Open letter from faculty and librarians at Mount Allison

We the undersigned faculty and librarians of Mount Allison University are writing to condemn the administration’s response to the student and faculty protest over the discontinuation of funding for the Women’s and Gender Studies programme.

The suspension of funding for this programme means its de facto cancellation: the full time tenure track position that is dedicated to the programme will be left vacant; there will not be any limited term appointment to fill the gap in the meantime; the recently reported “discovery” of funds for two stipends falls far short of addressing the actual resource needs of WGST and leaves the programme in an extremely precarious position for the long term.

There can be no disputing these facts. And yet, astonishingly, the communications from the administration in the wake of the overwhelming outcry have done just that, and more: rather than directly addressing the funding decision and its consequences for the university, they have misled and misdirected, resorting to the corrupt techniques of doublespeak to disguise the truth of the situation and to evade responsibility for it.

The email to faculty and students from the Dean of Arts on February 2, 2016 and the FAQ webpage established on February 3, 2016 are shocking examples of this.

  • Nowhere is there any acknowledgement that the WGST Coordinator was initially told by the Dean of Arts that there was no funding available to support the four core courses on which the programme relies. Instead, attention is misdirected onto the fact that there has been no public announcement of any intention to cancel the programme, and that the programme continues to exist as a Senate approved programme in the pages of the Academic Calendar.
  • Nowhere is there any acknowledgement that WGST has a tenure track position dedicated to it and that this position is now vacant on account of the recent death of Dr. Marie Hammond-Callaghan. Instead, attention is misdirected onto the process of planning and timetabling for the upcoming academic year, giving the impression that the precariousness of WGST is something that all programmes and departments face each year, as if no programme or department has any assurance of the resources needed for its operation before the annual budget has been finalized.
  • Nowhere is there any acknowledgement that the budget process has been a source of controversy and contention over the past few years, as the administration repeatedly claims to be in the midst of a chronic financial crisis even as it repeatedly musters the resources for significant and conspicuous expenditures unrelated to the academic mission of the university. Instead, we are once again subjected to the narrative of crisis which is crafted each year to prepare the ground for yet another round of austerity measures directed at academic programmes and departments.

These communications on the future of the WGST programme have damaged the credibility of this administration in the eyes of the university community and the wider public. They reflect a deeper problem with the policy direction that is being pursued by this administration, its understanding of university governance and ultimately the university itself. The mission of the university in society is not to manage perceptions of the world through the clever distortions of media spin but to foster the critical capacities for which this kind of distorted communication has no power. As faculty who are devoted to this mission, we call upon the Board of Regents and the senior administration to take the steps that are necessary to rebuild the credibility that has been lost. Shutting down the spin machine and providing WGST with the resources that are necessary for its continued flourishing over the long term would be a good place to start.

Signed,

Fabrizio Antonelli, Department of Sociology

Karin Aurell, Department of Music

Michal Avram, Politics and International Relations

Karen Bamford, Department of English

Lauren Beck, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Fiona Black, Department of Religious Studies

Peter Brown, Department of English

Anita Cannon, Library

Barb Clayton, Department of Religious Studies

Geoff Cruttwell, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Rob Cupido, Department of History

Geneviève Desmarais, Department of Psychology

Chris Down, Department of Fine Arts

Jane Dryden, Department of Philosophy

Maritza Farina, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Zoe Finkel, Environmental Science Program

Michael Fox, Department of Geography and Environment

Leah Garnett, Department of Fine Arts

Khash Ghandi, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Lisa Dawn Hamilton, Department of Psychology

Andrew Hamilton-Wright, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Richard Hudson, Department of Commerce

Andrew Irwin, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Leslie Kern, Department of Geography and Environment

Anne Koval, Department of Fine Arts

Adriana Kuiper, Department of Fine Arts

Hannah Lane, Department of History

Stephen Law, Department of Economics

Michael Laurence, Department of Politics and International Relations

Mark Lee, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Jeff Lilburn, Library

William Lundell, Department of History

Gayle h. Martin, Department of Music

Geoff Martin, Department of Politics and International Relations

Juan Carlos Martinez, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Margaret-Ellen Messinger, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Loralea Michaelis, Department of Politics and International Relations

Geordie Miller, Department of English

Elaine Naylor, Department of History

Linda Pearse, Department of Music

Morgan Poteet, Department of Sociology

Cordula Quint, Drama Program

Robert Rosebrugh, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science

Renata Schellenberg, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Leslie Shumka, Department of Religious Studies

Brad Simkulet, Department of English

Patricia Kelly Spurles, Department of Anthropology

Erin Steuter, Department of Sociology

David Thomas, Department of Politics and International Relations

Marilyn Walker, Department of Anthropology

Deborah Wills, Department of English

Andrew Wilson, Department of Religious Studies

Will Wilson, Department of History

To add your name, send a request to the editor.

For more information, see WGST information page, the administration FAQ, or CBC news stories (1, 2, 3)