Last week, President Samarasekera reported some big news: for its scholarship in English language and literature, the Department of English and Film Studies has moved up in the QS Rankings from last year’s #37 spot to #22. This puts EFS in some very prestigious company, indeed. Yet how bittersweet the news is for the Department, given that at 30 June 2014, as a direct consequence of the Government of Alberta’s cuts to Alberta’s budget for postsecondary education in 2013, several of its faculty members will walk out the door, with the Department having no guarantee that they will be replaced.
The news has taken on a sharper taste for some, as there has been little by way of institutional fanfare. Even in the President’s post, the news was reported in a single sentence — “In a timely coincidence, this past week the U of A’s Department of English and Film Studies moved up to 22 from 37 in the QS world rankings.” (The “coincidence” is that the Government is promising to provide $500M each for the next two years in a new “Social Innovation Fund” for “translational” research.) The single sentence is odd, “Anonymous” claims on Colloquy, given that the President’s post concludes with an entire paragraph on a win by the University’s women’s curling team, the Pandas.
A member of the Department reports that her own comment on the President’s Colloquy post has gone unpublished.
Here’s why everyone should be celebrating the English department’s great success, fleeting as it may, sadly, prove to be, given that the Government of Alberta’s 2014 budget returns to the University’s budget only a fraction of the dollars cut from base funding in 2014 and research in English language and literature is not necessarily of the “translational” kind that will be funded by the Government’s new “Social Innovation Fund.” We’ve seen how Science across Canada is suffering from funding arrangements that prioritize the “translational” over the “pure” or the “basic” yet here we are, succeeding so gloriously at the “basic” at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts. Let’s have the recognition that nurtures that!
In other news, even as the Dean reports the Faculty of Arts will face another 7% cut this year, the Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Dave Hancock and his Ministry have been energetically tweeting the news that the Government is giving Grant MacEwan $30 million to build a new “Arts and Communication” Learning Centre. Nowhere can I find a single tweet about the Department of English & Film Studies’ success.