Dean of Arts Moves to Suspend Programs — and Minister Tweets about Taking Sledgehammer to Playground

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 #ab.” 

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:

Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 11.36.17 AM

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 if you wish to offer your defense as a formal guest post.

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33 Responses to Dean of Arts Moves to Suspend Programs — and Minister Tweets about Taking Sledgehammer to Playground

  1. Ken Cantor says:

    My own sentiments haven’t changed since penning this last March (not even after receiving a personalized form letter in response):
    Subject: University Funding…

    I cannot express my surprise and my displeasure in regard to the current budget cuts imposed on the University of Alberta strongly enough.

    I cannot believe our economy in the Province of Alberta is insufficiently strong enough to support infrastructure and arts and education investment in our future – by all accounts we have one of the strongest and most stable economies in the world. If we cannot invest in those very things our futures rely on, what does that say about our confidence in our own abilities and our own futures to take on a proper role in the world and to deliver on those things the role requires?

    If the Province of Alberta needs to increase its revenue stream in order to maintain appropriate levels of investment in those three pillars of our future, then I would expect my government to display the leadership and fortitude to do exactly that instead of insisting that it meet election promises and political posturing by implementing inappropriate austerity measures.

    Raise our taxes if need be – we’re not children that don’t understand that government doesn’t create money from thin air.

    Raise our royalties if need be (an initiative that should have been implemented when first proposed as far as I’m concerned and which would have kept us from where we are today).

    Implement a 2% sales tax if need be (and make that a direct flow through to municipalities so they have long term stable funding and you can maintain it isn’t a new provincial tax even though it will allow you to eliminate many of the grants and other programs now funded from general revenue and allow those monies to be reallocated elsewhere).

    We will always have a cyclical economy in the Province of Alberta as long as we are dependent on resource revenues – over the past century we seem to have simply managed to move from one primary resource to another and we need to break that cycle. Until we do that, our cycles will simply by amplified by the cycles imposed on us by the larger Canadian, North American and world markets we need to compete in for capital – human capital as well as financial capital, both of which are becoming increasingly more mobile.

    Reducing funding for those very things that are most necessary for us to compete successfully for those limited human and financial resources would be a huge step backwards in what we have always presented as the Alberta Advantage. The Alberta Advantage was never really about being the cheapest place to be – it was about being the most attractive place to be. The media often confuses those two things because they get mixed messages but government should know better and should conduct itself accordingly – something that does not appear to happening here. We need to continue to make Alberta more attractive, not less.

    I would urge you to do whatever is appropriate to correct this before irreparable harm takes hold and I know when I say that, that it means spending more money in some areas, not less.



    • snark says:

      Well said (again) Mr. Cantor – you continue to surprise me since you took issue with my somewhat anti-Conservative comments on another website years ago. You certainly know what is and should be most important to Albertans – too bad our beloved Alberta ‘Conservatives’ don’t have a clue. You will certainly have my vote if you ever decide to run for political office.

  2. Pastor Ed says:

    Shame on you, Alison – only 44% of Albertans actually wanted you to be premier, you just lucked out in that the # of seats meant you had a majority! Again, shame on you, Alison and Thomas and all who agree that cuts to basics in Alberta are a-okay…

    • Dylan says:

      Are you willing to pay more taxes then? Money has to come from somewhere…

      • Carla-Concerned AB Parent says:

        How about $$ comes from a tiny, miniscule, insignificant increase to oil and gas royalties? A less than 1% increase to the royalty scheme would solve this whole made up crisis. And “YES” is the answer to your question about more taxes. In case you haven’t heard, the majority of Albertans would agree with a small tax increase if it meant no cuts to education, healthcare and public service.

      • chris says:

        Dylan, instead of thinking like a sheep, why not ask more important questions? If we had money to educate people in the arts 5 years ago, why can’t we today? WHERE has this money gone? OUR Government needs to be accountable for the allocation of OUR resources.

  3. Cressida Heyes says:

    In themselves I don’t know whether these cuts are so worrying: they are eliminating only very under-used programs, after all, not even courses per se (let alone jobs). I appreciate that the memo provides some clear criteria for the decisions, which were made consultatively (at least at the level of department Chairs), as well as a “second thoughts” mechanism (however last-ditch that would be, given that the people who made the decisions are also the people feeding back attempts to reverse them).

