Budget Cuts UBC Academic Programmes

We encourage you to bring you questions and concerns about the UBC budget cuts to an informal Town Hall meeting, in conjunction with Lorne Whitehead, Vice-President Academic and Provost. The meeting will be held on

Thursday, June 29, 2006
from 5 pm to 6 pm
Buchanan A-202

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the financial situation of the University, as well as any other issues that members wish to raise. Lorne Whitehead and I will facilitate the discussion. We hope to see you there.

Brenda Peterson
UBC Faculty Association

In the middle of a growing UBC real estate boom and growing private sector donations UBC has decided to cut away at the teaching and academic side of the University. What’s happening? Growth and expansion at UBC is taking place at a rate that rivals the early 1990s growth led by David Strangway, the university president of the day. Strangway’s building boom occurred at the expense of regular maintenance for already existing building. The current building boom is being led by a developer friendly/dominated Board of Governors. Many are wondering whether the current building boom and pre Olympic frenzy is partly to blame for cuts to classroom support that is currently taking place.

Concerned faculty across UBC are calling upon the administration to take pro-active action, not fall back into an earlier approach of fiscal retrenchment. See statement below:

Statement on UBC Buget cuts
Signed by: Jennifer Chan (EDST), Jo-Anne Dillabough (EDST), Frank Echols (EDST), LInda Farr Darling (CUST), Don Fisher (EDST), Mona Gleason (EDST), Garnet Grosjean (EDST), Don Krug (CUST), André Mazawi (EDST), Charles Menzies (ANTH), Charlene Morton (CUST), Linda Peterat (CUST), Stephen Petrina (CUST), Wendy Poole (EDST), Ken Reeder (LLED), Leslie Roman (EDST), Kjell Rubenson (EDST), Pierre Walter (EDST)

(please feel free to add your name to the list of signatories, if you like)

How can public education at UBC become more enriched or its access and equality of conditions and opportunities broadened to reach the least advantaged? Surely, for some, a vision of liberal public education for all would be carried over into the current policies and times. A decision in May 2006 to dramatically cut the operating budget of academic programs at UBC leaves concerned Deans, faculty and students in the dark of our fiscal policies. UBC is facing serious cuts to courses and resources to its academic programs. Faculties are facing 2% cuts, which are resulting in the loss of already limited cushions of discretionary funds, reductions of administrative and graduate FTE, and hiring freezes. The Faculty of Education, for example, is forced to give up $452,000 from an already constrained operating budget. The libraries are struggling with cuts to journal acquisition and renewal, and there is talk of lay-offs. UBC faculty members and librarians in Kelowna and Vancouver anticipate that even the wealthiest faculties will be scrambling to keep a modicum of academic integrity within their programs.

Our concern goes deeper than the effects for the wealthier Faculties. We all know effects of budget cuts are distributed unevenly. Students, whom are touted to be “customers” who know best, may now find some of their urgently needed courses cancelled, programs reduced and their faculty and instructors demoralized. The demoralization and the downloading of these cuts will not be evenly distributed across the Faculties. Thus, certain Faculties will feel more stress, increase in workloads and their students will suffer the loss of any enlightened vision for public university education. Student ‘customers’ will not only be scrambling to find that the Aisle Nine Blue light registration closed, but the general offerings greatly thinned. We can see several scenarios following from the status quo of these trickle down financial cuts, all of which speak to the jeopardy public education faces at UBC with such cuts.

Academic operating budgets are not cut in isolation. Cuts made in one place benefit other priorities. As doors close to diverse socio-economic groups of students who may not be able to afford rising tuition costs, a few others may benefit from the large ongoing expansions of building and real estate operations. Recall that in 2002, the BC Government cut and slashed social programs, lifted the freeze on post-secondary tuition costs and deregulated tuition increases. Across the social sector of BC, the cuts were gendered, with women’s wages and work reduced, and with increased difficulties for women’s access to higher education. Provincial expenditures on post-secondary education have been stagnant for well over a decade and universities are relying more and more on tuition increases to cover operating costs.There are several ways this story could be re-told.

Vision One: Deans of all our Faculties unite in common cause, with faculty members on-board, to raise the urgent question of why ACADEMIC rather than other budgets (namely, expensive occasional use buildings) are to be sacrificed? The Deans and faculty members rise up and make their voices heard in a critical concerted way to ask questions about the current misplaced priorities. Concerned faculty across the campus rally in tandem to support their Deans and together with the Faculty Association, CUPE, CUFA BC, other unions and student groups, town hall meetings and public service announcements go out with concerned voices being heard as they spell out the human costs of making real estate a top priority at the sacrifice of academic programs.

Vision Two: Deans and faculty members cave-in as they scramble in a divisive context to save the bare minimum of their academic programs. To whit, program cuts are rarely reversed!!! This scenario further inscribes existing academic hierarchies of the sciences over arts, and leaves all professional faculties such as Education, Nursing and Social Work at the bottom of the heap. It also closes the doors that have been hard won to open for diverse students. The campus begins to look like a gated community and is further isolated from the rest of the city’s dwellers. Our children graduating from UBC cannot speak of having an enriched liberal education at a world class university.

Vision Three: Dead silence. Business as usual. Serious decisions at UBC happen just as the Summer begins and most Faculties operate with reduced academic offerings. Education for the few is enshrined. We return to a gated community.

We vote for Vision One and here are some steps to invite all Deans and the larger public to increase involvement over and visibility of these issues.

  • We wish to convene a Town Meeting to be covered by the local press with selected and volunteer speakers. The President and the Board of Governors are asked to lay out in a transparent fashion the academic budget priorities in relation to other operating budgets for UBC. The Town meeting offers a public forum for debate over how diverse constituencies are affected by these priorities and cuts are called into question. In advance of the Town Meeting a few other public cultural events are held to draw attention the issues:
  • We invite visitors to please drop by our shrine of consumption, a performance arts/theatrical memorial to the K-Mart Aisle Nine of World Class Education (get a theatre performance group to do public mock up shopping at the registration for closed courses with the signs for the Olympic priorities for buildings and shrunken opportunities for a liberal education- good old fashion popular street theatre demonstration forms and cultural-political forms. This includes a campus walk-about to the impoverished daily educational and work places that seem to get little attention, etc).
  • Other suggestions are welcome for a couple of day’s worth of events appropriately timed to get maximum attention.
  • Juxtapose the academic budget cuts against the revenue that UBC derives from leasing property to corporate sponsors (e.g., Shoppers Drug Mart, Starbucks) and from the ultra-opportunistic expansion of real estate development of UBC Properties Trust.

Leave a Reply