Students, Workers and Faculty Assemble to Discuss Resistance to Cuts
On Monday January 27th, student, worker and faculty representatives met at the University of Guelph for an “Alternative Town Hall”.
James Compton, from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, and Kate Lawson, President of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations opened the meeting with speeches contextualizing University of Guelph’s Program Prioritization Process (PPP) noting the broader shift towards privatization and corporatization prompted by government underfunding. Dominica McPherson from the Central Student Association, Bill Cormack from the University of Guelph Faculty Association, Padraic O’Brien from the GSMC, and Janice Folk-Dawson from the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 1334, continued the discussion by citing their opposition to the PPP and the cuts being proposed by the University of Guelph administration.
After the panel, all participants in the town hall broke up into groups to discuss plans to continue and deepen opposition to the cuts with the aim of stopping them. These proposals were then discussed by the group as a whole.
Organizers of the event included the Guelph Student Mobilization Committee, the Central Student Association, the Canadian Union of Public Employees local 1334, and the Ontario Public Interest Research Group – Guelph.
Here’s some quotes and media coverage from the event:
“Campus groups unite in fight against U of G budget cuts” – Guelph Tribune
‘Lawson attempted to give more context to the issue by pointing out that while program prioritization processes are not mandatory, they fit in with a provincial government push for more differentiated, specialized universities.
“Ontario universities are already differentiated,” she said, highlighting the differences between the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier and U of G as an example. They have grown to meet the needs of their communities, she said.
Program prioritization processes, which are currently being undertaken by multiple universities, have the potential to lead to drastic cuts and program closures that would undermine the quality of education in Ontario, she said.
“Will any university, at the end of this process, differentiate itself as a small liberal arts university?” she said.
In speaking of the impact of the process on students, McPherson talked about program cuts that have already been felt at U of G, such as the elimination of the women’s studies program in 2009.’
‘Padraic O’Brien, of the Guelph Student Mobilization Committee, said the cuts speak to the commodification of education.
“When you lose diverse perspectives and disciplines, this sets the stage for a society that only knows the minimum. It turns universities into an assembly line of degrees and a subcontractor for business,” he said…
…”I want to get involved in this,” said first-year student Miranda Ivany after the meeting. “It will be difficult but it’s really important. We can’t just accept the cuts without a fight. Doing nothing would be the worst thing.”‘
“Alternative Town Hall Highlights Concerns Over PPP” – The Ontarion
‘Cormack drew attention to the lack of understanding regarding the reasons for conducting the PPP. “The Administration has claimed that the PPP did not assess quality [of programs] but only cost effectiveness,” said Cormack. “There is a general understanding on campus, however, that [the PPP] does reflect quality. The other impact [of this], of course, is that the proposed cuts have been directed at [specific] colleges.”
Other speakers expressed incredulity at the demands of the PPP. “[They want] productivity increases,” said Folk-Dawson. “We’re a maintenance organization. How do we increase productivity? Do we break more things so we can fix them?”
O’Brien declared that this process of differentiation would serve to make “an assembly line of degrees” out of the U of G. “For all intents and purposes,” said O’Brien, “we are witnessing the deterioration of our university.”’