    To what extent, though, should this “academic housekeeping” be read as a shot across the bows of U of A’s language and fine arts programs? That is worrying. But even cutting those departments root and branch wouldn’t save enough. There are much, much scarier things coming down the pipe.

    As we head into the new academic year, as an Albertan parent I would also be worried if my child were planning most any Arts degree: will the program they start in still be available four years down the road? Will they be needing to switch majors, or transfer to another university? Will any other Alberta university be better positioned anyway? (Remember, no intra-provincial duplication! Also: no programs!) My son is still in preschool, but, frankly, I’m saving now–not only against the possible loss of my own job at the U of A, but against the very real possibility that by the time he gets there Lukaszuk and his sledgehammer will have turned U of A from a world-class university to a pretty embarrassing backwater college.

  4. Carla-Concerned AB Parent says:

    It is a sad state when the arts and humanities have to continue paying the price for a politically short-sighted class that cares more about their immediate gains or their re-election than what is good for Albertans. And what is good for Albertans (I hope the Premier and the Minister can read this) is a DIVERSE ECONOMY for a diverse province where all sectors and people of different walks of life can thrive and see themselves reflected. I have two kids currently in university, one in the sciences and the other in the arts. If the Premier and her sidekick minister can’t understand this basic concept of economic diversity, perhaps they should talk to my kids or go back to school and take some social sciences and humanities courses that might teach them a thing or two about this province’s history, economics, society and concerns. There is only one solution to this problem created by poor fiscal management and incompetence: RESTORE FUNDING to the post-secondary sector immediately. This is the view of the majority of Albertans.
    Concerned AB Parent

  5. Kelly MacFarlane says:

    (crossposted from Whither)

    I can’t speak for the other programs, but the situation in Classics is not as dire as it might look. Classics had two separate majors: Classical Studies and Classical Languages. We’ve “only” lost the under-used Classical Languages. But all this should mean is that students who want to specialize in Greek or Latin (or both!) will now do it under the general Classical Studies major rather than the specific Classical Languages major. We’ve not lost our program, and students have not lost access to our language courses, our first-year/first-term LATIN and GREEK courses are almost full (only 2 seats in LATIN left!), and our numbers look good in the upper-year language courses.

    As for the suspension, I do not like this, not one little bit. Classics is one of the founding departments of the U of A, and the languages are the foundation for any work in Classics, and yet we’ve lost a direct route to majoring in the languages. But there is a work-around that should suffice in the short-term to allow students to take, and even “major,” in the languages, and we have not lost the language courses or the staff to teach them (di melius!).

    And let’s all remember this come election day!

  6. Laura-Jean Hadley says:

    And the pendulum swings again! It seems like such a short time ago that the Trades and Services programs were being cut in favour of the Academics. Do these cuts to the Arts programs mean that we are now acknowledging the short sighted decisions to not fund the Trades which decimated the facilities and made it more expensive to rebuild? Are we acknowledging that because of these cuts we lost a lot of expertise that we could now use? Will we be facing the same in the future where we mourn the loss of the Arts programs and must find ways to return from such a deficit? What a shame. History is such an excellent teacher, why is it that we continue ignore the lessons?

  7. M Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing this Memorandum on the suspension of small enrollment programs within the Faculty of Arts, which was distributed on Friday, 16th of August, a few weeks before the terms begins — and giving chairs and those faculty within the programs until the 3rd September to defend themselves against suspension.

    The Faculty of Arts is a great faculty, one I love and one I wish to see flourish. It is important to remember the context: A regressive provincial budget, followed by secretive/non-transparent cuts across the faculty established by the Acting Provost and a handful of people at the top. Trickle down to the faculty and you have implementation of the cuts, everyone following orders. These kinds of decisions give me reason for pause about the death of collegiality and the very idea of a university. Some thoughts on the Memo, mindful of the provincial and broader institutional context:

    First, I am very disappointed to see that on the suspension block are programs that relate to most of the non-western world — Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. These proposed suspensions come at the very moment when the programs are most needed, and at the very moment most institutions are engaged in processes of internationalisation. By design these suspensions mean we will have a Faculty of Arts that is centred on European and Asia Studies (the Institute for American Studies was also closed earlier this year and a previous Dean of Arts closed the Canadian Studies program). What it means, then, is that we are not very internationalist or diverse — ideas, peoples, programs — at all.

