Don’t set cuts in stone

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Illustration by Emily Sicilia

Last week, after learning the University won’t receive any year-end operating money from the provincial government, Principal Tom Williams announced further cuts to Queen’s operating budget in his three-year plan.

Salaries and benefits, which make up roughly 70 per cent of the University’s operating budget, will be reduced by getting rid of up to 54 faculty appointments.

The Faculty of Arts and Science will lose 47 positions, the Faculty of Law will lose two positions and the Faculty of Applied Science could lose up to five.

Williams said faculty members can’t be laid off because of their contracts, but he expects the reduction will come from resignations, retirements and early retirements.

The University is also freezing the salaries of the principal, vice-principals and deans for an indefinite period of time and running a deficit for the first time in recent history.

Although reducing the number of faculty was a necessary measure, the University administration should treat each faculty position on a case-by-case basis instead of committing to a blanket policy not to re-hire a certain number of positions.

If a faculty member is Queen’s only expert in a certain field, the University should consider re-hiring for the position in order to fill the pedagogical void his or her departure would create.

Academic programs, which are already facing a 15 per cent budget cut over the next three years, shouldn’t bear the brunt of the University’s budget shortfall.

The reduced budget likely means some courses will be cut while the administration may simultaneously try to increase student enrolment. The University needs to consider how to limit the impact of these actions on the current faculty-to-student ratio so Queen’s continues to draw students who are attracted to its medium size.

Graduate student enrolment may also suffer if there aren’t as many faculty members to act as thesis supervisors and they have fewer post-graduate job opportunities.

Although fiscally irresponsible, the University should prioritize the quality of education above a balanced budget for now.

The University may also have to renegotiate its investments and building projects, instead of just introducing cuts to academics.

Williams’s salary freeze was a nice gesture but it’s unlikely he will feel its effects as he pulls in $370,000 this year.

It seems the University is between a rock and a hard place. The administration just needs to make sure it doesn’t have its head in the sand.

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