Big cuts for small program

Canadian Studies faces 39 per cent loss to its budget

Canadian Studies co-ordinator Caroline Caron says the cuts will impede the program’s planned expansion.
Canadian Studies co-ordinator Caroline Caron says the cuts will impede the program’s planned expansion.

The Canadian Studies program’s future is uncertain due to a proposed 39 per cent cut to the department’s 2008-09 budget.

Caroline Caron, program co-ordinator for Canadian studies, said the cuts would hinder the program’s expansion plans.

“With the cuts, we are being brought back seven years,” Caron said.

The department operates on an average $35,000 budget each year. The proposed budget cuts would move the budget down to $21,000 for next year.

Although the cuts haven’t been finalized, Caron said the department is operating on the basis they will occur.

Caron said the department was planning to add new compulsory courses by the 2009-10 academic year, but no longer has the budget for it.

“These [course offerings] are not new changes,” she said. “[They] have been in plan for the last five years.”

The department also wanted to add a graduate program that would take effect in 2011.

“If we cannot expand we won’t get an MA,” Caron said. “Before we get an MA we need a stronger program with more compulsory courses.”

Canadian Studies is an interdisciplinary program offered as a special field concentration and a minor. This year, 14 students are enrolled in the special field concentration.

The department has two courses with its code and within its budget

—CDNS200, a compulsory course called The Canadian Nation, Real and/or Imagined; and CDNS401, a non-compulsory course called Canadian Humour.

The department was planning to add a compulsory 300-level course and changing the CDNS401 course to something broader, such as Canadian pop culture, and making it compulsory within the next two years.

The program draws its other requirements from different disciplines such as history, politics and French.

Due to the proposed cut, the CDNS401 course won’t be offered at all next year.

“Now I don’t know if these new courses will actually be brought into the books,” Caron said.

Caron said the budget is used for administrative duties, the salaries of the instructor and teaching assistant for the CDNS200 course, and the annual symposium hosted by the department. Money also goes towards inviting guest speakers for CDNS200 lectures and the department’s annual symposium.

The department hosts an annual one-day symposium for Canadian studies students and community members.

Next year marks the program’s 35th anniversary, and the department is planning a bigger symposium than usual to celebrate, Caron said.

“Whatever is not being used to pay for [the instructor and the TA] is going to the annual conference,” Caron said. “There is virtually no budget for administration.” The cuts mean Caron, who is the only administrative staff member, won’t be helped by the teaching buyout.

The teaching buyout, worth about $8,000, allows the program co-ordinator to be relieved of teaching one half-credit course in exchange for fulfilling his or her administrative duties. The money is used to hire an instructor to teach the course the co-ordinator would otherwise teach.

If these cuts go through, Caron would be obliged to teach an extra half-credit.

Caron said other Canadian Studies programs in Canada are getting more funding from their universities.

“They’re getting a greater number of courses. … They are even building institutions around their programs,” she said. “We’re getting a 39 per cent cut.”

She said the Faculty of Arts and Science hasn’t justified the cuts in a plausible way.

“They were dumped on us with no way to appeal them because, believe me, I tried,” Caron said, adding that she hopes the faculty will increase the department’s budget so it will be able to expand as planned.

“If they really want to close the program they will have to do it themselves, because I refuse to do it for them,” she said. “As it stands now, I have no choice but to try to save my program and to make it work with $21,000 next year.”

Arts and Science Associate Dean James Carson said there are no plans to cut the program.

“We have tried to make a cut that will not damage the integrity of the program,” he said. “These are potentially planned cuts. They will happen if they happen.”

Carson said the department’s cut is in proportion to cuts made across the board.

“We need to cut $4.4 million out of our budget,” he said. “We decided the program was small enough to absorb the cut.”

Annette Hayward, former Canadian studies program co-ordinator, said the program has always been run with the goal of minimizing costs.

She said the Canadian studies program is important because of its interdisciplinary nature.

“We have a lot of very good Canadianists at Queen’s but we’re all sort of in our own little field,” she said. “You get a different perspective because you’re looking at the whole spectrum.”

Hayward said the Canadian government helps finance Canadian studies programs in other countries such as the Czech Republic. In Canada, however, it’s the universities’ prerogative to fund the programs.

History professor Peter Campbell, who teaches the CDNS200 course, said the proposed cuts would kill any growth in the department.

He said it struck him that the smaller departments were given the bigger cuts.

“As I understand it, [the cuts] are somewhere between four and six per cent,” Campbell said. “The Canadian studies cut is 39 per cent and, I believe, the Japanese studies program has been cut by 29 per cent.

“It would almost appear as if the University is targeting smaller programs; one gets that impression.”

Canadian studies students have been vocal in their disapproval of the cuts: the dean’s office received two e-mails from students who wrote about how important the program was to them.

Melissa Lackey, ArtSci ’10 and a Canadian studies concentrator, said she’s disappointed with the proposed budget cuts.

“I thought that’s supposed to be something Queen’s is well-known for—good quality in small programs as well as big programs,” Lackey said.

She started the Facebook group “Help Save Canadian Studies @ Queen’s.” In the group description, Lackey encourages students to write letters to the dean’s office explaining why the program is important to them.

“I thought if I made a Facebook group, at least people would know about it,” she said. “That’s our biggest problem right now—that people just don’t know anything about it.”

As of last night, the group has 13 members.

Lackey said she’s going to make posters and put them up around campus advertising the group and the issue.

“Universities shouldn’t just cut its programs because there aren’t very many people in it,” she said. “I think when someone starts to care, the administration will have to pay attention.”

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