Tuition, TransformUS opposition on the rise

NOtransformUScolour

Student and faculty groups at the University of Saskatchewan are stepping up their opposition to TransformUS in the wake of the latest round of tuition hikes on March 17.

TransformUS is the U of S program prioritization process meant to combat a projected $44.5 million deficit for the 2015–16 fiscal year. Academic programs and support services are selected to be kept as are, to receive increased or reduced funding, to be reorganized or to be cut.

“The program cuts are reducing the academic offerings available to students and cutting the programs they want to take. At the same time, they are having to pay more and more,” said Franz Kuhlmann, a professor in the department of math and a vocal critic of TransformUS.

A group consisting of both students and faculty — including Kuhlmann — called Transform This sprung up in early March 2014 to voice their concerns about TransformUS. The group was meant to serve as a means to organize and direct opposition to program prioritization on campus.

“For the past few months, we’ve been organizing students on campus, reaching out to a number of departments and it has basically culminated in us creating a working group to respond to TransformUS,” said Nicholas Marlatte, one of the group’s leaders who is running in this year’s U of S Students’ Union elections.

Transform This has worked with several other organizations on campus, including the Socialist Students’ Association and Student Teachers Against Racism Society, to host events to educate students about TransformUS. Marlatte said the first event — “An Alternate Vision for the U of S” — is where they saw a need to organize opposition to program prioritization.

“We saw so many students that were vocal but felt isolated and ineffective in dealing with the problems themselves,” Marlatte said. “Myself and other people used it as an opportunity to organize those students and stay connected.”

Kuhlmann said his opposition to TransformUS stems from the disconnect between the university administrators and the faculty and students.

“All this money is taken away because we’re told we’re in a crisis, but it has not been made clear where the debt comes from,” Kuhlmann said. “The debt comes from the pet projects of our administrators that do not serve the mission of our university and do not serve the interests of students.”

Transform This has also been circulating a pair of open letters to the campus community. The first is written by Kuhlmann and addresses some faculty concerns over the TransformUS process, while the second focuses on students’ worries. Over the past months, the group has been collecting signatures in support of these letters and plans to deliver them to U of S President Ilene Busch-Vishniac in the near future.

“The first letter was basically meant to be a faculty response to the perceived issues of TransformUS . . . We as students latched onto this idea and also recognized that we needed a student voice in this as well,” Marlatte said. “So we were lucky enough to team up with Kuhlmann and write another letter which we think will be more salient to students.”

The group held a “SaveUs” bake sale on March 27 to raise money for the programs threatened by TransformUS. Marlatte said that the idea may seem novel but it’s as much about raising money as it is about creating awareness.

“It’s a bake sale where students can demonstrate that they want to be involved in TransformUS because we’ve been cut out of the decision making process and we feel the consultations haven’t been adequate,” Marlatte said.

The idea for the bake sale came about as a relatable way of engaging students in the TransformUS process.

“We wanted something that people would be receptive to and we felt that a bake sale is something people are naturally interested in,” Marlatte said. “So it will be an effective means of reaching out and educating students about TransformUS.”

The group plans to present all funds raised by the bake sale to Busch-Vishniac at a time that has yet to be determined.

People interested in becoming involved with Transform This can find more information on their Facebook page. The group’s open letters can be signed in person or online at freeacademiausask.blogspot.ca.


Graphic: Samantha Braun/Production Manager

  • cd

    So how do those who are against TransformUS propose making up the deficit?

    • Free Academia

      First, we do not accept the size and the “origin” of the debt we are being told about. Administration has not made things clear and has not sufficiently answered our questions. We know that there are costly pet projects of our administrators, there is money set aside for them to use in the coming years, there is money for what they think should be done for “improving the student experience” – instead of leaving this money where it belongs: in the academic programs, in the hands of the departments, who know best how to use it.

      Second, the Administrative Task Force has made detailed recommendations for downsizing the administration and the deletion of ADMINISTRATIVE programs. (Over the last ten years, administration has doubled, while the number of students and faculty has grown by only ten percent, approximately – watch out for the posters on campus that show the exact numbers.) We demand that administration first follows these recommendations and gets its own house in order BEFORE it raises tuition and puts its fingers on academic programs.

      If someone states that it is necessary to offer less for more money, ask for proof!

    • angry foodie

      I agree with a lot of what you wrote.

      However, and this is important because a lot of people do not understand this, the money that is left there for so-called “pet projects” is often already earmarked. When the government gives the university money to build X, they have to use it to build X. They cannot reallocate it to Y.

      So whether they are pet projects or not, the fact remains that money already allocated to their completion/operation cannot simply be reallocated. This earmarking is something that may be problematic and needs to be taken up with the provincial government.

      I guess the question is that how does a movement that has as one of its strongest arguments a very fiscally conservative position (cuts are needed, but administration should go first) reconcile itself with the fact that a lot of its strongest adherents are of the far left in student society?