Faculty angry over budget cuts

By Stephanie Claggett

Students aren’t the only ones upset about the now approved budget cuts and reallocation. Forty-two department heads and unit directors from across campus collaborated to write a forceful letter to The University Budget Committee calling attention to the unrealistic goals of the current plan.

“After many years of budget cutting, the proposed reinvestment reallocation process and continuing budget cuts will do enormous damage to the departments or units under our jurisdiction,” read the Oct. 28 letter. “This is not acceptable.”

The letter authors’ main concern is the budget cuts’ effect on students. For individual departments, these cuts could lead to capped enrollment, cancellation of courses, increased class sizes, and cutting first year labs and tutorials. On a more general level, finding and keeping high quality staff would become more difficult, and faculty and support staff could easily lose their morale.

“We have done ‘more with less’ for many years,” said the letter. “We cannot do so any longer.”

The reallocation process gives rise to fears that faculties will be pitted against each other in competition for funds, but administration contradicts this.

“The university will be able to make great leaps forward because of cooperation between faculties,” said University of Calgary Vice-President External Relations Roman Cooney.

Another point of contention between the department heads and administration is the lack of clarity in the plans.

“The reallocation process lacks transparency,” stated the letter. “The mechanisms by which the process will operate and how decisions will be made are unclear, making planning at the faculty and departmental level impossible.”

“The budget process needs to be transparent,” said Cooney.”The next critical stage is criteria for reallocation.”

Unfortunately, students want to know what is going to happen to the university now, not after a few months once the budget committee has started along its path to a decision.

The University Budget Committee, which is comprised of a cross-section of administrators, faculty, and student representatives, will make the decisions as to where the reallocation funds go. Though nothing has been finalized, problems such as large class sizes in the Science and Social Science areas are a priority. Faculties that have better abilities to raise outside resources will be less likely to receive a high percentage of the reallocation money.

With tuition increasing every year, many students wonder where the money is going, and whether the education students receive at the U of C is really worth all the trouble. At last Friday’s Fine Arts town hall meeting, an unidentified student likened the current situation to grocery shopping.

“Why would you pay more for Oreos with 20 per cent less stuff?” he said.

Fine Arts Dean Anne Calvert was quick to point out that most institutions across Canada, if not North America, are going through similar situations.

Despite the controversy, both sides seem willing to cooperate and discuss future plans.

“Disagreement does not mean that people failed to listen or to consider very seriously the variety of arguments that have been made,” said University President Harvey Weingarten in his response to the original letter.

“We’re trying to point out some of the difficulties we see, but we’re trying to be supportive,” said Economics Department Head Elizabeth Wilman.

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