By Reg Johanson
Capilano University executives responsible for a proposed budget, which would see broad program, course, and staffing cuts, say they didn’t have time to consult with faculty and students. In their haste, they have proposed to cut programs and services to students that took decades to build. This is what happens, as Franco Berardi has said, “when we no longer have time to pay attention. We perceive things badly, we are no longer able to make decisions in a rational manner.”
What is the rationale for the cuts? There is a deficit, and under the University Act, the university must make a balanced budget. The deficit is just over $1 million, yet the cuts total $3 million. We are told that the cuts were made not only, or even most importantly, on the basis of cost, enrolment, or quality, but on whether or not they fit the “strategic vision” of the university.
Philosophy courses, science courses, the German language program, studio and textile arts, art history, computing science, commerce, courses and services offered at the Carnegie Centre in the Downtown Eastside, design and animation courses, student support services of all kinds, music therapy—none of these fit the “vision”.
Whose vision is this? Who was involved in developing it? I know faculty and students were not. I’m certain that the North Shore / Howe Sound Corridor community, which the university primarily serves, was not. If we had been, the budget would look very different.
Instead of giving faculty and students the time we need to find our way as a university, our managers have pre-empted this process to impose their own vision. But they do not know best. The university president has been at Cap for only three years. Several key executive and high-level administrative positions have turned over in this time. Put simply: they don’t know what they’re doing.
Faculty have put in the time, the labour, and the love of decades. We know. Yet we have been told, with galling condescension, that we can’t be trusted to make the necessary hard decisions.
Students know too. They know that the proposed cuts will force them to leave their own community. They know that critical student support services will be diminished or absent, that their academic choices will be limited, and our collective ability to develop unique, dynamic programs will be seriously compromised because we don’t have the intellectual ecosystem to foster the interdisciplinary mind the modern world requires.
Not to mention that the budget came down in the middle of final exams, just when faculty and students were distracted and tired. And right in the middle of a provincial election campaign. Like the kids say: WTF?!
What we need, then, is not destructive cuts of things that take a long time to build, but to pause, consult, and imagine together. We need time to think, which is what we’re supposed to be good at. Destruction happens quickly, creativity is slower. The university needs to hit the pause button on its budget plans.