    Second, I am neither a Departmental Chair nor a faculty member directly hired in to these programs so the Memo would seem to preclude my input. However, I completed my MA and PhD work in the area of Latin American Studies and having edited 3 books on Africa. And I do teach international relations and comparative politics and have many terrific graduate students working in these areas. There is great demand, at least at the graduate level. So I have a keen interest in seeing these programs revitalised and flourishing once again (especially at the graduate level). What does it mean to say we support internationalisation but not in our curriculum and in faculty?

    Third, fairness of process: What can those facing suspension do in three weeks to save themselves (16 August to 3 September)? The impacted programs have to drop everything, as the faculty — wherever they are, and focus on self-preservation. Yet, as colleagues in the same faculty, shouldn’t this be a collective exercise, informed by a larger vision of what kind of faculty we want to be? There are possibilities. Conceivably we could craft an International Studies/Global Studies degree program, in which these “area studies” programs (including European Studies] could fit. Similarly we could develop the highly popular interdisciplinary International Development Studies (IDS) program of study, which require diverse curriculum and language skills. These two suggestions would be a re-visioning but I am not persuaded it would be a cost-savings.

    Fourth, ours is the faculty that introduced diversity to the University of Alberta under then Dean Patricia Clements, in the face of astounding resistance. Since 1992 we’ve shifted from a broader vision of equity, diversity and inclusion to a focus on gender equity — or so it seems. Again, to me this is odd. Less focus on diversity as the Alberta and Canadian populations and the university student body becomes more diverse. More costly, then, is how these suspensions fit in to the larger project of an institutional divestment in diversity of ideas, people, knowledge and programs. We are in reversal, back to the 1980s, it seems. Perhaps we should all return to a re-reading of _1984_, as well.

    Finally, with each of these decisions to cut *we* are telling students, the broader community — and the world — what is valued (not). We are actively engaged in reproducing the academy and the world as it will become. That is a message for the Alberta government, the University administration and the faculty. What a terrible way to start the new academic year — for all concerned.

    Some articles of interest:
    1. Going to school should be like going to the gym, Globe and Mail (7 August 2013),

    2. Language teaching crisis as 40% of university departments face closure, Number of universities offering modern languages degrees plunges from 105 in 2000 to 62 at start of this academic year, The Guardian (17 August 2013),

    3. How are we doing higher education internationalisation? University World News (1 June 2013),

  8. Alexander Beecroft says:

    A facebook friend directed me towards this page, and its news, and I wanted to share a letter I’ve written to the Dean, the university president, and the Minister of Advanced Education:

