Budget cuts at the university hit Social Sciences

Budget and staff cuts in the Social Sciences faculty at the University of Calgary are having a big impact on students, despite the faculty’s best efforts to preserve the student experience, reports a student representative.

“Students have been noticing, especially within their own departments, that the quality of education, the quality of senior course offerings, it’s all going down,” said social sciences faculty representative Chris Kalantzis.

“The fact of the matter is students are being expected to pay more and more for their education while receiving less and less from the university.”

Social Science faculty dean Kevin McQuillan said the faculty has tried to protect the student experience, a mission that will become harder if budget cuts continue.

“I think we’re certainly hopeful to this point that there hasn’t been a huge impact on the student experience. It’s certainly the thing that we are trying very hard to protect,” said McQuillan.

Kalantzis, who represents the university’s largest and most diverse faculty, said he feels budget cuts are already impacting students, as sessional faculty are not being re-hired, teaching and administration staff are not being replaced when they retire and course offerings are declining.

“We’re losing a lot of our specification which is something that the university used to at least pride itself on as a research intuition,” said Kalantzis.

“Support in every direction has completely fallen.”

The faculty of social sciences saw a three per cent budget cut for the 2009/2010 year and faces another three per cent cut in the 2010/2011 year, which begins April 1.

McQuillan said despite the budget cuts, staff are trying to preserve student advising and areas that involve staff interaction with students.

McQuillan said he has yet to hear complaints from students, but feels that may change.

“I really do think that the full impact of the budget cuts is coming in the years ahead,” said McQuillan.

“Up until this point we’ve certainly had some cutbacks but we’ve been able to adjust to them without cutting into our essential services. That’s certainly going to be harder to do if we continue to have more budget cuts in the future.”

Kalantzis said the budget cuts and subsequent affects on students don’t bode well for the university.

“What the faculty of social sciences has done is they’ve really supported this idea of quantity over quality,” said Kalantzis. “What they’re trying to do is stuff as many students as they possibly can into a classroom and they’re deleting lower demand courses that are specialized courses.”

McQuillan said as a result of the budget cuts the positions of staff that have recently left for retirement or different job opportunities have not always been replaced.

McQuillan cited an example of a technician in the archaeology department who’s position has not been filled.

As a result, other staff members have had to pick up tasks previously done by the technician.

McQuillan said the staff have thus far been “tremendous,” but admitted pressure on them is “a worry going forward.”

“The other thing I worry about is the staff themselves who have had to take on a heavier burden,” said McQuillan.

“Certainly a number of staff are feeling a greater pressure on the job because they’re being asked to do more as a result of the departures they’ve seen.”

Some students have yet to see any impact from the budget cuts.

“Throughout the last five years, my educational experience at the University of Calgary has not changed,” said Marty Nadon, a fifth-year student pursuing both social science and humanities.

While Nadon has noticed overworked professors taking longer to hand back assignments and a lack of coms-media staff, he said class sizes for most senior level social science classes have remained consistent.

“I am fortunate to be in departments that, while stretched due to financial issues, still ensure that the student is attended to first,” said Nadon.

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