March 26, 2012
Dear President Axworthy,
I write on behalf of all Arts Faculty Chairs to express our concern about the current financial plan which cuts the Arts Faculty budget so as place in jeopardy several tenure-track hires underway, some conversions from limited-term to tenure-track positions, and stipends. At Wednesday’s Senate you indicated that the current budget was not final, so we offer the following suggestion.
We unanimously urge you to immediately add sufficient funds to the Arts Faculty budget for 2012-2013 to cover all hitherto in-process tenure track searches/appointments, all limited-term conversions, and the full requested stipendiary budget.
We write out of concern for the entire University community and the Winnipeg and Manitoba communities at large. The intellectually impoverishing effects of the current plan will be felt beyond our Faculty. The proposed cuts risk the University’s ability to deliver an excellent, broadly based curriculum, to continue to foster superb research, to serve our communities, and to work to transform the University in keeping with our reputation as progressive innovators. Further, we foresee long-term damage to the quality of faculty we attract when we continue a pattern of stipendiary or term replacements for tenured faculty, late hiring competitions, and rescinding hires at the last minute.
As the largest faculty, Arts is the backbone of the University of Winnipeg. Our excellence is locally, nationally, and internationally recognised. That reputation is neither directly nor solely based on how many students individual departments and units attract. For example, our justifiably famous Department of Theatre and Film is by no means the largest in numbers of faculty or students. Indeed, at the last Senate we approved the BFA in Theatre, which will serve only a small group of students. The decision to proceed with that program was clearly based upon its excellence, rather than on student numbers and direct revenue.
We know that counting numbers of students or majors in any department is at best the bluntest of instruments by which to gauge impact and value. To give one example, the department of Women’s and Gender Studies offers numerous courses that are cross listed with other departments and with the Graduate program in Cultural Studies. Though there is a formula for calculating who is credited with those student numbers, there is no way to quantify the value of having folks from a number of different backgrounds working together in the same classroom, or the challenges and rewards of teaching interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary courses. It is our responsibility to offer our students a diversity of approaches, methods, languages, and other skills, as they study the arts and prepare to participate fully in society.
Should you ask where the funds might be found to cover the expenses we request, we answer that at Senate on Wednesday a number of excellent suggestions were proffered and Chairs offered to participate in further consultations on this question. There and in various other statements, you asserted your vision of the source of the University’s financial concerns. You must understand that substantial numbers of students, staff, and faculty see the growth of Administration as an additional problem; several years ago I noted an increase of over 50% in the actual number of administrators. We now have more Vice-Presidents, Associate Vice-Presidents, Deans, Associate Deans, and Executive Directors than at any time in the institution’s history. We suggest that you look within your own Administration and set a goal to immediately halt and ultimately scale back this growth.
We would like to point out that transparency in budgeting on the Administrative side of the University might go a long way toward improving the relationship between the University and its students, staff, and faculty. We urge you to open the books on the specifics of Administrative hiring and spending over the past several years. Without any wish to second-guess previous decision-making, we believe such openness would help students, staff, and faculty to understand the situation. Some are willing to assist in suggesting where more appropriate budgeting decisions might be made.
Finally, we also offer our sincere support in your continued efforts to address problems with the provincial funding formula and welcome your suggestions for our participation in this initiative.
Pauline Greenhill, on behalf of Faculty of Arts Chairs
cc.: John Corlett, Vice-President Academic; Glenn Moulaison, Acting Dean of Arts; Pauline Pearson, UWFA President; Arts Chairs