The front page of this late-March issue of The Brunswickan released in 1986 offers a glimpse into the drama that had befallen UNB’s student union and the university as a whole between 1982-86 during what has become known as ‘The Bosnitch Era,’ named after then-SRC president John Bosnitch. This period, which is the subject of an upcoming mini-documentary by The Brunswickan, saw Bosnitch at the center of a number of controversies, conflicts, and crises. Bosnitch left a complicated legacy at UNB, which included everything from losing ownership of the Student Union Building to having lights installed along the path through the woods leading from UNB to STU, which had gained a reputation for the sexual assaults that occurred there.
According to a bulletin released by the SRC in 1987, then UNB president Jim Downey “locked out” the student union less than one month after this edition of The Brunswickan was released and replaced them with a selection of hand-picked students. This was the final shot across the bow in what had been an extremely contentious relationship between Downey and Bosnitch. The bulletin claimed that this relationship originally soured during Bosnitch’s first term as SRC president when he pushed for the installation of lights along the aforementioned trail between UNB and STU, and for the creation of a new residence building downtown. The two came into further conflict in the summer of 1984 when Bosnitch publicly protested after a child was killed after falling out of a residence window, saying that the Student Union had previously warned UNB administration that the windows in residence were unsafe. The rivalry between the two was taken to another level in September of that year when Downey took control of the Student Union Building, seized $200,000 in student fees and filed a complaint against Bosnitch with the Fredericton Police that led to a six-month criminal investigation that did not result in any charges. There were also allegations from the SRC that Downey had interfered with student elections in order to keep Bosnitch from being re-elected and threatened to bankrupt the Student Union by refusing to collect its fees.
The March 21, 1986 issue of The Bruns represents the culmination of this tumultuous period which reshaped student life at UNB and threatened the very existence of its student union. It offers a snapshot of a time when student engagement was at a high-point and where the world of student government didn’t look all that different from the nastiness we see in “real world” politics. Certainly, it is difficult to imagine Bosnitch and Downey’s present-day counterparts engaging in such a heated, long-term feud.