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.
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.