Posts tagged "neoliberalisation of education"

guelph action / activism elsewhere

71cfe5dd4abdb7ba02524cc4f36f-1So, a bit of a break from my roughly 20k-words worth of papers is due, in my estimation.  I’ve come across some evidence of another university going through similar budgetary difficulties as SFU has recently — at the University of Guelph, in Ontario.

Apparently, as part of a budgetary review sparked by a “budgetary crisis,” the university has proposed axing the Women’s Studies program.  According to the university admin, this isn’t being done because of any political views or disagreements with the content of the program, but because it simply isn’t fiscally feasible to provide the program.

Here’s a quote from the administration, courtesy of the Ontarion, the university’s student newspaper:

“It’s not about women’s studies. The university is in a serious financial crisis,” said associate vice-president academic and psychology professor Serge Desmarais. “Given the budgetary issues that are going on, the deans decided to look at what had low enrolment. We must ask whether certain programs are worth sustaining.”

This quote is quite similar to the one used at Simon Fraser University when the administration suspended the Canadian Studies program — closing off its admissions and cutting funding.  Here, the administration pointed to a low enrolment in the program and argued that this was proof that the program was unsustainable.

According to a Guelph local newspaper, faculty and students aren’t just letting the program die quietly.  Faculty and students have sent letters and protested the closure to the media.   Recently, over 100 students, faculty, and staff banded together and marched on the administration building to protest the closure of the program.

One student noted that

“(U of G president Alastair) Summerlee got a raise for an amount over and above what it costs to run the women’s studies program,” Anastasia Zavarella added. “That’s just galling.”

Perhaps one of the more interesting quotes out of Guelph is from a former director of the program:

Helen Hoy, the former co-ordinator of the women’s studies program who now teaches two courses in the program, said it’s chronic underfunding that has kept enrolment numbers low and not lack of popularity.

She said the program has grown since 1995 to include not just feminism but race, sexual orientation, age and social justice issues.

“Yes it’s a time of financial difficulty, but this panicked talk is to encourage us to fold. This is not the time to back away,” she said.

According to Hoy, chronic underfunding is the reason for the low enrolment numbers.  This makes sense to me, in a very real sense; program underunding often prevents programs from being able to offer enough courses to draw students in and allow them to complete their degrees in a timely manner.  If programs and courses aren’t available due to low funding, and thus infrequent offerings, students quite simply won’t take them.

We just saw a similar thing happen to Canadian Studies.  The most interesting quote out of the final public lecture from Canadian Studies was by Mel Watkins, who, according to The Peak:

[…] made a similar argument in a more provocative manner, suggesting “only half facetiously” that the funding should be transferred from Economics and Business departments, since the dominant theories of those disciplines are partially responsible for the recession.