Letter to the Provost and VP Academic, Professor Carl Amrhein

Below is the text of a letter being sent today to the University of Alberta’s Provost and VP Academic, Professor Carl Amrhein. As it stands, the letter has been signed by faculty members who signed the earlier letter to the VP Finance & Administration, Ms. Phyllis Clark, as well as a few others. At this time, we would like to welcome all other members of the Faculty of Arts to sign on.

If you would like to sign on, you may indicate your desire to do so in the comment box below. If you prefer, you may send an email to artssquared@gmail.com. The letter will be regularly updated here, and periodic updates with the new signatures will also be sent to the Provost.

The Letter

19 March 2012

Professor Carl Amrhein

Provost and VP Academic

University of Alberta

via email

Dear Professor Amrhein,

We write, as members of the Faculty of Arts deeply concerned about the cuts to which the Faculty is being subjected this year and next, to ask what you will do, in your anticipated third term as Provost and VP Academic, to address and redress the Faculty’s situation. As you know, as a result of the Administration’s demand that the Faculty of Arts cut $1.5 million from its operating budget for 2011-2012 and another $1.5 million from its operating budget for 2012-2013, we are about to lose a number of our support staff, and several faculty “lines” will be closed. These losses will affect us in different ways across departments, but following hard upon the heels of the 50% cuts to our departmental operating budgets in 2009-2010, their general import is clear: the Faculty is not receiving the general support necessary to permit it to flourish as one of the most exciting and dynamic places for the research and study of the arts, social sciences, and humanities in Canada.

In our attempt to understand how Arts could be in this situation when the University as a whole has been and continues to be subject to enormous growth, we have been asking various financial questions. On January 23rd, we sent a set of these to the VP Finance and Administration Phyllis Clark in a letter signed by twenty-six members of the Faculty. We were greatly disappointed by the answers that we received in response, which were vague and accompanied by no expression of concern for our situation. In fact, Ms. Clark’s letter denies that the Faculty is being subject to any cuts at all, but rather asks us to construe the fact that our hard-dollar allotments have risen as the sign that we are receiving as much support as any other unit in the University.

Ms. Clark’s claims are not supported by the analysis that anyone reviewing the Operating Budget and Capital Summaries can do if they visit the University’s Resource Planning website. The attached chart derived from the numbers available there shows a clear trend: since 2003-2004, the Faculty of Arts has been receiving a smaller and smaller share of the University’s operating budget. This trend holds for the Faculty of Science as well.

On February 22nd, we heard from the Dean of Arts, Lesley Cormack, that she had consulted with you and your office about this alarming trend, in search of an explanation. The answers she received included one that confirmed that the Faculty of Arts has been receiving a smaller and smaller share of the University’s operating budget because other units of the University, most importantly the Faculties of Engineering and Medicine, have been receiving from the provincial government funds explicitly ear-marked for their use.

We had understood that your guiding principle for the last few years was that “all boats must rise,” but this is clearly not what is occurring. Some boats are being given what they need to rise; others are being left to throw their talented people overboard. In light of this, we write to ask what you plan to do during your next term as Provost and VP Academic to remedy the current situation, which is one of inequity. We would appreciate hearing from you what you will do to ensure that no matter what funds are received from the Government of Alberta, funds are distributed from the University’s operating budget in such a way to create a balanced institution in which all units have the equal opportunity to flourish.

Specifically, we ask:

Q #1:  Why do government endowments for Medicine and Engineering faculties mean that a disproportionate amount of the university’s budget must be directed to these faculties?

Q #2:  What measures will be taken to ensure that the Arts Faculty does not continue to suffer as a result of current provincial and federal government funding priorities which heavily favour “technology innovation” and other commercializable knowledge?  

Q #3: Given that Arts’ share of the university’s budget has fallen from 18.45%  (2003) to 16.60% (2011), what would be a fair share of the budget for the Arts Faculty, and how can we get there? Or does the Administration plan to let Arts’ share continue to fall over the next three years, should provincial funding biases remain unchanged?

Q #4: To what extent is the University’s overall budget forecasting predicated on an assumption of the need for growth (above and beyond the demands of inflation)? If growth is a key objective of the University, what are the limits? Do you aim for growth to be equal across all faculties and divisions?

Q #5: Phyllis Clark’s letter (appended) claims that Arts is receiving a smaller share of the pie because it does not benefit, as other faculties do, from “third party funding.” Should we interpret this to mean that the securing of “third party funding” is a criterion that determines how much of the university’s budget is allocated to each faculty?  If this is the case, how are the particular circumstances of the Arts and Science Faculties vis-à-vis the commercialization of knowledge taken into account?  More generally, we are very concerned about the increasing role of corporate-funded research, Chairs, and other initiatives within the university, as this is influencing the objectives of research, the allocation of university resources, and the climate of academic freedom. During your next term as the Provost and VP Academic, what will you do to defend this public university against its corporatization?

