Don’t budge on academics

Last week, Principal Tom Williams announced that a 15 per cent budget cut will be applied to all faculties and units of the University, including the administration, over the next three years. The amount is based on the University’s projected revenues and the likelihood of decreased provincial funding.

All of Ontario’s universities are facing similar budget issues as a result of the current economic situation and it’s good that Williams is looking ahead.

Williams said each faculty has flexibility in how and when to apply the cuts over the next three years.

Although it requires a lot of creativity and planning, faculties must find alternative solutions to cutting back on their academic programs.

If the University’s as concerned with its reputation as Williams recently suggested when he addressed the Homecoming cancellation, Queen’s needs to send a strong message that it prioritizes education.

Some universities, such as the University of Western Ontario, are cutting back on capital construction projects; it’s difficult for Queen’s to justify cuts to academic programs before similar options to re-evaluate the Queen’s Centre project have been exhausted.

Students have already seen their tuition increase and it’s unfair to penalize them further with fewer courses and bigger class sizes. Although these may be short-term solutions to the budget situation, they adversely affect the quality of education students receive.

Most of a department’s budget goes to paying faculty salaries—in the faculty of applied science, the amount was nearly 90 per cent last year—and it may be necessary to consider applying a percentage of the cuts in that area.

It’s important to offer competitive salaries and perks to attract faculty members, but the highest-paid professors aren’t necessarily the best teachers.

Departments should consider a salary freeze over the next three years.

Although it would require some effort, faculty could renegotiate their contract agreements.

Faculty salaries are contracted to rise a set percentage each year and another option could be a partial freeze at inflation to soften the impact on individual faculty members.

A salary freeze is a good compromise between making salary cuts and increasing tuition, which many students are finding more difficult to pay.

When faced with budget cuts, academic programs should be the last, not first, area considered.

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