Reg Johanson: Capilano University needs to hit the pause button on its budget plans

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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.

Reg Johanson is a coordinator and instructor in the English department at Capilano University.

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merrell gerber

May 2, 2013 at 1:48pm

I know first hand how much the faculty in the studio arts department has worked towards creating one of the best programs in Canada. We have people who are committed to their teaching professions, to their students and to the University. In the 15 years I have been at Capilano, I have never heard a student say they regretted coming to Capilano to do the art program, but have heard on more than just a few occasions the desire that Capilano expand the 2 year program into a 4 yr degree one. We have excellent teachers, excellent facilities and we offer a unique program that cannot be replaced by any other art school in the lower mainland. A community without art is a soulless , desolate and sterile environment.

CapU Employee

May 2, 2013 at 1:58pm

Plus, speaking in the language of the administrators, i.e., in monetary terms, what can't be underestimated is the amount of financial damage they've potentially done by handling this situation in the way they have: the university's reputation has taken a massive hit; the potential students and employees they've lost to more 'stable' options in the market; the employees and faculty who'll abandon the sinking ship, taking with them years of knowledge and expertise, thus forcing CapU to spend money on retraining... The financial inefficiency alone should give them pause.

CapFacultyMember

May 2, 2013 at 2:37pm

Well said Reg! The president has yet to address the faculty. We're waiting!

Meghan Shaw

May 2, 2013 at 3:17pm

It would be pretty devastating to the animation and games community in Vancouver if there were big cuts to the animation and design programs. All of the artists at our studio (with one exception) are Cap alumni from either the Commercial Animation or the IDEA program. A lot of talent is cultivated there.

BK -- Capilano Student

May 2, 2013 at 4:10pm

These cuts alter my perspective on Cap tremendously. I was so happy to be part of a community and school that I truly felt I identified with... these cuts, however, have changed that. Capilano will no longer hold the same respect and place in my heart as I no longer feel our values are alined. Just when Cap started to show so much progressiveness and innovation, they make such a devastating decision.

I have had numerous friends from around the country talk to me about moving to BC (or having done so) to take some of the programs being cut--particularly animation, IDEA, textiles and studio art--as they are few and far between in Canada. Especially ones of such quality.

I will be an alumni shortly and was planning to stay to finish my degree at Cap but have, as a result of these cuts, decided against it. Many of my fellow students are in the same boat and of the same mindset.

After such big leaps forward, they're walking backwards.

KC- mother of a student

May 2, 2013 at 6:52pm

CapU- get your vision together and stop BS'ing us all. If you are an education provider then provide! I see a fabulous new Bosa building and some great programs and teachers. Get your act together and continue to provide and stop whining. Figure it out.

CapU Faculty member

May 2, 2013 at 6:52pm

The fact that one temporary and 2 other Vice Presidents plus the President can decide to reshape, revision, and revoke the structure of a university without a single shred of collaboration with the university community is disgraceful. What happened to the collegial model? Whose vision of the university counts? The President is off cultivating foreign students when the cuts are made. Reality check needed. We should all be working together in challenging times: consultation, collaboration, COMMUNITY!

Amanda Wood

May 2, 2013 at 7:01pm

As a textile arts student I can say that the program at Capilano is second to none and practically ireplacable. The faculty and staff are dedicated to fostering independent thinking, creative problem solving as well as technical ability. There is simply no other program like it in BC. I feel lucky to be part of this amazing group of people.

The way the President and Board of Governors have handled the deficit has exposed their inexperience, short sightedness, lack of understanding and lack of transparency. To make vertical cuts of this magnitude without consulting faculty shows a lack of creative problem solving and smacks of an ulterior motive. I agree that the vision for the university is not shared by those participating in education but rather by those that have made themselves rulers. The lack of change management and their inflexibility and timing are shocking. I only hope that they can show a little bit of human decency and postpone their budget decision until after the May 14 provincial election.

Misanthropia

May 2, 2013 at 8:16pm

I'd like to hear some suggestions from all you people about how to find the way to a balanced budget.

The problem is the provincial government, you *do* understand that, right?

When Cap became a University, along with those other colleges, all the other colleges got a $12 million "bump" to assist with the increased admin costs. Cap did not.

Cap receives the lowest per student funding of any university in the province. That's not Caps fault - it's the provinces fault and the fault of the largely useless North Shore BC Lib MLAs.

The University is not allowed, under Campbell's law, to run a deficit. I agree it's a clumsy and largely ignorant hammer of a law but it *is* the law.

So what do you suggest?

Don't spew cant and bullshit. There are facts involved here that cannot be ignored or changed. Join the reality community.

Make concrete financial suggestions to bring about a balanced budget this year with the likelihood of one next year and the year after and on into the future.

There is a bigger picture here that is not lovely I agree but it is also not going to change just because you stamp your feet and yell at the walls.

Get on it or shut the hell up - you just sound like whiny babies otherwise.

FutureCapStudent

May 2, 2013 at 9:09pm

I have just finished the application for the Interactive Design Program. I have paid application fees and a few additional fees to make sure my interview went well. The good news, I'm accepted. The bad, there might not be a program to be accepted to. If these cuts happen and my program gets cut my life, the life I had been planning over the last year, gets pushed back another year.

I should have been told a long time ago.

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