Q #6: We are told that Arts’ share of the Operating Budget has been permitted to drop because the last few years have seen some fluctuation in student enrolment. We are puzzled by this as we continue to have the second highest number of students in the University. (Students are continuing to choose to do their degrees in Arts despite the fact that increasing tuition fees threaten to make such a degree unaffordable.) Could you explain how, specifically, changes in enrolment explain decreasing funding for the Faculty of Arts?

Q #7: Since the provincial government’s announced 2% yearly increases to base funding over the coming three years constitute an implicit but real repudiation of the most recent contracts negotiated with faculty and staff associations and approved by the Board of Governors, how do you plan to ensure that the University meets that commitment without radically undermining working conditions and teaching quality, as we believe is currently happening in our own Faculty?

We look forward to your response, and would appreciate it if you could reply to all current signatories, cc-ed here. Our letter will be posted on Arts Squared, and we would appreciate it if you could confirm whether your reply may join it there.

Yours sincerely,

Laurie Adkin, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Environmental Studies BA program

Rob Aitken, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Isabel Altamirano, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Shyamal Bagchee, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Karyn Ball, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Zohreh Bayatrizi, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

William Beard, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

David Beck, Professor, Department of Linguistics

Ingo Brigandt, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy

Rob Brazeau, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Willi Braun, Professor, Department of History & Classics

Auralia Brooke, Community Service-Learning, Partnership Coordinator

Brad Bucknell, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Don Carmichael, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Julián Castro-Rea, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

Odile Cisneros, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages & Cultural Studies

Liz Czach, Assistant Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Jennifer Dailey-O’Cain, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

Ann De León, Assistant Professor, Spanish and Latin American Studies, Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

Piet Defraeye, Professor, Department of Drama

Elena del Rio, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Donna Feledichuk, Teaching and Learning Manager, Arts Resource Centre

Neil Fiertel, Professor Emeritus, Department of Art & Design

Michael Frishkopf, Associate Professor, Department of Music; Associate Director of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology; Research Fellow, folkwaysAlive!

Andrew Gow, Professor, Department of History and Classics, Director, Religious Studies Program

Margriet J. Haagsma, Associate Professor, Department of History & Classics

Kevin D. Haggerty, Professor, Department of Sociology

Corrinne Harol, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Stephanie Hayman, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Cressida Heyes, Professor, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality, Department of Philosophy

Stephen Hijmans, Associate Professor, Department of History & Classics

John-Paul Himka, Professor, Department of History & Classics

Andrij Hornjatkevyč, Associate Professor (retired), Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, and Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

Paul Hjartarson, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Natasha Hurley, Assistant Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Liz Ingram, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Art & Design

Jennifer Jay, Professor, Department of History & Classics

David Kahane, Professor, Department of Political Science

Amy Kaler, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology; Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Public Health

Adam Kemezis, Assistant Professor, Department of History & Classics

Gary Kelly FRSC, Distinguished University Professor, Department of English & Film Studies and Comparative Literature Program

Rosalind Kerr, Associate Professor, Department of Drama

John Kitchen, Associate Professor, Department of History & Classics

Claudia Kost, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages & Cultural Studies

Donald Kuiken, Professor, Department of Psychology

Felice Lifshitz, Professor, Women’s Studies

Kathleen Lowrey, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Susanne Luhmann, Associate Professor, Women’s StudiesAnne Malena, Professor, Department of Modern Languages & Cultural Studies; Director, Undergraduate Certificate in Translation Studies

Keavy Martin, Assistant Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Peter Midgley, Senior Editor (Acquisitions), The University of Alberta Press

Sourayan Mookerjea, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Marie-Eve Morin, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy

James Mulvihill, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Stefano Muneroni, Assistant Professor, Department of Drama

Robert Nichols, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Michael O’Driscoll, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Philomina E. Okeke-Ihejirika, Professor, Development and Migration Studies, Women’s Studies Program

Johanne Paradis, Professor, Department of Linguistics

Liza Piper, Associate Professor, Department of History & Classics

Julie Rak, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Sathya Rao, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages & Cultural Studies

Stephen Reimer, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Peter A. Rolland, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages & Cultural Studies

Victoria Ruétalo, Associate Professor, Spanish and Latin American Studies, Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

Carolyn Sale, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Daniela Schlueter, Assistant Professor, Department of Art & Design

Rob Shields, Henry Marshall Tory Chair and Professor, Departments of Sociology and Art & Design; Director, City-Region Studies Centre, Faculty of Extension

Mark Simpson, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Peter Sinnema, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Stephen Slemon, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Susan L. Smith, Professor, Department of History & Classics