    Dear Dean Cormack, President Samarasekera, and Minister Lukaszuk,
    I am writing today with sadness and grave concern, in my roles both as a scholar and as an alumnus of the University of Alberta. I received my Honours BA in Classics from the University in 1995, and was privileged to win the Dr. John Macdonald Gold Medal in Arts that year. The skills I learned during my undergraduate days in Alberta have made possible my subsequent career – earning a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard, and teaching in Comparative Literature at Yale, before moving to my present position as an Associate Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina. As I read today of the Faculty of Arts’ plans to close down twenty undergraduate programs, including the one from which I graduated, I am truly saddened to think that future U of A undergraduates will face a radically narrowed and impoverished range of educational opportunities, and that the career path which the U of A facilitated for me, and for many others, will no longer be available to undergraduates of the future.
    Particularly troubling to me are the rationales presented for these cuts. The Dean’s memo of August 16 states that “student demand for programs should be the principal resource allocation determinant.” This language, while claiming to put the interests and tastes of students first, actively disempowers undergraduates, by using the decisions of previous undergraduates artificially to narrow the options available to tomorrow’s students. I know that I and my peers in humanities majors at the U of A benefited enormously from the opportunity to explore the tremendously wide range of majors and subjects available to us, and that many of us (myself included) pursued directions we knew little of as incoming first-year students. Part of the joy and the value of an undergraduate education in the humanities lies in the new horizons of intellectual inquiry that open up for students as they explore new subjects. To the extent that the elimination of these twenty undergraduate programs or concentrations narrow the options available to students, those students’ intellectual vision will become narrower and more rigid, shaped by a smaller range of intellectual disciplines and less capable of moving across disciplinary lines in the ways increasingly required of us all.
    The emphasis on student demand to the exclusion of other concerns also has grave implications, I fear, for my alma mater’s ability to grow and thrive as one of Canada’s leading research universities. A reduced emphasis on Greek and Latin teaching, for example, narrows options for undergraduate and graduate students interested in any aspect of European culture or society before 1800, whether they are students of English, French, foreign languages, Comparative Literature, History, Philosophy, Religious Studies, or a number of other disciplines. Moreover, research in those areas at the University will be impaired if, in the longer term, the reduction of undergraduate study in Classics (and in the other fields affected) leads to a reduction in the number faculty conducting research in those areas. As critical expertise is lost, undergraduate and graduate education will become narrower in scope, and the opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary research will become fewer.
    I also find troubling the emphasis, in the Dean’s memo, on the number of undergraduate majors as the sole measure of student demand. The memo itself suggests other possible metrics, such as the number of majors per faculty member, or the ratio between the number of students in courses associated with a program, and the number of faculty in that program, but objects that these latter two measures are subject to more uncertainty, given the difficulties in some cases in linking faculty members and/or courses to specific programs. It would be a great pity indeed if entire undergraduate programs were to be shut down, and educational opportunities denied to the undergraduates of today and tomorrow, because of a difficulty in gathering reliable statistics. Moreover, if the goal of this exercise is (as the memo states) to redistribute resources in order to treat students equitably across programs, then surely some measure of the resources associated with each major is essential. A major such as French and Italian, for example, may have few undergraduates, but may also operate at virtually zero marginal cost beyond the resources already allocated to the existing French and Italian majors, while (as the memo hints), Classics faculty may in fact teach large numbers of undergraduates in mythology, culture, and literature-in-translation courses, leaving them as a strong value-for-money proposition even in spite of small numbers of majors. By insisting on the number of undergraduate majors as the sole metric of undergraduate student demand, this memo may fall wide of the mark in matching the marginal costs and marginal utilities of different programs. In addition, a further consequence of this move will be to reduce the opportunities for interdisciplinary majors, from Classics to Latin American Studies, which provide vital opportunities for students and faculty to create new paradigms by working across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Surely, in these times, it cannot be wise to increase in this way the institutional rigidities hindering interdisciplinary inquiry.
    I understand that the University of Alberta, like many other research universities, faces difficult decisions about how to allocate scarce resources in these challenging times, but it is my profound hope, as a scholar and an alumnus, that these proposals will be given the critical scrutiny that they deserve, and that a way will be found to preserve the broad range of undergraduate humanities programs that made me proud to be a graduate of the university.

    Alexander Beecroft (BA ’95)

    • Margriet Haagsma says:

      Excellent reply, Alexander. To all alumni who read posts on artssquared: we need more of these letters.

  9. Larry Farley says:

    The most effective form of taxation for getting money from the wealthiest is a consumption tax (i.e Value Added Tax/Sales Tax. Being careful to apply only to the discretionary spending will cost the wealthy the most. Disgusting that the university is being so challenged by the corporate agenda!

  10. Kelly MacFarlane says:

    Upon closer reading of the Dean’s Memo and the University Calendar, turns out I’m wrong about the major streams. Should have taken an extra day to recover from vacation!

    The proposed suspension to the Classics majors is much more serious than I thought. Please ignore my rosy-glasses first post.

