On the morning of Fri., March 16, CBC host Jeff Collins interviewed Canadian Alliance of Student Associations President Mark Kissel about the problem of underfunding at Canadian universities with specific reference to infrastructure. Collins told Kissel he was just recently at the University of Calgary and it appeared we were experiencing a "boom-time." Kissel said something along the lines of "well, that may well be the case, but…" and proceeded to describe falling ceiling tiles, overcrowded classes, et cetera–essentially third-world conditions–at other universities across the nation.
Unfortunately, they both missed the boat.
Collins made the faulty assumption that a crane and some construction equipment equates to a boom-time for all U of C students when in fact only those in Computer Science will benefit from the Information Communications and Technology building–and the only other construction project on campus involves a concert venue and increased space for fast-food joints. Hardly a boom-time for English, Applied Math or Education majors in their jam-packed classrooms.
Kissel failed in that he didn’t correct Collins about the plight of the majority of U of C students when he had the chance. Our problems go well beyond a lack of buildings and space, and yet, even these basic needs aren’t being addressed by our government and can’t be addressed by U of C Administration for lack of money. Kissel could’ve mentioned to Collins that we have the largest class sizes for post-secondary institutions across Canada. He could’ve mentioned those classes containing 500 students for which we’ve become notorious nation-wide. But he didn’t. We’ve been reassured by U of C Students’ Union President Toby White that Kissel and the rest of CASA (an organization to which YOU pay dues, by the way) are well aware of the underfunding problems students face here–and generally speaking, their record supports this. But when Kissel had the ear of half this city on the CBC morning show, he failed to deliver the damning condemnation of our facilities that Calgarians really need to hear.
He needed to state that big, shiny new buildings like ICT do not indicate progress–that the money for ICT was given to the university by the government for that purpose only. It wasn’t as though the U of C checked the piggy bank and assigned its dwindling resources to the department that needed it most–because they sure wouldn’t have picked Computer Sciences. You know who wants a Comp-Sci building so badly? The Klein government, so desperately aware that oil is not going to carry them much further, and without a high-technology sector to replace oil and gas, the resulting down-turn in the economy will reveal them as the managerial incompetents they really are.
These are not boom-times for the vast majority of students at the U of C. The ugly truth is students in the Arts, the Sciences, Education, the Humanities et cetera are in dire straights. Since the government has not acknowledged the situation, the onus falls on groups like the media (such as the CBC) and student lobby organizations (like CASA) to make both the government and the general public aware of our situation.
For all of our sake’s, let’s hope these two groups perform a little better in this role in the future than they did last week.