Lin Snelling, Assistant Professor, Department of Drama

Christine Stewart, Assistant Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Nora Stovel, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Kisha Supernant, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology

Irene Sywenky, Assistant Professor, Department of Comparative Literature and Modern Languages & Cultural Studies

Imre Szeman, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies and Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Anne-Michelle Tessier, Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics

Serra Tinic, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Jo-Ann Wallace, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Garry Watson, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Thomas Wharton, Associate Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Maria Whiteman, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Design, Co-ordinator of Drawing and Intermedia

Janice Williamson, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Christine Wiesenthal, Professor, Department of English & Film Studies

Robert A. Wilson, Professor, Department of Philosophy

Lorraine Woollard, Administrative Director, Community Service-Learning

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24 Responses to Letter to the Provost and VP Academic, Professor Carl Amrhein

  1. Neil Fiertel says:

    I reiterate the concerns raised in the corresondence regarding to the Provost and VP Academic regarding funding to the Arts Faculty. The University will lose its credibilty outside of specialised technical areas if loss of funding to the Arts Faculty is allowed to stand. The University is either a real university or it will become a technical college. The technical direction the university seems to be taking is not one that I in good conscience could recommend to a prospective student wishing to obtain a properly literate and liberal arts/humanities education if this continued starvation of a vibrant and necessary part of a real university is permitted. There is absolutely no excuse other than a top down decision to demolish a LIberal Arts Education at the University of Alberta. What ever happened to the promises to promote this area of the university? It is not as if the province and the university is going through hard times. It is not. Only the Arts Faculty is suffering. It is a travesty.
    Neil Fiertel
    Emeritus, Dept of Art and Design

    • Laurie Adkin says:

      Dear Professor Fiertel, I fully sympathize with your frustration regarding under-funding of Arts programs here and elsewhere. I would qualify one thing, though: the Faculty of Science here has also been experiencing deep cuts. In a corporatized university, natural sciences take second place to “applied science” and technology. Knowledge of both science and arts subjects is critical, however, to the formation of citizens who can weigh in on the critical issues of our times. Best Regards,

  2. Jennifer Jay says:

    I wish to sign the letter

    Jennifer Jay, History and Classics

  3. Auralia Brooke says:

    I’d like to sign the letter.
    Auralia Brooke, Faculty of Arts

  4. Add me to the signatories:
    Ingo Brigandt, Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy

  5. Andrij Hornjatkevyč says:

    Please add my signature:
    Andrij Hornjatkevyč, Associate Professor (retired), Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, and Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

  6. Maria Whiteman says:

    Please add my signature:
    Maria Whiteman, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Design.
    Co-ordinator of Drawing and Intermedia

  7. Rob Shields says:

    Please add my name to these questions.

    Rob Shields (HMTory Chair and Professor, Sociology / Art and Design Faculty of Arts. Director, City-Region Studies Centre, Faculty of Extension).

  8. Amy Kaler says:

    Please add me to the list of signatories.
    Amy Kaler
    Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
    Adjunct Associate Professor, School of Public Health

  9. Liz Ingram says:

    Please add my name.

  10. Stephanie Hayman says:

    Please add me to your list.

    Stephanie Hayman
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Sociology

  11. Laurie Adkin says:

    Ha! Pol Sci still leading Sociology 7-3! (-:

  12. Johanne Paradis, Professor, Department of Linguistics says:

    Please add my signature.

  13. Margriet Haagsma says:

    You can add my name to the list as well:
    Margriet J. Haagsma
    Associate Professor
    Department of History and Classics

  14. Zohreh Bayatrizi says:

    Zohreh Bayatrizi
    Assistant Professor, Sociology

  15. Laurie Adkin says:

    Are we at 78? Way to go, folks! Can we make it 100?

  16. Carolyn Sale says:

    Perhaps those who have signed on could pass the word on to the colleagues they think would be most interested in doing so? We may not have reached everyone with our communications so far. It would be wonderful, as Laurie suggests, to be able to send an updated letter on Monday or Tuesday with 20-odd more signatures.

  17. steven hijmans says:

    Please add my signature.
    Steven Hijmans
    Associate Professor
    Department of History and Classics

  18. Serra Tinic says:

    Please add my name.

    Serra Tinic
    Associate Professor
    Sociology

    • Daniela Schlueter says:

      Please add my name. Thank you.

      Daniela Schlueter
      Assistant Professor
      Department of Art and Design

  19. Claudia Kost says:

    Please add my signature.
    Claudia Kost, Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages & Cultural Studies

  20. Lin Snelling, Assistant Professor, Department of Drama says:

    Please add my signature
    Lin Snelling
    Assistant Professor
    Department of Drama

  21. Peter A. rolland Associate Professor , Modern Languages and Cultural Studies says:

    I wish to sign this letter.

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