Queen’s community responds to incoming budget cuts for Faculty of Arts and Science

A view down university avenue at Queen's, there are blue skies and afternoon sun. the streets are fairly empty and the sides of the street are lined with buildings, the tall grant hall standing out amoungst them.
A quiet day on University Ave. on Queen's Campus. Photo by Christena Lawrie.
Christena Lawrie - CFRC - KingstonON | 06-12-2023
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Leaked documents have revealed that drastic cuts will be made to the Faculty of Arts and Science at Queen’s University, and the Queen’s community is responding.

The bulk of the conversation began when a memo that the Dean of Arts and Science Barbara Crow sent to department heads was leaked, revealing drastic cuts planned for the department in the next two years due to the Queen’s financial deficit.

In the document, it was stated that $30 million of the $62 million projected deficit is rooted in the faculty of Arts and Sciences. Highlights within the list of cuts include cutting courses, reducing TAships, not replacing staff and faculty, and replacing adjuncts with PhD students. Students, whose education will be greatly impacted by these cuts, had not been informed before this leak.

Starting next year, no undergraduate courses will be scheduled with fewer than 10 students, and the year afterwards no graduate courses will be scheduled with fewer than 5 students, greatly impacting small departments, specializations, and upper-year courses. There will be a total of 13 per cent reduction in ArtSci courses taught at Queen’s. 

With these changes coming imminently, without students being informed, students, faculty, and staff have been motivated to speak out. Instagram pages like @queensustudentsvscuts were created to discuss the cuts, along with several posts on the Queen’s University Reddit forum detailing the budget cuts garnering a large amount of attention and acting as one of the central online spaces for Queen’s community members to share their thoughts. 

On Thursday, Matthew Evans, Provost and Vice-Principal, sent out a message to students regarding the cuts. The message stressed the financial challenges the university is facing, with costs for the university exceeding revenue to an “unsustainable level.” He attributed the deficit to the provincial government's decision in 2019 to cut and freeze tuition costs.

“The university has so far relied on our financial reserves to cover our operating deficits, but that path is not sustainable. Our reserves are rapidly depleting and will not be enough to cover another full year of deficits at the level we are currently operating,” he states.

The message claims they are “making every effort to limit the impact on employees.” Despite short-term budget balancing efforts resulting in job losses and unfilled positions, Evans states that the institution is looking at the "long term future."

“We must also look to build a long-term future for Queen’s that is fiscally sustainable, where we have the dollars needed to invest in our research and education mission which is essential for us to achieve our ambitions as a university for the future.”

Later in the message, he adds, “as challenging as the steps to reach structurally balanced budgets will be, once achieved, this will enable us as a university to focus on building our research capacity and to invest in academic excellence.”

Queen’s Community Against Austerity (QCAA), a cross-campus alliance working to advocate against these cuts and suggest alternatives, hosted a teach-in from 12-2 p.m. today to inform the Queen’s community of the situation and spread their message. The teach-in was widely-attended, the zoom meeting being full with 300 attendees, listening parties being hosted across campus and beyond, and the full event being broadcasted live on CFRC. 

Speakers at the event represented a variety of perspectives, including professors, staff, undergraduate students, and post-graduate students. Speakers discussed the university’s financial situation, the impact of cuts on students and employees, and possible alternatives to these cuts. They also launched a petition to the Board of Trustees urging them to pursue alternative measures.

"The university is an educational institution and not a for-profit company. Its investments should be a means to an end, not an end in themselves," stated Mary Louise Adams, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “QCAA is not persuaded that the Board of Trustees understands or cares sufficiently about the impacts of their mandate for budget cuts, which seem to prioritize short-term market thinking over long-term academic excellence.”

She added, "Years of provincial underfunding are hurting all universities in Ontario, but the large deficit at Queen's is the result of local financial decisions. And now the plan is to cut courses, jobs, and services to balance the budget in just two years, no matter how much damage that will cause to the quality of the education we can offer."

Coming up on Monday, Dec. 11, there will be a Faculty of Arts and Science Town Hall with Provost Evans to discuss the topic. The meeting will be held in Biosciences Complex Room 1101 and be hosted virtually from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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