What worries me the most about TransformUS is Program Prioritization. This process will rank academic disciplines based on their contribution to the university’s success. Highly ranked programs will receive increased resources while those with lower rankings will see reduced resources or be cut entirely.
Students don’t have the option to participate in determining program grading. Instead, the judgments will be made by an academic task force composed entirely of faculty. As publicly outlined thus far, Program Prioritization leads to two main questions — how will students have their opinions heard, and what criteria will be used to grade programs?
It isn’t hard to identify which programs and departments the university has favoured in the recent past. Classes and programs were cut in the language department late last year and the first round of staff layoffs this year occurred in the arts.
Humanities, the social sciences and fine arts are often the easiest areas for universities to de-prioritze and criticize as their benefits are often less immediately apparent than the economic benefits professional programs bring to both graduates and the university. In reality, the contribution that these programs make to society are as important as the contributions that come from the sciences, business or any professional programs.
Each of the humanities and arts programs are so varied that it seems almost impossible to create a ranking system to accurately reflect the non-financial contributions they make to the campus community.
As the university attempts to make itself more marketable to students and more competitive with other universities, those making decisions about what programs should receive more funding and which will be cut or combined should look at what makes the university stand out — its diversity.
I worry that the university will follow the lead of other schools. The U of S is not and should not be like any other school in Canada. The greatness of this school is due in large part to the professors and students who teach and study a wide variety of programs.
Every program is important to those who teach it and to those who study it, and importance is more than strictly financial.
Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf