Unions: hold the cuts

By Bryn Levy

The University of Calgary Faculty Association’s President Anton Colijn called for a delay in the implementation of the U of C’s five per cent budget cuts in a strongly-worded open letter to U of C President Harvey Weingarten on Feb. 9, 2005.

“Please stop the lunacy!” wrote Colijn. “We ask that the administration and the Board of Governors immediately put a hold on any further cuts to the academic units until the plans of the government and the administration are made clear.”

The letter came on the same day that Premier Ralph Klein announced an overhaul of post-secondary education in Alberta, including a one year tuition freeze for the 2005/2006 school year and the creation of 60,000 new post-secondary spaces by 2020. Klein also promised that his government would unveil new funding for post-secondary education in the upcoming provincial budget.

“The faculty association finds it problematic, perhaps even disturbing, that even though the province has announced big increases in support for post-secondary education, the university is going ahead with severe cuts,” said Colijn.

In addition to losses of sessional and short-term contract faculty members, the budget cuts have also led to the firing of support staff in many faculties and departments.

“Basically these cutbacks have been going on for 10 years now, so each year we see a few more people disappear, but the work doesn’t disappear,” said Albi Sole, Chair of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees Local 52. “Staff are overloaded with work, staff are frankly scared for their jobs and morale is in the tank.”

Vice-President Finance Services and for the U of C Michael McAdam opposed the suggested postponement.

“There has been no indication from the province based on last Tuesday night’s informational from the Premier that directly increases the basic operating budget by one dollar,” said McAdam. “Therefore there’s no reason to continue to wait for what we still hope will be very positive announcements.”

McAdam also cited the lengthy process of creating the budget as a reason for going ahead with the cuts.

“Stopping the process in which we’ve invested months of work and hours of dialogue with deans and other senior budget officers just doesn’t make good planning sense.”

The Students’ Union weighed in on the side of TUCFA.

“I think the cuts have the potential to be really devastating for students, faculty and staff,” said SU VP Academic Laura Schultz. “We passed a resolution on the budget basically stating that we’re really concerned with what’s going on, we’re definitely in a really tough place and we hope the government will step up to their promises.

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