Here is the Memorandum from Dean of Arts 16Aug2013 in which chairs are informed that the Dean of Arts, Lesley Cormack, is moving to suspend programs in Arts, and a list of the programs proposed for suspension is furnished. The memo states that members of affected programs have until September 3rd to write to the Dean in defense of their programs.
Even as Edmonton’s population grows with immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, the Dean proposes to suspend programs such as “Middle Eastern and African Studies,” along with the Faculty’s famous print-making program, the technical theatre program, various concentrations in music, and programs in language, both classical and modern. In relation to this, I cannot help but recall what the President of the University of Virginia Teresa Sullivan declared last summer, in the midst of various travails there: “A university that does not teach the full range of arts and sciences will no longer be a university.” (Full speech here.)
The Dean’s action is of course one of the consequences of the Government’s choice on March 7th, when it delivered a $147 million dollar cut to the postsecondary education system in Alberta in its 2013 budget. This week, the Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education declared to MetroNews that the Government aims to “create a new economy” in Alberta through the commercialization of academic research. (Basic math suggests that the Enterprising objectives will be funded with the dollars cut from Advanced Education.) In face of the concerns being expressed by Albertans on Twitter, the Minister earlier this week tweeted: “Best way of proving that it can be done is to just do it & succeed. building diversified
This is the relentless rhetoric that we are hearing from the Government: that they are building Alberta with their choices. Premier Alison Redford is currently on a “Building Alberta Tour.” Albertans objecting to the Government’s Building on Twitter have been using the hashtag #notbuildingalberta. (One can imagine more colourful hashtags but this one certainly makes rejection of the Government’s logic plain.)
Here is what the Deputy Builder tweeted this morning:
Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers might laugh at the unwitting use of the kind of imagery they have made made famous, but we need to act. The Dean’s memorandum asks for defenses from the programs proposed for suspension, but defenses need also to come from departments and programs not currently affected, for the Dean’s claim that “student demand for programs should be the principal resource allocation determinant” is logic that may be only too readily applied, by external actors, to us all. The Government, after all, has been consistently informing Alberta’s students that what they really ought to be demanding is education in the trades. How can we not respond, in defense of everything that we do in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, that we broadly educate our students in skills, arts, practices, cultural ideas, cultural forms, cultural knowledge, and ways of thought that should never be limited to what it is that students think they want to know or what the Government or anyone else tells them they ought to “demand”?
I urge those who write anything over the next two weeks in defense of our programs, whether individually or collectively, to make public their defences here. The comment box is readily available, but please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to offer your defense as a formal guest post.