  11. Ryan Dexter says:

    As someone who has earned two degrees from the U of A, both in the Arts, I will never pay for another course from a traditional university again. More money or less money, a wide and comprehensive selection or programs, or not, none of these options will fix the problems traditional universities have, because they are not operating on this level. These measures simply represent progress or regression, which is important, within the same paradigm, when a new way of organizing learning, with a new end to this learning, is badly needed. For my money, I would rather invest in my further and future learning through an alternative university, such as Sofia, CIIS, Saybrook, or even Naropa, which all focus, in one way or another, on whole person learning, through martial arts, meditation, and other extra-cognitive disciplines (which, of course, have synergistic effects on cognitive disciplines, which they also stress), something that is desperately lacking at the U of A, and other traditional universities. Only by developing students’ minds in conjunction with the rest of their multifaceted and multi-dimensional being will the U of A “uplift the whole people”, something this University said, at one point, it aspires to do.

  12. Ryan, perhaps it’s time for our beloved alma mater, and my employer of the past 30 years, to change its mantra to “uplift some of the people.”

  13. Candice Charney says:

    This is very frustrating. I am a graduate of the technical theatre program at the U of A. People just look at the number of students enrolled per year and assume that it’s not important. The reason why they only ACCEPT (more apply) a max of 8 students per year is because it is a specialized program that allows for one on one education and hands on learning through working on the Timms Centre main stage and the FAB shows. If there where more students you wouldn’t be getting the same education and wouldn’t be as ready to enter into the work force coming out of the program. If you go and see any productions at all in the city during the season you would know by reading the bios of the artists that most technicians and stage managers in this city FOR EVERY THEATRE small and big (including the fringe festival) are graduates of either the Grant Mac or the U of A program. The Grant Mac program as well only accepts a max number of about 12 per year. The cancellation of this program will hurt the theatre community in ways that most don’t realize. I, myself moved to Edmonton 13 years ago just to attend to the program because it was and still is one of the best (if not the best) in the country.

  14. Tom Barrett says:

    The key to understanding this is realizing that government giveaways to the corporate sector are the key to the deficit, which is used to justify the cuts. The drop in the corporate tax rate from 15.5% in 2001 down to 10% today represents a $2 billion dollar annual giveaway based on government figures. The flat tax introduced in 1999 and modified in 2001 represents another massive gift to the rich. In 2001 the Alberta government estimated a loss of $1.5 billion in annual revenue because of the flat tax, a figure which is surely higher today. No other province or territory has a flat tax and as a result wealthy Albertans pay the lowest taxes in the country while poor Albertans pay more than the national average. Our corporate tax rates are also the lowest in the country. Even a conservative estimate makes for a $3.5 billion annual gift to the wealthy and corporations. With that money post secondary institutions could receive far more, not less, major infrastructure problems could be addressed, etc. etc.
    Understanding this is also the key to fighting against it publicly by arguing that higher education and many, many other valuable programs are being sacrificed so that the wealthy and the corporate sector, especially the oil and gas industry which pretty much runs the PC Party, don’t have to pay their fair share. I can’t come up with a hard number for how much we are giving away annually through our absurdly low royalty rates on oil and gas, but the total revenue that is being foregone is astounding. In short, the government has a massive, self-created revenue problem, not a spending problem.

  15. Kathleen Lowrey says:

    So many great thoughtful comments. I am trying to gather my own, but it’s difficult when I
    I can’t get Unfrozen Caveman Education Minister out of my head:

  16. Kathleen Lowrey says:

    From today’s article in the Edmonton Journal:

    “The faculty of arts can’t cut salaries or benefits because of a two-year collective agreement that the academic staff association has opted not to reopen. That leaves 38 more arts faculty positions on the chopping block.”

    & Dean Cormack mentioned “30” positions in her interview this morning with CBC. Anyone know where these numbers are coming from? How are things “left” on the chopping block when the process by which they would be put on a chopping block is clearly laid out in our contract agreement?

  17. Holly Morris says:

    Since the budget came down, the people of Alberta have heard a variety of contradictory explanations from this government: there is “duplication in the system”; a cut is the way to inspire innovation; PSE must do its share in sacrifice during tough times; it’s a blip or a hiccup; we will only trim things in which people are not interested… Here is the truth that no one dares speak: while many of us thought Ms Redford was enlightened on education, her government sees it primarily as job training; her cabinet believes professors to be overpaid. Everything else is a pathetic charade of political theatre.

