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Executive Director's Report - October 31, 2022

“i have learned some things about abundance.

it is self-perpetuating. each moment in which i have claimed abundance has simply increased my comfort with claiming abundance, and has made scarcity then more unbearable, as a personal mindset or a worldview.” ~ Adrienne Maree Brown

How do we live in abundance when we are addicted to scarcity?

We perpetuate narratives of scarcity, of lack, of crisis.

As a society. As universities. As individuals.

Even the phrase “I’m so busy” gestures towards lack – lack of time, lack of support, lack of resources.

And yet we live, as American author Adrienne Maree Brown reminds us, in a time of abundance. When we talk about funding universities, the conceptual and practical definitions of “what is enough” tests the limits of our imaginative capacities. In this sphere, more so than anywhere else, we must sit with negative capability, which is “the willingness to embrace uncertainty, live with mystery, and make peace with ambiguity.”

Yes, the current funding models are broken.

Yes, universities are chronically underfunded.

Yes, financial exigency is a real and increasingly urgent threat.

These issues require extreme upstream thinking – at all levels of government, from policymakers to the public sphere – first to acknowledge that the financial models are irreparably broken and then commit to re-imagining [soul] sustaining, equitable systems.

For those of us downstream, the “dams” – flawed federal and provincial funding formulas, shrinking government grants, gatekeeping with performance-based funding, and government overreach – seem insurmountable, intractable, and monolithic.

When crisis is chronic, the result is individual and corporate brokenness. Indeed, the systems – the funding models and how we respond to them – are broken. This is not a controversial statement. But it is often the conclusion of a conversation – an indictment – rather than an invitation to start a conversation.

Where do we even begin?

With us.

Now is the time to reach out to our colleagues across the Maple League to build robust hope circuits.

This academic consortium is, at its heart, a place where we ask questions, an exercise in radical hope. Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges us to live in the questions for which we do not have the answers:

“I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer” - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet.

So, what questions do you want to “live into” when we talk about funding (supporting, resourcing, sustaining) our universities?

The communities of practice and committees across the Maple League consistently ask, “can we see abundance where others see scarcity?” And moreover, “Can we see the reality of both scarcity and abundance without missing one or the other?”

As we move into a new phase of the Maple League, we will “live our way into the answers” in ways we cannot yet foresee if we are willing to ask, what does abundance look like?

I hope this report captures some of the abundance – the curiosity, the generosity, and the imaginative capacity – that are hallmarks of our communities.

~ Dr. Jessica Riddell, Executive Director, Maple League of Universities

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