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Western University - Support Arts Professors and Students; DON'T Slash the Budget!

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Western University's Board of Governors is undervaluing Arts professors and students. Despite challenges from A&H students and faculty, Western's Faculty of Arts & Humanities, in connection with the Board, is making budget cuts to the tune of ~$1.5mil over the next two years. Two major effects of the cuts discussed among the Western community are as follows:

  • Abrupt removal of many contract (“limited duties”) A&H professors from their positions
  • Expansion of class sizes

While some professors have already been told they've lost their jobs, others report that they feel left in the dark--they will not be given numbers and details until it's too late. These changes do not represent Western as "global leaders," a bragging right President Amit Chakma is famously fond of saying. In short summary, these changes would endanger students and faculty in the following ways:

  • Perpetuating, rather than challenging, the rampant disregard for contract professors in universities
  • Perpetuating, rather than challenging, our cultural undervaluing of the arts
  • Perpetuating, rather than challenging, the myth that an Arts education can’t be worthwhile or lucrative—thus helping to keep A&H registration low.
  • Reducing the quality of students’ education in larger class sizes with less individualized attention--while tuition increases.
  • Increasing the workload of the professors who do keep their jobs--without a proportional pay increase. (Note that because very little A&H teaching can be computerized, such as by marking with scantrons, the 25-40 students in the smallest of Western's A&H courses already means contract professors teaching 4 courses can expect to work ~60 hours per week.)

During a period of cultural disparagement of the Arts (e.g: exploitative internships, the myth of an Arts degree automatically equalling financial failure), cutting A&H funding would only perpetuate the cycle of potentially brilliant Arts students being disinclined to register--and it would surely decrease the value of current students' education. Diverse learning, good teaching, and quality educations cost money, but they are valuable investments that we feel Western should make. Western's A&H professors are caring, dedicated educators. They help to create fabulous learning experiences for students--but they need support.

There is still time: a Senate meeting concerning the budget will occur on April 21st. We can help our students, our profs, and the wider Arts community if we take action now!

We, the undersigned, call on Western University to uphold its purported reputation as global leaders: support the Arts & Humanities, its faculty, and its students during a period of cultural disregard. Reverse these budget cuts!




About Western Finances

These cuts are purportedly a response to reduced registration and A&H operating at a ~$4mil deficit, and yet this claim doesn't add up. As UWOFA points out in its 2014 scathing critique of Western's questionable spending, "Projecting a significant operating deficit may be an attempt to convince people that 'money is tight' rather than a way of accurately predicting the balance of income and expenditure." 

  • According to the 2017-2018 budget, released April 13th, Western expects to hold a substantial "Operating Reserve" of almost $61.5mil by April 2018--over 8 times the Board's mandated Reserve of $7.5m. The 2017-2018 cuts to A&H contract professor salaries are planned to total $548,810--approximately 0.009% of the Operating Reserve. Why are A&H contract professors considered undeserving of this assistance? 
  • Between 2005 and 2015, the salaries of Western's top-earning employees ballooned by over 55%. Amit Chakma remains among the top earners among Canadian university Presidents on the Sunshine List, behind only the University of Guelph and University of Toronto. (In 2015, while operating budgets tightened, Chakma came under fire for accepting a double salary totalling almost $1000,000. The second salary was returned after community protests. Chakma faced a 94% non-confidence vote from UWOFA, but kept his job.) 
  • The school continues to invest in academic programs that are less critical of corporate interests and that are more profitable. It also ensures money flows into its capital funds (e.g: equities, hedge funds, buildings) while more often being diverted from operational funds (e.g: staffing.)


About Contract Professors

Contract (or "limited duties") professors often work above and beyond full time hours, yet receive extremely low pay (and often no benefits) compared to their officially-full-time counterparts. A contract professor in an Arts course can expect to mark up to 40 written assignments per week, per class--and marking written assignments cannot be done with the assistance of time-saving technologies such as scantrons. These are dedicated, caring professionals with the best interests of their students at heart. They help to create a positive, life-changing experience for Western students.They deserve so much better than to be cast aside. 

Learn more about contract profs:

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