Petition to the Legislature?

The new year has begun, with two budget crises, one immediate and one impending, before the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. We are told that nothing can be done about the current round of cuts. The news of which of our administrative staff are about to lose their jobs is supposedly imminent. But even if that is true, we will still have another cut of $1.5 million for 2012-2013 looming before us. We cannot rewrite the events of the last several months. But we can learn from them, and act. It may be especially important that we do so now, with the provincial budget expected to come down in a few weeks’ time. We also have the attention of the press. If you have yet to weigh in, we urge you to do so now. This virtual square gives every member and supporter of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta to speak to the press — and the public more generally.

At the November AdPReP forum, the Dean declared that the process for the cuts was not and could not be a “democratic” one. At the very least, then, we can act now to insist the process for the next round of cuts must be a “democratic” one handled as a matter of collegial governance. But our actions could very well produce the solutions we need to these crises. The question, then, is what we should so at this juncture.

What Should We Do?

We could write to the three administrators with responsibility for the current and impending crisis — the Dean, the Provost, and the President — and ask them to tell us precisely what they intend to do to help resolve these crises. As a matter of collegial governance, the faculty in this Faculty need to hear from those colleagues charged with special responsibilities and duties what they intend to do to avert these crises and further our interests.

But we also need the provincial government not simply to “hear” our “message,” as President Samarasekera assures us they are, but to act in ways that produce the necessary effects. If the government is hearing President Samarasekera’s “message” but not providing the funding that the University requires to avert this crisis for the Faculty of Arts, should we not petition the legislature directly?

The University of Alberta is a public university, and the funding for it should come primarily from the public purse.

We need the money for the University to come from the public purse for this is a university in the first instance that belongs to and is accountable to the people of Alberta, not corporate or private interests. A “global” university that devastates its Faculty of Arts to support primarily STEM research (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) and the agenda of private corporations does not properly support the interests of Albertans. Perhaps we can turn crisis into opportunity: an opportunity for us to make the case to Albertans about why they ought to invest in the University, and in its Faculty of Arts in particular.

We hope that you will want to join us in these efforts, or propose others. But we must act quickly.

Letter to the Dean, Provost, and President?

Would you like to join us in sending a letter to the Dean, Provost, and President?

The letter might be brief. It might simply request that the Dean, Provost, and the President inform us of their specific plans, with our point being that we require action of them.

In 2009, the Provost characterized the budget crisis then before the University, with its inexplicable $60 million shortfall to the operating budget, as a “collective problem” that he required the faculty to help solve. The faculty had to help solve the problem by agreeing to give back part of our salaries for 2010-2011. It is now time for us to require that our administrators demonstrably help solve these particular crises for the Faculty of Arts without once again making its members (faculty, students, and non-academic staff) pay the price. We would like to write such a letter, and we like as many people as possible to sign off on it. But we need to act quickly. If you would like to contribute to this letter, please let us know if there is any particular statement or idea that you would like to see in it.

Petition to the Legislature?

We also urgently invite you to contribute your ideas of how we should go about petitioning Alison Redford’s government to help assist with the crisis. What in your view is the best way for us to go about asking for extraordinary help from the provincial legislature at this time in the form of the funds that will permit us to avert these crises? Are there particular MLAs to whom you feel we should write? What would you like the petition to say?  What in your view is the best way for us to make our case?

We need the writing of this petition to be a Faculty-wide effort. We also would ideally write a petition that every Albertan would want to sign.

We very much hope that you will want to contribute to this collective effort at this crucial juncture. Time is of the essence. Let your voice be heard now so that we can move towards a resolution of these crises that will ensure the long-term health and vitality of the Faculty. As we have stated elsewhere, we believe there is no reason why this Faculty of Arts should not be the most exciting and dynamic place in Canada for the research and study of the arts, humanities, and social sciences. For that to be true, however, we must stand up and do what we can for the Faculty in this time of crisis.

2 Responses to Petition to the Legislature?

  1. Laurie Adkin says:

    As time is now very short to organize a petition to the Premier, it might be more effective for people to write personal letters to her, explaining the budgetary situation in the Arts Faculty, the impending elimination of 15 jobs, and the case for increasing the provincial grant to universities in the upcoming provincial budget.

  2. Kathleen Lowrey says:

    I’m not against asking for more money, but I wonder if Albertans might be more sympathetic to a letter that (1) thanks them for their generosity to date and then (2) asks for their support for opening a provincial discussion into funding priorities at the University. Why do central administrators earn so much at the U of A? How is their performance evaluated, and by whom? Why are support staff first on the firing line (and faculty, apparently, second) when there is a problem?

    I would be glad to contribute to the shaping of such a petition; I feel less confident about writing a personal letter just because I am missing many key pieces of information about the budget that would strengthen such a letter. It’s exactly that kind of information which I would like to see before accepting the narrative that everything is in order at the University, spending-wise, *except* for “process efficiencies” in the Faculty of Arts.

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