There is no doubt the U of S faces significant financial challenges, as highlighted by the recent budgetary forecast, which predicts a financial shortfall of $44.5 million by 2016.
University administrators have dealt with the shortfall by creating a prioritization process now known as TransformUS. This process aims to cut $25 million in university spending by 2016.
In order for the university to make “strategic” cuts, TransformUS calls for two task forces to be established. President Ilene Busch-Vishniac’s Jan. 11 letter to the campus community explains that the first such task force will examine academic programs while the other will be responsible for the administrative and academic support programs.
The Academic Program Transformation task force comprises esteemed faculty chosen from University Council, committees associated with council and faculty at large while the Support Service Transformation task force will find membership from faculty, administrative managers and staff.
The USSU urges the U of S to include students in the composition of the two TransformUS task forces.
From Busch-Vischniac’s Jan. 11 letter: “students will not be included as members of the task forces because of the amount of work entailed and the significant impact this activity would have on their studies.”
Students will instead be engaged through consultation mechanisms so that we can offer comments on the criteria that will prioritize the various programs and services at the U of S. Not having students directly involved in the discussions about the criteria is extremely problematic.
The university has held maintained student representation in important decision-making bodies and processes for many years. The U of S Students’ Union president is trusted to sit on the Board of Governors on behalf of students; the USSU has represented students on pivotal presidential and vice-presidential search committees; and students played a major role in steering the university through stages of strategic planning.
It is evident that in the past the students of the U of S and university officials have taken on many difficult decisions together, and the composition of the TransformUS task forces should be no different.
These task forces will have a major effect on this university and on post-secondary education in Saskatchewan. As current students, our perspectives on these task forces will contribute to a thorough analysis.
Students’ opinions matter, and they are especially important at a time when the university’s future is being decided on. There is a multitude of very intelligent and engaged students who would proudly lend their time to the production and development of TransformUS criteria.
We can help. Students share a unique perspective. When an individual’s time as a student concludes and he or she moves into the workforce, their priorities and mindset begin to change.
While people maintain some opinion on education after graduating, they can not know what it is like to be a student at this precise moment. That understanding is intimately bound to the current state of student affairs and should be a valued and sought-after aspect for the TransformUS task forces.