Queen’s cancels scholar program

University District

Cancellation of program due to University-wide budget cuts ‘temporary,’ principal says

Principal Tom Williams said the Queen’s National Scholar program would have cost the University over a million dollars over four years to continue the program.
Principal Tom Williams said the Queen’s National Scholar program would have cost the University over a million dollars over four years to continue the program.

The Queen’s National Scholar program (QNS) is the latest casualty to the University’s budget cuts. The program was founded in 1983 to attract exceptional young researchers to Queen’s.

Under the program, three new professors are hired each year for either tenure-track or special shorter-term appointments. Two are appointed in each of the humanities and social sciences, and one in the sciences. Candidates are selected by individual departments, and the principal makes the final decision.

Principal Tom Williams said the cut was made to save money and protect current faculty.

“It basically would have cost us over a million dollars over four years to continue that program. We’re trying as hard as possible to protect staffing levels of people currently here. I say this as one of the people who was a part of the establishment of the original program.”

Williams said there are plans to reinstate QNS in the future.

“This is temporary and we currently want to bring back.”

Society of Graduate and Professional Students President Jeff Welsh said the loss of the program is a blow to the Queen’s graduate students who hoped to get an appointment.

“There’s a feeling among a lot of faculty and grad students, not just disappointment that the program was cancelled, but some of them are quite disappointed that they put in all this effort last term, in some cases many hours, many, many hours, and then were simply told that the program was cancelled and there was no consultation.”

Welsh said the benefit to the University created by the QNS program far outweighs the cost.

“The QNS scholars are generally people who are well known in their field and, as such, they tend to draw disproportionate interest and support from students, undergrads, grad students, funding agencies and even will attract other scholars to apply to be faculty members here because they want to work with people well known in their field,” he said. “So to cancel these positions is much bigger than simply not hiring three faculty members.”

Welsh said he doesn’t believe the cost of the program would have had a substantially negative effect on the University’s finances, as the total operating budget for the University is around $300 million.

“In terms of bang for buck, I’m not sure if it was the wisest choice in terms of priorities for the University, and I think there were a lot of other things that could have been trimmed further to keep this program in place.”

Welsh said QNS’s cancellation has had an impact on morale among graduate students.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t bother to apply in the future the next time Queen’s advertised positions. I mean, it’s damaged our credibility in hiring and because the positions had already been advertised and then cancelled, it sends a signal that Queen’s is really in a mess,” he said. “To cancel it so late in the program, that really sends a very bad signal to the rest of the world about how Queen’s is faring and how it’s managing its academics on campus.”

Some candidates for this year’s awards had already come from other campuses for interviews, Welsh said, although no final decisions had yet been made.

“The departments were sending in their nominees. … It was just up to the senior administration to pick the three winning names.”

—With files from Jane Switzer

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