Afghanistan by Western military- and state-elites as the "good war" of our epoch. We insist that our university not be connected with the increasing militarization of Canadian society and politics.
The majority of young adults in Canada find it increasingly difficult to pay for their education. If they do make it to university, they rack up massive student debts which burden them for years. Instead of privileging the children of deceased Canadian soldiers, we suggest that our administration demand all levels of government provide funding sufficient for universal qualified access to post-secondary education.
The University of Regina has always been closely tied to our Saskatchewan community, and the strategic plan, mâmawohkamâtowin, means "co-operation; working together towards common goals". We do not think that "Project Hero" is a common goal chosen by those of us who work in the University; it is not drawn from the values of this institution. We think it is incompatible with our understanding of the role of public education, or with decisions made by a process of collegial governance.
In addition to withdrawing from "Project Hero", we think the issues we raise should be publicly debated. We are calling on the U of R administration hold a public forum on the war in Afghanistan, and Canadian imperialism more generally, at which the issues we raise can be debated. This forum should be open to all; it should take place this semester, before exams, as "Project Hero" is set to start at U of R in September 2010.
To summarize, we are calling for:
(1) The immediate withdrawal of our university from "Project Hero".
(2) An institutional deployment of public pressure on both orders of government to provide immediate funding sufficient for universal access to post-secondary education.
(3) A public forum on the war in Afghanistan and Canadian imperialism more generally to be held this semester before exams begin.
Joyce Green, Department of Political Science
J.F. Conway, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
George Buri, Department of History
Emily Eaton, Department of Geography
Jeffery R. Webber, Department of Political Science
David Webster, International Studies
Annette Desmarais, International Studies
Darlene Juschka, Women's and Gender Studies and Religious Studies
Meredith Rogers Cherland, Faculty of Education
Garson Hunter, Social Work
John W. Warnock, Department of Sociology and Social Studies
William Arnal, Department of Religious Studies
Leesa Streifler, Department of Visual Arts
Carol Schick, Faculty of Education
Ken Montgomery, Faculty of Education
André Magnan, Department of Sociology and Social