Left in the dark


A coalition of students tries to inform others about looming budget issues at the U of R

Dietrich Neu

Students appear to be getting fed up.

Outcry against looming budget cuts at both the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan are intensifying. Across both campuses, a coalescence of concerned students have formed Students Against Austerity, a group designed to raise awareness about the cost-cutting measures being implemented by both U of R and U of S administration.

The U of R is expected to make $3.6 million in cuts to the school’s operating budget after they receive the provincial government’s yearly grant – which makes up a large portion of the U of R’s budget, and is expected to be less than what is needed. The U of S is facing massive cuts of $44.5 million. Saskatoon student newspaper, the Sheaf, has reported that the U of S will layoff 40 employees, saving the university $2.3 million, and further cost-cutting measures are on the horizon aimed at saving the school an additional $20-25 million.

Here at the U of R, students and faculty members alike have criticized both the provincial government and university administration about a lack of transparency throughout the Academic Review process. The criticism has yielded some results, primarily in form of public Q and A sessions with university brass.

The Regina contingent of Students Against Austerity has arranged an additional meeting with U of R vice-president (academic) Tom Chase on Jan. 24. The group’s goal is to collect student concerns through a series of small meetings, after which they will bring those concerns to Chase at the public forum this week.

“Ideally, we would like to see some changes to what cuts are made and how they are implemented. But at the very least we would like to see people informed about what is happening.” – Ruth Easton

“Our concerns are about austerity,” said Kent Peterson, who is currently doing a Master in Public Administration. “specifically at the University of Regina, and now at the University of Saskatchewan, both administrations are implementing significant cost-cutting measures. In the University of Regina in particular, those are coming in the way of academic cuts. They are not only looking at merging and rearranging some departments, but eliminating some of them all together.

“It is quite concerning,” he continued. “There hasn’t been enough student representation on decision-making bodies; there hasn’t been enough student consultation. So our concerns are, broadly, the austerity measures, but also that students are being left in the dark about it.”

The group, which currently consists of about 20 students on campus, is hoping that this information campaign will help to flush out some concerns among students that have gone largely unheard.

“Ideally, we would like to see some changes to what cuts are made and how they are implemented,” said Ruth Easton, a second-year International Studies and Environmental Studies student. “But, at the very least, we would like to see people informed about what is happening.”

Students Against Austerity will be holding three meetings before their scheduled open forum with Chase on Jan. 24. It has been no secret, whether at APR forums or interviews with students and faculty, that liberal arts are believed by many to be the first departments to find their heads on the chopping block.

“I think people want the university to be true to its roots as a liberal arts university,” Easton said.

“People also don’t want to be spending a lot of money, and I think they really don’t like how much money is being spent on administration versus the amount of spending that’s happening with faculty and teaching, since it is a university and you’d think the priority would be on teaching.”

According to a government-funded broadcasting company, U of R President Vianne Timmons makes an annual salary of $350,000, Chase makes $289,000, and Vice-President (administration) Dave Button makes $234,000. The average Saskatchewan income is $45,000.

Photo courtesy of Students Against Austerity


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