Address the Understaffing Crisis in the University of Lethbridge Psychology Department

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Address the Understaffing Crisis in the University of Lethbridge Psychology Department

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Fallan Curtis started this petition to VP Academic Dr. Erasmus Okine and

We the students would like to make clear to VP Academic, Dr. Erasmus Okine, and Dean of Arts and Science, Dr. Matthew Letts, the urgent need for the University of Lethbridge to address the understaffing crisis in the department of Psychology before it affects our education even further. While provincial cuts and the covid-19 crisis have contributed to financial difficulty across the University, the situation in psychology, in particular, is dire. Psychology has the highest major/faculty ratio compared to other science departments— it is more than three times the average, while also serving, by far, the most course enrollments. If the department does not get the hires it needs, faculty will be operating at a 360:1 student-enrollment to faculty ratio. These disparities are distressing given that the Psych faculty already teach nearly three times as many enrollments as those in other departments. 

What does this mean for us students? Many of us are already unable to enroll in the courses we need to graduate on time and/or apply to the programs we wish to enter. Many postgraduate programs require various courses that the department simply cannot offer given the current financial decisions by the university. Students are faced with the option to either leave the U of L and take those courses elsewhere or wait around and delay graduation. This has hugely disadvantaged students, especially those who have ambitions to enter clinical programs, but the following is true for everyone: our educational experience is being compromised by absurd class sizes, inconsistent course offerings, and delays in the ability to meet degree requirements.

A recent comprehensive external review of the Psych department concluded that they would need three to four more faculty members, as well as restored funding for sessional instructors in order to bring the department even remotely close to comparable departments at other universities. Since that report, both Dr. Vokey and Dr. Allen have announced their retirements, meaning that the already anomalous student to faculty ratio will become even more unmanageable and that we would need six new professor hires to meet those standards. We understand the financial constraints we’re facing as a university community, and thus, we are only asking for a fraction of that report’s recommendation. That, at a minimum, the psychology department be able to replace Drs. Allen and Vokey and hire an additional instructor to be able to offer the classes we need to graduate on time and with an appropriate background in psychology.

With even more retirements on the horizon, we the students are urging our VP academic to address this crisis. Without action from the university, the problem will only get worse and will be reflected in the quality of our education. This is not only true for psychology majors but students like myself who have various degree requirements in the department, and any future students interested in learning about psychology. With the current workload on remaining professors, it is impossible that the university will be able to offer an adequate undergraduate program in Psychology or continue to provide students with the quality of instruction that made them choose the U of L. 

According to the publicly available information on the public sector body compensation disclosure table (referenced below), Dr. Allen and Dr. Vokey earned a combined total of $351,746 in 2019. Subtracting the average salaries of the two assistant professors and one lecturer that we are asking for, the university would actually save $114,885. That said, we justify this request for hires based not only on the benefits it will provide so many students but on the money it will allow the university to save. We understand the difficulty of allocating resources in financially troubling times, but while we work to organize against cuts at the government level and demonstrate the importance of post-secondary education, it is the responsibility of the VP Academic and Dean of Arts and Science to provide critical academic leadership and ensure that the departments doing that work can stay afloat and provide students the quality of education that we deserve. 

Commitment to a "student-first approach” means not only acknowledging and sympathizing with our concerns but taking action to ensure that our needs are met. The only way to do this is to give the departments that are responsible for our education the resources they need. We thank you for your consideration.

References:

Public sector body compensation disclosures- https://www.alberta.ca/public-sector-body-compensation-disclosure-table.aspx

University of Lethbridge Institutional Analysis- https://www.uleth.ca/analysis

External review of the department-https://www.uleth.ca/sites/default/files/2020/04/aqa_psychology_-_closing_memo_-_april_2019.pdf

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This petition made change with 487 supporters!