“Common Cause”

This website began as a virtual space in which members of the Faculty of Arts could gather to share their ideas about how to fight cuts to the Faculty for the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 years. We are, however, greatly concerned with the institution as a whole, and welcome all members of the University community to share their views about how to promote the University and secure sustainable funding for us all. We are all united in a common cause. Here we make publicly available, by request, a petition to the University’s President Indira Samarasekera prepared and signed by graduate students in the Department of Computer Science. Their link for the petition on the Department of Computer Science website: https://moodle.cs.ualberta.ca/mod/resources/view.php?id=25837.

* * * * * * *

Dear President Samarasekera,

We, the undersigned students, staff, and faculty of the Computing Science department, have seen the following Edmonton Journal article:


And we wish to emphatically express that the budget cuts *do* have a tremendous impact on students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We support the opinions of Prof. J. Nelson Amaral, as published in a letter to the Edmonton Journal:



The Undersigned (see attached pdf) [ArtsSquared: omitted here]

The attached petition (pdf) contains the electronic signatures (name and email addresses) of 209 members of the Computing Science department. Of those, 127 (61%) are undergraduate students, 64 (31%) are graduate students, 3 (1%) are staff, 3 (1%) are faculty, 11 (5%) are alumni, and 1 does not belong in any of the above categories or chose not to specify.

Some petitioners chose to include personal comments on the budget cuts, which are also included in the attached pdf, in the third column of the spreadsheet. Below are several selected quotes (which you can find in Petition.pdf) that highlight the discussions that have taken place in the department since the release of the Edmonton Journal article.

I strongly agree with Prof. Nelson Amaral’s opinion that budget cuts *do* affect both graduate and undergraduate students in our university. Speaking from a personal experience, I was frustrated to see that the computing science department was not able to retain those excellent support staff that they had to lay off or encourage early retirement due to previous rounds of budget cuts. -Yifeng Liu, graduate student

As a student myself I’ve already had my ability to do research impacted by the lack of support staff resources, and as a teaching assistant I instruct a lab that runs while no support staff are available. – Aaron Luchko, graduate student

The details are what separate a great institution from a mediocre one. Continual budget cuts like this have been eating away at what made our department special. It will be very soon that we will have heavy impacts on student life because we’ve already lost the seemingly non-critical services. We can we keep going as a department. We cannot continue to aim to be world class.- Robin Miller, President 2011-2012 Undergraduate Association of Computing Science

As an undergrad who is looking to come out of university as well-equipped as possible to meet challenges in “the real world”,  I need to be able to prove that I am better than the other CS graduates who will be competing with me for work.  In the modern CS field, having summer research opportunities and up-to-date technologies no longer are ways to get ahead of the curve; rather they are almost requirements.  If we want to continue to be seen as a top-ranking university on both the national and international scale, producing some of the top minds of our generation, budgets cannot continue to be cut. – Zak Turchansky, undergraduate student

University provides students a gateway to their future. Increasing budget constraints results in limiting resources available for students to grow and develop and will harm the quality of graduates the University produces. This will hurt the University’s reputation and discourage future student applications, a process that could cycle and severely harm the U of A’s future. More importantly the students are not going to be able to fully realise their potential and that will limit their ability to be successful in their futures. I understand the value of smart budgeting and avoiding wastefulness but it should not come at the cost of a student’s future. – Jesse Tucker, undergraduate student

I can judge the impact of the budget cuts from only a very short period (starting Fall 2010).  Nevertheless, having TA’d for 3 semesters I have encountered situations which I found frustrating both for undergraduate students and myself.

I want to give a specific example based on my experience TAing for CMPUT 333 “Security in a Networked World” last semester. A core objective of this course was to teach students to work within a virtual network environment.  Many course assignments involved installing . tweaking, and upgrading new software on the virtual machines. Naturally, this entire infrastructure was provided by technical support staff from the helpdesk.  

A substantial part of one of the assignments required the students to set up firewalls on their machines.  This involved tracking and filtering ftp connections.  There is an established method for accomplishing this which is available on modern systems (2.4.xx Linux kernel).  Unfortunately, the initial Linux images we were given did not have this functionality or, more precisely, using this method caused kernel instability and disrupted completion of the assignment.  Note that this problem was actually discovered a year ago during the previous offering of the same course.  

The 38 students had to find a workaround, eventually settling on deprecated solutions.  This situation was frustrating for me, but it was even more upsetting to talk to the students in my lab section and see their frustration as well.

CMPUT 333 is not considered a core course in our department; it is not a requirement for any program.  However, this course is informally recognized by undergraduate students as a “must-take” course for students planning to enter industry. – Julia Vlasenko, graduate student

5 Responses to “Common Cause”

  1. Laurie Adkin says:

    Thanks for posting this, “Arts Squared.” Is there a preamble to this petition?

    • Arts Squared says:

      Ah! A preamble was not sent, but the letter proper has now been included on our page. Thank you for drawing attention to this inadvertent omission.

  2. Laurie Adkin says:

    Terrible news about the Conservatives’ severe cuts to NSERC funding: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/life/Federal+cuts+called+disaster+Canadian+science/6614323/story.html. (This article does not tell the whole story.) The cuts effectively gut the capacity of Canadian scientists to carry out “non-applied” (“fundamental” or “pure”) research in numerous fields–research that is critical to many environmental concerns (such as soil science, marine biology or core/ice sampling in the Arctic). These cuts will negatively affect the research capacity of scientists here at the U of A. Waiting to hear a strong response from our President, Indira Samarasekera, to this move on the part of the Harper Government.

  3. MIRON REZUN says:

    Something like this could snowball, cause a precedent—- we need to keep our universities democratic and open to opinions, as long as said opinions are not racist or xenophobic…

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