The divisive King Brad

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Blaming the administration is not quite the right target, it’s ultimately the government

The debate regarding the Academic Review Process (APR) reminds me of the Dark Ages. Unfortunately, we lack the romance of righteous wars and noble Knights. Rather, I am referring to the basic forms of management and power centralization. During the Dark Ages, the King’s ability to rule greatly depended upon his physical power and his ability to manipulate the Feudal lords into conflicts with each other. After all, if the lords are busy fighting with each other, they are not conspiring to over throw the kingdom to increase their power.

King Brad and his government have managed to cut education spending, forcing the university to engage sourcing out possible scenarios in order to meet the new financial restraints. The task is to map out the possible immediate future and direction of the school without the needed support of the King. This is not easy to do. Many lives will be directly affected from loss of jobs, opportunity, and potential earning power for our students. However, we the students, and society as a whole, have chosen to engage this debate as if the university administration is the driving force of these decisions.

This enables our king to sit back and take credit for being accidently successful, by taking credit for an economy that has nothing to do with his policies, rather than being held accountable for the current ill-fated direction we are currently on. He claims that propping up an industry such as film through a tax credit is bad, but tax credits and below market value royalties to prop up the potash industry is good?  This is not just bad ideology and faulty logic, but rather massive failure in vision, responsible social policy, and just tragic comedy.

Throughout this process, a couple of themes littered with faulty logic continue to ensure that the provincial government is not held accountable as we bicker amongst each other.

The first issue is that the university apparently needs to do an economic impact study, like it did 20 years ago, to justify its existence and funding to the government and the business community.

If you are unable to understand the link between education and a knowledge-based society, we have a lot bigger issues to deal with as you are clearly not qualified to have your position.

Our grads produce $2 billion in extra wages and contribute an additional $260 million to the provincial coffers over a static 40-year period. This can be further expanded on, as we have a skilled labour shortage that will not be simply met through immigration of skilled workers.

Consider this; in Saskatchewan, we have one job available for every two applicants. That is a phenomenally good ratio, considering in Toronto the ration is one job for every eight applicants. However, our youth unemployment rate is 9.5 per cent for individuals between 18-24 years of age. Factor in First Nations in the same age range at 21.3 per cent and Metis people at 9.4 per cent and we have an unmitigated disaster on our hands. And through some convoluted and ludicrous logic, the government’s solution to meeting the educational needs of these individuals to meet the demands of the labour market is to cut university funding?

Furthermore, the increased emphasis to attract skilled workers from abroad is problematic. Employers cannot hold positions open for the 18-month period it takes to immigrate here. Secondly, the federal government insists that to immigrate to Canada, you must have a job offer first. That is only problematic if the federal government will let you immigrate here under their new “rules”. Lastly, there is the ethical concern of sending foreign aid to countries to help the education of the local population to meet the local economic, social, and political demands. The issue is we recruit this skilled labour to Canada to fill our void, resulting in an increase to foreign aid and limited growth potential of the countries receiving this aid to replace the resources we took.

The issue of poor communication to the student body has also surfaced during these consultations. Let’s be clear; the communication was poor because we are not supposed to know. Mission accomplished. Three years after the fact, the students are left holding the bag. There are bigger concerns at play. Why did our student leadership, who have a seat on the Board of Governors, not bring this to the attention of the electorate? If it was, why was nothing organized around it?  What was discussed over the last few years to engage the government? What support, if any, came from CFS-SK and CFS National or was that money stolen too? Do not fool yourself, the federal government has a huge role to play in post-secondary education. Refer to the Social Credit and Transfer Act of 1995 to see for yourself the impact it continues to have. One thing is for sure, the university needs to be more accountable and our student leaders need to be more responsive.

The “university has a huge payroll” argument is a red herring. The average wages have increased no debate about it. However, so have wages in every university. This is market forces at work, as we attract the best people to our organizations. It is the same as every other market force. Sorry, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Furthermore, the current rate of inflation is 2 per cent, which is the second highest in Canada.  Meanwhile purchasing power is decreasing. You cannot buy as much goods and services as you could 20, 25, or 30 years ago. This is driven slow growth wage increases and by increase in the cost of living. In a straight comparison to the rest of Canada, it appears we have the lowest cost of living. However, if you factor in housing costs, rising tuition, and our rate of inflation, we quickly realize that this is not the case. The U of R is one of the most expensive institutions in Canada to attend. University and other post-secondary opportunities are unaffordable and it is a primary concern as we cannot meet out skilled workers demand. The collective bargaining agreements are not the problem, the lack of funding to meet the demand of educated skilled people in the economy is.

The university administration must to engage in this debate with its professional staff and the Students’ Union to formulate an action plan to meet these needs in the economy. If there must be a justification made for funding post-secondary education, then this is it: Post-secondary education is the driving force in innovation and the training of skilled people who have the ability to critically think, problem solve, and communicate (written and verbal). These are the three biggest needs I hear every time I engage an employer. These are the skills that are recognized as lacking from our young people across the country. This should be more than enough of a reason to fund disciplines like English. The basis of which, meets all the previously listed skills employers are seeking. 

If we are not able to make this case together and stop blaming each other, then understand that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put our economy back together again.

Shaadie Musleh
Business Manager

Photo courtesy buckdogpolitics.blogspot.com

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