    Sadly, only a brain drain of instructors and students, after the pain of placing a disproportionate weight of cuts on the most vulnerable in our system, will give government reason to pause for even a second. While our friends and colleagues in the arts programs with which we are presently concerned make up a small proportion of our activity, this cut demonstrates that education in this province will, by necessity and by design, grow more homogeneous. There will come a day when students will choose to study elsewhere, not simply because they doubt this government and our institutions’ committment to their education, in its broadest terms, but because our approach to programming grows less varied and less interesting. You cannot do more with less, in spite of the cliche.

    This really is a sea change, and the real savings on a provincial level suggest that we have lost knowledge for the sake of knowledge — either as an option for student programs or as a strategy for broadening the cultural literacy of our populace. If the UofA doesn’t offer the content most at risk, who will? Will we get it from television? From Google searches? And if the government won’t provide it, why won’t they let people pay the price they are willing to pay to get it? I am not suggesting that the pound of flesh should come from students, but why does no free market neo-con who believes that everyone should do a narrow STEM program not acknowledge that telling universities what they can teach, what they will get to support that teaching, and what they can charge for that service is more like totalitarian control than education in a wealthy democracy.?

    The growth in science, knowledge and education, has over the past three decades been both stunning and tremendously beneficial. But STEM is costly, and it has not been funded properly. The resulting shortfall has eroded everything on our campuses. Where the current situation is a blip is that nothing has been done in 2013 to address the structural flaws in our funding model. We might get another year or two by continuing to gobble up all the smaller activities we undertake, all the support staff, non-essential ancillary activities. But what are we losing in pursuit of a temporary fix? I can hear our minister now, repeating the familiar refrain… “Dear God, please give us one more oil boom. This time, I promise…”

  18. Joel Adria says:

    Thank you for bringing this info to the forefront. I have written a letter to the Dean as a graduate of the BFA Tech Theatre program that is proposed to be suspended. It is an essential program!

  19. Donald Macnab says:

    Why pick on the world class programs such as the technical theatre program and the printmaking program that in practice have to be “small” programs to be the best of the best. After enjoying a weekend at the Fringe with many thousands of other Edmontonians, one has to wonder how well it could operate without the benefits of the experts being produced by the University of Alberta? If Mr Lukaszuk and his lot are interested in having programs that lead to employment, look no further than this program. Edmonton hits well above its weight when it comes to theatre mainly because the U of A produces so many talented people from both the drama program and the technical theatre program. There seems to be a pattern at the U of A of targeting programs that are successful (Alternative Medicine Program and Occupational Therapy Program to name but two). Having completed a PhD at the University of Alberta in psychometrics, when there were only three of us in the program at the time, I would never have spent the last three decades doing what I do (and being in extremely high demand) if this sort of thinking had predominated.

  20. julia says:

    The Minister and the Premier do not seem to realise that education and training are not the same, and that other than professional programs, e.g. law, engineering, medicine, education, training is not part of a university, but rather part of a college or other technical institute.

    • Makere Stewart-Harawira says:

      Regrettably, we appear to have badly failed the Minister while he was a bachelor level student at the U of A. He doesn’t know the difference between technical institutes, colleges and universities. I’d suggest he retake his course of study but sadly, its possible there will be no one available to teach him.

  21. Kelsey says:

    Absolutely disgusted with Lukaszuk. Alberta deserves so much better than what he and Redford have done to it: they were elected last year under false pretenses, as far as I’m concerned, and I cannot think of a single promise that was kept to education. Albertans understand the need for more revenue to pay for a world class university. Not a spending issue here, but gross mismanagement of funds and planning on their part that have led us here.

    Below is a letter that I’d like to share; a bit blunt, but at least honest.

    Dear Dean Cormack, Robin Cowan, President Samarasekera, and Minister Lukaszuk,

    I am writing today with grave concerns as an alumnus of the University of Alberta in one of the areas affected by the unnecessary cuts. I cannot speak as much to the BA programs and other sections that were cut (though I do wonder at the wisdom of cutting something like Ukrainian in a city that has a fairly large population of Ukrainian decent, or of removing a large section of languages and studies in areas where we have increased immigration). I question how much money this actually saves, or if it is an ill-advised attempt to appease the advanced Education minister by offering up a selection of arts courses that were dropped. If we had a properly managed revenue base in this province, we might not be in this position at all, which is what makes it so tragic.

