I remember the first time I met Irene Novaczek in the early 1990's. She was concerned about sedimentation in one of the rivers around Charlottetown, the Clyde or the North. I had interviewed many people who brought a lot of enthusiasm to environmental issues, but Irene brought something more, depth and understanding that only a true scientist could bring. It didn't make interviewing her easy because she added a lot of detail, but I liked and respected that. I saw her bring the same determination and depth to many other issues over the years.
When she became the director of the Institute of Island Studies I thought the University and the rest of us were very lucky to have her in a job where she could educate and influence many many more people, both here on PEI and abroad. And as an educator she did just what a good teacher should, challenge, foster debate, make people think a little harder about what makes our part of the world special, what we need to do to maintain what's good about it.
When I first heard that university officials had let her go, I could only think that they had to cut loose a high profile, well respected person in order to get the public riled up, and challenge the government to provide more money to the university. Nothing else made sense. Irene brought in money, prestige, provided jobs and opportunities for students, organized lectures on things that matter, and had won the respect of all who came in contact with her. So if that's the strategy, I'll bite, I'll write to my MLA, and the Minister of Education, and the Premier and ask that the University get more funding. If that's not the strategy, then university administrators have made a colossally stupid decision.
PEI is at a tipping point with its economy, political arrangements (Maritime Union anyone, Senate reform), and certainly its environment. We need Irene Novaczek to provoke us, get us talking. We need her heading up the Institute of Island Studies.
Anyone wishing to sign a petition to support Irene should go here.