Exploring all options
We need to examine all aspects of the university funding crunch if we are going to find a rational solution
We have done an excellent job of asking tough questions of our administrators, and we must continue to do so as the funding crisis at the university goes on. But let’s be realistic; even firing all the top-paid administration positions would not solve the problem of cash-strapped departments. Yes, ballooning administrative costs and conflicting visions for the direction of the university are responsible for some of the hardship we are feeling, but they are not the only factors.
When we’ve been examining the problems of funding, the government’s role in post-secondary education rarely comes up. This is strange, because as Provost Chase’s favourite slide shows, the government is where we receive 59 per cent of our funding from. While it must not be our only avenue of inquiry, it stands to reason that we should at least consider the government’s role in the current crisis.
Even as both the U of S and the U of R struggle to find “efficiencies” and cost-savings, no one has asked the government why these supposed “cost saving measures” are required in the first place, especially when departments like English have been cut to the bone already and run the risk of being completely devastated. Asking the university to “trim the fat” is all well and good when the university has some fat to trim. But when the university is at risk of becoming an emaciated ghost of its former self, should we not stop cutting and start feeding? If the government sees us struggling with funding issues, should it not reach out a hand to help?
And when we are talking about the future of the university as an institution that is open and accessible, the reality is that it must rely on government funding. If we are serious about solving the funding crisis in post-secondary education, the government needs to be one of the people at the negotiating table, and they need to be willing to listen and explain their decisions. If we cut them out completely, as has been the case recently, we are ignoring another potential solution to the problems we face.
Perhaps a forum for the government to clarify their goals in terms of post-secondary funding is in order, with students, faculty, the administration, and the Minister for Advanced Education Don Morgan and the Premier in attendance to answer questions and provide the rationale behind their decisions. In a time of fiscal uncertainty and anxiety at the university, such a meeting would provide people the opportunity to give voice to their concerns and ask any questions about the government’s funding plans for the university, as well as clarify the reasons for why the government is urging universities to find more efficiencies in their budgets.
We must leave no stone unturned in looking for solutions to the current crisis in post-secondary education. It is only rational that the government open channels of communication between it and the students and faculty affected by their decisions.
Photo illustration by Edward Dodd