    I would like to bring to your attention the two design program routes that were dropped. I don’t know the numbers that were mentioned in the reasoning behind the decision for those routes and the other courses in design (though if you have those statistics to forward and can release the info, I would be quite interested), but I would like to make you aware of the concerns such an action raises in me, and a number of other alumni in and outside the print community I have talked with.

    I find it interesting, though, that the phrasing was “less than 10 majors enrolled”; not a word about the actual class size or enrolment of people who either needed the credit in other majors that were related, or a mention of the large portion who, while not a printmaking major, might as well have been one; there were a few of those. I was one of these students, and have gone on to study an MFA in Printmaking this year at the University of Tennessee, one of the top three schools in the States for Printmaking, with another U of A alumni in Printmaking a year ahead of me, and a former U of A graduate student a professor there. Without going through the program and the experiences I did, I would not be where I am today. With the loss of this program, those students who go to the U of A after me will no longer have the options open to them that I have had, or opportunities for success.

    From what I remember as a student even three years ago, the classes that set apart the Printmaking route were usually only up to about 10 students in a single time block. This 10 included BFA, BDes of more than one route, and both 400- and 500- level students from each degree. On paper, I know it was four classes that were held in the same time block for a total of 10 students; each of those classes technically had only one to five students registered even though there were 12 in the room. I also know that there was always, usually starting only a few days to even a day after registration opened, a waiting list to get in. There were only two classes of 18 each admitted to the BDes / BFA program as incoming students to start with in my first year, and those numbers don’t change too much year to year. It isn’t a large program because it is a highly competitive program with few spots available; due to the nature of the subject matter, it is both desirable and necessary to have a small class size. A small number does not indicate lack of interest, it indicates a high standard and the ability to choose only the best students out the larger pool of applicants. Knowing this information, I know that, yes, it is likely that less than 10 majors took the class consistently — but what is not mentioned or taken into account in the media release is the other information I have described above which explains and gives those numbers context and meaning.

    One of the University of Alberta’s goals has been for the past few years to “[become] one of the Top 20 public universities in the world by 2020.” It’s an admirable goal, though not necessarily achievable given current conditions and a lack of support or understanding by the shortsighted people in the legislature. That does not mean we should give up; we should still try, and cutting away programs like this will irrevocably damage the university and larger community in many ways not at first apparent.

    What really puzzles me is why the University is throwing away the progress that has been made in Printmaking, especially given that the links between design and printmaking are one of the factors contributing to success. We are already one of the top universities in Canada for print. We are one of the top in North America – we have a very good reputation and are quite well known. When I was applying for an MFA in the States, everyone knew and respected greatly our print program. Our grad students come from very prestigious programs all over the world to Alberta study because they know it is a good program. Given the current feeling and lack of regard at home for the program, how soon do you think all that progress will disappear? While Lukaszuk may be content to turn the U of A into the equivalent of a student puppy-mill, churning out degrees for the oil giants up north, that is not a vision that anyone on campus should want to be a part of. A university is not a factory to turn people into oil workers, nor should we think that way. Courses should not be offered based on government dictatorship, but on diversity in courses offered; a degree offers freedom to innovate and explore, not a cookie-cutter approach. If we remove diversity and unique programs from campus, we lose an essential part of the education that will be so important for students in future.

    I’m especially glad that I am studying abroad, given what is happening at home – I’ve been keeping track of the devastation with horror. I might add that this sentiment is shared by the print community in Knoxville, many of whom have never been to Edmonton, but who know people within the community, or know of our reputation, as they and I watch a program they know about start to fall apart for no good reason. This decision does not just affect Edmonton – it carries direct repercussions elsewhere. If this continues, and in a few years time I finish my MFA degree – I’m not sure that I want to come back to what was a vibrant community on leaving. Edmonton’s larger print community will be severely impacted in some ways if the University program is cut into, as there is a lot of come and go between them. Why would I want come back to a place so inhospitable to printmaking and the arts? Why would other people come back? The print community in Tennessee will know what’s happened; their grads will not be told about our program here, nor will it be pushed as a good option for study in other places in the States or elsewhere. New Alberta grads will move away, or there simply will be no new grads, as people move elsewhere to study at the undergraduate level. Edmonton, and Alberta, will lose something very important to the fabric of our city because of this.

