Satellite campus for St. Thomas in the works, says MP
St. Thomas University president Michael Higgins didn’t expect to see Member of Parliament Tilley O’Neill-Gordon’s name in provincial papers last weekend.
“I was unhappy. And surprised,” Higgins said.
O’Neill-Gordon told reporters a project that would bring a STU campus to Miramichi was “almost confirmed” and that Miramichi could see a new STU campus as soon as 2010 – the university’s one-hundredth year.
STU was founded on the Miramichi River, but moved to Fredericton in 1964.
Students in Miramichi are currently able to take STU courses at the community college, but O’Neill-Gordon said a building would be made available for the university.
But Higgins says no decisions have been made.
“It is only an idea at this stage. Just an idea,” he said.
Higgins downplayed O’Neill-Gordon’s statement, calling it was a “political announcement.”
He said her remarks were premature and will be detrimental to any advances in Miramichi.
“The comments that were made weren’t particularly helpful to our process,” he said. “We’re committed to a full, careful consideration of all the ramifications and aspects that are part of the idea.”
Higgins said the university’s board of governors will conduct a series of studies before making any final decisions.
Despite her previous statements, O’Neill-Gordon was vague in defining what commitment, if any, the university made to a Miramichi campus.
“The only commitment that I have is it is a work in progress,” she said.
O’Neill-Gordon said she met with representatives from St. Thomas University including Dean of Students Larry Batt and Board of Governors member and Canadian senator Noël A. Kinsella.
“We all thought it was a fantastic idea,” she said.
She said that no academic programs for a Miramichi campus have been developed, but suggested the campus offer a nursing program.
“Many of our young people travel to Bathusrt for the nursing college, and I would love to be able to see them get it right on the Miramichi.”
However, there is no indication from the university that STU would offer any such program.
“There is no firm template,” said Higgins. “There are exploratory ideas. There are suggestions.”
Neither O’Neill-Gordon nor Higgins could say when, if ever, Miramichiers would see a new STU campus.
“My objective is 2010,” said O’Neill-Gordon.
Higgins was less optimistic.
“Well I won’t be here,” he said in reference to anticipated departure from STU. “We’re not driven by the agenda set by people outside the university.”