Student leaders fear cuts

By Dale Miller

With a proposed $60 to 80 million budget cut on the table for the University of Calgary, undergraduate and graduate students alike have reason for concern.

“I think this will be very significant for students,” said Students’ Union Vice-President Academic Laura Schultz. “I think we’re going to see problems with labs, reduced course sections and faculties offering just the basics–there will be a time when programs will be in jeopardy.”

While the Students’ Academic Assembly has not yet discussed this matter, Schultz criticized the university’s heavy-handed approach to budget balancing.

“Managing budgets by cutting is not a suitable way of managing budgets,” commented Schultz.

“The university has a responsibility to their faculties–they’re cutting off the oxygen, not just the desserts,” continued Schultz.

SU President Bryan West, who is a member of the U of C Budget Committee, offered some explanation as to why the university needs to make these cuts. West placed responsibility directly on the province, claiming that in some ways, the U of C administration is just as much a victim as anybody else.

“Government funding has been in a steady decline, while inflationary pressures on universities are enormous,” explained West. “This is a symptom of the lack of funding and a symptom of a lack of government spending, so we’re focusing our guns on the provincial government.”

“I think our chances are better than they have ever been in getting some increase in funding,” West continued.

West acknowledged the funding the U of C has received recently for projects like the downtown campus, ISEEE and the Alberta Children’s Hospital, but stressed the distinction between these one-time capital funding projects and the long term base funding the university lacks.

“What the university is very good at is getting capital funding for buildings, what it lacks is long term sustainability with base funding,” stated West. “The government doesn’t like long-term funding–it’s just not sexy to increase base funding. But it is sexy to open a veterinary school.”

While tuition increases are always on the SU political radar, West doesn’t feel the budget cuts will have any effect, claiming that virtually everything else is more likely to get clawed back than a maximum tuition hike.

Graduate students at the U of C may also feel the crunch if the proposed budget cuts make it into reality.

“The Graduate Students’ Association is troubled by the recent funding cuts,” insisted GSA VP External Christine Johns. “It is going to be difficult for graduate programs to continue to grow, the quality is going to decrease.”

Graduate students contribute significantly to the university by doing research, bringing in funds and teaching undergraduates. As such, Johns is unhappy with the university’s level of commitment so far.

“The university’s Academic Plan specifies the need to enlarge spending on graduate programs,” said Johns. “They need to reflect this with adequate funding–which is not being seen.

“We need to reinvest in graduate studies, not take away.”

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