Last week, seven chairs in the Faculty of Science wrote an open letter to the President of the Association of Academic Staff, Kevin Kane. I have been asked by one of the signatories of the letter to post a link to that letter here, and do so accordingly. The posting of the link does not constitute an endorsement of the letter. The state of affairs that the letter describes is, however, one that all members of the University community — indeed, all Albertans — need to take account of, and everyone is welcome to join in discussion of the letter here.
The letter from the Chairs talks about the degree of the cuts, for example, as follows:
A 5% base cut will render most of our Departments dysfunctional. A 7% cut — let alone 10% — in many cases cannot be implemented. It is not a question of will or desire to help. It simply cannot be done.
As Rod Macleod, Professor Emeritus (History), noted in a letter to the Journal in the spring, the magnitude of the cuts to postsecondary education delivered by the current Government in its budget of March 7th has been seen only twice before in Alberta’s history, once during the Great Depression. In light of the Chairs’ letter and the Central Administration’s claim that it has been asked, informally or unofficially, by the Government to “accelerate” the cuts, it is time for us all to ask, urgently, again, how it is that the Government of the richest province in Canada cannot find a way to manage the province’s resources in order to invest in postsecondary education and academic research rather than wreak such devastation upon them? What is driving the Government’s position? In March, the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education declared, “We are not here to employee professors.” The University of Alberta’s Administration is now moving to sever professors. The loss of professors doing the work of educating Albertans and finding social, scientific, and creative solutions to problems that are both regional and global does not advance the interests of Albertans, and a Government that does not move, with all speed, to find a solution to a crisis of its own creating — a crisis that risks creating economic depression — suggests that something other than pursuit of the social and economic well-being of all Albertans is driving its agenda.
As the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) noted in a communication last week, the Province of Alberta “invests less than one percent of Alberta’s gross domestic product (GDP) on post-secondary education, the lowest ratio of any Canadian province.” What a state of affairs! It notes, moreover, that in terms of per capita investment in advanced education, Alberta ranks sixth of ten provinces.
The recent #abpse feed on Twitter suggests that Albertans are looking forward to showing the Government what they think of its budget decision of March 7th in the next election.
The problem is we cannot wait until the next election for Albertans to deliver their verdict. The changes to the system and to the University of Alberta that will be wreaked in the meantime will have an irremediable long-term impact. The Government needs to alter its decision of March 7th. What can we do to accelerate that process?