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For Barry Craig, “tension” is too strong a word to describe the relationship between St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick.
He has yet to see a serious disagreement between the two universities since he became vice-president academic of STU four years ago.
“The tension between any two Canadian provinces picked at random would probably be more remarkable than the tensions between these two universities,” he said in an interview on Friday.
“It’s more a perception issue than a reality.”
According to Craig, the amount of money paid to UNB tends to reflect the rate of inflation and has nothing to do with being pushed around by the big brother down the hill.
STU pays UNB about $1.8 million every year to use the library, the counselling services, the South Gym and to take part in intramurals. That’s 10 per cent of its overall budget. Roughly $1.4 million of that money goes to the library alone.
STU also pays UNB for heat from its steam plant, as well as plumbing and maintenance services and UNB Security.
“A lot of the shared service agreements we have…have been going on ever since we have been here,” Craig said.
But every so often, STU will re-evaluate how much it’s paying UNB based on STU students’ use of UNB facilities. In fact, just last week STU had the retired chief librarian of Dalhousie University come in to judge whether STU is getting enough from – or paying enough for – its library services.
“If you think about buying a service from UNB, in most cases, that would be a service they’re providing anyway,” Craig said.
“They didn’t build another 25 per cent of their library because of St. Thomas.”
Dawn Russell, STU’s president, met with the librarian on Friday. The Aquinian did not know the result of that meeting before press time. In an interview before the consultation, Russell said the value of shared services for St. Thomas is not something to “be afraid of or worried about.”
Anthony Secco, UNB Fredericton’s vice-president academic, told The Aquinian last week that though the “tension” between STU and UNB is mostly a playful rivalry, he said it’s time for STU to think about paying UNB more.
“Inflation and the costs of services [have] reached beyond St. Thomas’ contribution,” he said in a phone interview last week.
Craig said his relationship with Secco, who is his direct counterpart, is always friendly, recognizing their respective spots on the hill.
“He teases me about elements of my operation – we’re the little guys next door – and I tease him about, you know, they’re the big brutes down there or something like that, but none of that is particularly serious.”
Craig said any decision-making between the two of them is data driven and as of right now, it’s hard to say if STU needs to increase the amount it pays UNB.
With new electronic books, Craig said it’s especially hard to track how many STU students are actually using the library, let alone all the other services provided by UNB like the SUB.
But Craig said by no means does that mean the relationship is breaking down. If anything, STU and UNB work together like no other two universities in Canada, pulling off partnerships like Congress 2011.
“If the Berlin Wall was there every time you passed into a different world, you’d say, well, I’m really conscious of this difference,” Craig said, referring to STU students’ indifference to the relationship.
“But you’re not conscious because it works.”