7.0446 Funding at the University of Alberta (1/77)

Wed, 26 Jan 1994 19:57:45 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0446. Wednesday, 26 Jan 1994.

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 94 13:41:28 MST
From: John Morris <JMORRIS@UALTAVM>
Subject: Universities under serious threat

X-posted to other lists. Please excuse (and delete) duplications.
Profound apologies for the length.

It was gratifying to see the response of the international
scholarly community to the proposed elimination of the Religious
Studies department at Penn State. Unfortunately we in the province of
Alberta in Canada have a far more serious situation in which our
government has announced its intention to cut 19.5 per cent of its
grants to our universities.

You should understand that Canadian universities have no traditions
of support from large foundations or other private sources.
Throughout our entire history funding has come almost entirely from
the government. Reductions in grants at this level will, without
exaggeration, devastate advanced education in Alberta.

Last fall, the government announced that it was cutting its grants
to all government-funded institutions by 20 per cent over three years
in an effort to eliminate its annual budget deficit. Despite the many
suggestions offered during a "roundtable" consultation process, the
government has resolutely refused to consider any other solutions to
the very real debt problem other than cutbacks. Advanced and
elementary education, health, and welfare are the departments which
will bear the brunt of the cuts.

As you can imagine, we are quite concerned about the possible
ramifications of the cutbacks. The government is urging that
"accessibility" be maintained or increased, which means that our
enrollments cannot be reduced. Members of the government have
recommended the elimination of tenure on the grounds that it only
serves to protect supernumerary faculty, and they have recommended
that the universities cooperate in eliminating whole faculties in
order to reduce "duplication of services." The government is
discouraging any substantial rise in tuition fees. Since we cannot
simply close down 20 percent of the physical plant, nor reduce
enrollments, nor raise tuitions significantly, the cuts must be made
primarily in teaching and research. The kinds of cut we expect to
make include "voluntary" early retirement of senior faculty, lay-offs
of non-academic staff, significantly increased class sizes, the
elimination of non-student sessional appointments, reductions in
graduate teaching and research assistantships, and reductions in
course offerings. Tenure-track appointments to replace retiring
faculty and faculty who, as a result of the cuts, have sought
appointments elsewhere have already been completely frozen and will
remain frozen for the foreseeable future.

Like the rest of the known universe, we have been taking somewhat
more modest cutbacks for several years. We have already had to
eliminate one department. As our university president has said,
"There is no more fat to cut." Nevertheless, we are told to expect a
minimum cut of 11 per cent as of April 1, 1994 even though the precise
amount will not be made known to us until the provincial budget is
brought down on February 24.

If you feel that the cutbacks should be at least moderated, it
would be a tremendous help to all of us here in Alberta if letters of
support for advanced education could come from the international
scholarly community. It should be noted that members of the
government appear to have little knowledge of universities and little
appreciation for arguments about the nature and value of a liberal
education. They seem to be more impressed by economic arguments. If
you come from a jurisdiction that has been damaged by severe cutbacks,
you might wish to relate those experiences instead.

Since the Premier and his ministers have expressed an interest in
hearing opinions on the cuts, letters may be sent to:

The Honorable Ralph Klein The Honorable Jack Ady, Minister
Premier of Alberta -or- Department of Advanced Education
Legislative Assembly Legislative Assembly
Edmonton, Alberta Edmonton, Alberta
T5K 2B6 T5K 2B6

Yours truly,
John Morris,
Graduate English, <JMORRIS@UALTAVM>
University of Alberta. <jmorris@vm.ucs.UAlberta.ca>