    I ask you to please reconsider the damage this will do to printmaking, and to the Bachelor of Design degree in removing this route from the curriculum. Not only will it negatively impact both Design and Printmaking students, it will cascade into the quality and reputation of the program overall, and affect areas outside the University community. Let’s not let Lukaszuk destroy in a year what took decades to build.

    Kelsey Stephenson,

    BDes, with an emphasis on Printmaking

    • snark says:

      Brilliant letter Kelsey – thank you for writing it …from a fellow alumni who has a BFA and and MDes, both from the University of Alberta. What never ceases to amaze me is how the provincial Tories always insist on ‘fixing something that isn’t broken’ – they did it with electricity deregulation, they did it with licensing, they did it with the health boards, and so on and so on, all leading to increased costs and inefficiencies to Albertans – not to mention what they did to the provincial tax system, school boards, and the electoral boundaries…and now they want to ‘have their way’ with Alberta’s world-class post-secondary education system. Something tells me that things will be considerably different once these ‘Wile E. Coyotes of the political world’ are finished with it.

      And yet, for the first time in decades (since they came into power), I actually voted for the PC’s – now, I have never felt so unbelievably betrayed. Worried that the party which is even further right of center was going to assume power, I choose to strategically vote for Redford’s team. After listening to Redford speak in the days leading up to election day, I figured that I was helping to elect another Peter Lougheed …little did I know, that Alberta was actually getting Ralph Klein in drag. Such a disappointment.

      • Kelsey says:

        Another design and art major! (More of us in Alberta than elsewhere I think due to how the program was set up) Agreed – I was lucky, and able to vote for the liberals and be fairly confident that Laurie Blakeman would be both a good representative, and had a decent shot at re-election. Had I been living elsewhere….tough choice. I probably would have done the same as you in another riding, because I also thought at the time that Redford was both a promise to return to Lougheed roots – and it was damn scary to think of the Wildrose in charge. I’m not fond of Klein, but at least he was honest about where he stood; Redford hasn’t even done that.

  22. Sogu Hong says:

    As a graduate of MLCS, I was so sad to hear the news about suspending programs in Arts at the U of A. Now I am in charge of “Ukrainian Program” at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Korea. This program was created five years ago. From the beginning, we learned a lot from the Ukrainian program of the U of A, which is the best in the world. Now many Korean students dream of continuing their study in the MLCA of the U of A. Also one Korean researcher in Ukrainian Studies is coming to the Medwidsky Ukrainian Folklore Archives on September 10, 2013 for researching on Ukrainian culture. In the long run, I am sure that MLCS programs will be not the burden but the treasure for all.

  23. As someone cut from college staff in May the release of energy has enabled me to volunteer as an online mentor to students at a community college in California. I would feel guilty about not thinking locally but Alberta has come to represent a temporary environment of continuous and arbitrary change. Without reasonable dialog and a real sense of purpose who would bother investing in the future here? Education defines the meaning of hope for the future, just not here.

  24. Arts Squared says:

    I’m sorry to hear your personal news, Scott, but glad to hear that you are turning around and giving to others elsewhere. You probably know more than I do about the longer-term history, but certainly what I have witnessed since my arrival in 2006 is indeed “continuous and arbitrary change” resulting from unstable funding of the system. From the Government’s perspective there is a (sad) purpose: the Government is attempting to justify the whopping $147 million cut to Advanced Education in the name of “Entrepreneurship.”

    • Given the level of growth here in Alberta it may be the best plan is to have no fixed plan for an ever shifting future. The trouble is it creates both a habit of letting whatever happens happen, and an environment where no idea can be approached logically. A kind of continuous partial nonsense sets in a la Alice in Wonderland. In this case order falls to the powerful and decisions serve no real purpose.
      Having been in business for myself for many years the thought that uncertainty and rapid change somehow serve business interests is a Conservative mindset myth. As does a University, business needs some stability to use what they have learned (and invested in) to realize its potential. Not this mess.

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