The axe falls

By Chris Beauchamp

Carolyn Andres has been a beloved member of the Political Science Department for 13 years, helping students and faculty with the often unglamorous tasks of photocopying, scheduling and organizing course materials. As of this week Andres’ job no longer exists, and she isn’t alone.

In the first tangible effect of University of Calgary budget cuts announced last year, Andres is one of three confirmed support staff from various departments in the faculty of Social Sciences that has been laid off.

“Carolyn is one of the most decent people I know,” said Dr. Allison Dube, a sessional political science instructor. “But now she’s been declared redundant. As far as I’m concerned they’ve sold a big part of the heart of the department.”

Andres, openly friendly but visibly upset, choked back tears over the increased workload her colleagues are facing with her departure.

“It’s not fun for the people left and my heart goes out to them,” she said, adding that staff and faculty in the department are already overworked. “It affects so many people, including professors. The quality has to be cut somewhere in their research and teaching. It’s just not right.”

Andres’ sentiment is shared by Dr. Doyle Hatt, Anthropology Department Head, who was also forced to cut a position. Although only part-time, Hatt said the employee has been a beloved staff member for over a decade.

“It’s economically irrational to download what you might call routine tasks onto people paid to do more sophisticated work,” said Hatt, noting the cut will reduce front office staff by half. “This will seriously impede our ability to deal with a great number of people who come into the office.”

Hatt is firm in his belief that these cuts are a direct result of the university’s budget directive, and sees this as part of a potentially far bigger problem at the U of C.

“We were all asked to submit budget plans on how we were to make the five per cent budget reduction,” said Hatt, stressing the only other way his department could find the money would have involved damaging graduate students. “This is part of the response to the draft budget directive.”

The draft budget directive, outlined by the U of C Budget Committee in October, calls for every department at the U of C to redirect five per cent of their budget into a reallocation pool. Of the five per cent, three per cent will be cut from departmental budgets and used to pay down the university’s budget deficit. The remaining two per cent will go into a reallocation pool used to fund as yet undefined priority areas.

In a joint statement from the offices of Vice-President Finance and Services Mike McAdam, and Provost and VP Academic Dr. Ron Bond, the U of C administration called the lay-offs a personnel matter in the Faculty of Social Science, and refused to comment further.

Department heads from across the faculty expressed equal concerns about the implication of staff and budget cuts.

“It’s referred to as reallocations in university press releases, but these kind of [lay-offs] make it clear that we’re dealing with cuts,” said Dr. John Archibald, head of the linguistics department. Although he said his department will not be required to cut any employees, Archibald stressed the importance of support staff, calling them the backbone of the department.

“You can’t overestimate the effect these kinds of cuts have on the morale of people,” he said.

Personnel cuts are inevitable in an institution where 75 per cent of budgets are comprised of salaries, according to Sociology Department Head Dr. Tom Langford.

“The big portion of budget cuts come from not filling [vacated] faculty positions,” he continued, adding that a lot of budget restraints will be achieved by eliminating the positions of staff and faculty upon retirement.

Andres and at least two of her colleagues are among the first to have their positions abolished in this latest climate of budget constraints, but Langford believes they will not be the last.

“You’re going to see a net loss of faculty all over the university,” he said, adding that support staff are also on the potential chopping block.

Now that the shock of her lay off has begun to subside, Andres is optimistic about the future. Although told she was free to leave immediately, Anders is staying on for a few more days to make sure her work and responsibilities are passed on to remaining staff.

“I hoped to retire from here,” she said. “But I guess that’s a dream gone by. I’m not angry at the present change for me. I’m angry in a sense for the way people are left to hold the bag. That’s not treating the university family very well.”

The departments of political science, anthropology and the Dean’s office have each abolished one position. There is also widespread speculation throughout the faculty that three more positions have been cut, although Dr. Stephen Randall, Dean of Social Sciences, was unavailable for comment.

– with files from Dale Miller

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