Hey, Saskatchewan Media: Stop Bungling The “Cuts To The Liberal Arts” Story

Does anyone else think it’s sort of irresponsible how e.g. the CBC are covering the potential outcome of the cuts being faced by both universities in this province? (Note: For largely sterling coverage, of course, you should probably go to the folks down on the immediate ground – the Carillon at the University of Regina, and the Sheaf at the University of Saskatchewan. Student newspapers serve a function, and in cases like this it’s all the more important.)

Like, to take Mothercorp specifically to task, they’ve gone ahead and posted, utterly without context, the salaries of administrators at both provincial universities. As if that’s the whole story. As if it wouldn’t take a full decade of not paying U of R president Vianne Timmons in order to match the university’s funding shortfall for 2012 alone. As if, as if, as if.

Look, okay, there’s something to be said for exercising administrative restraint. The university’s budget documents (forgive me for not linking them; I’m going to be posting something more substantial on this developing story here on the blog tomorrow, but I also head off to work in a little under eight hours and need at some point to sleep, something to which navigating the U of R’s arcane online backend is not conducive) reveal that non-academic salaries there have matched and ultimately surpassed academic salaries within the past decade. Okay, sure. My parents raised me to know what spending within one’s means look like, and that certainly isn’t it.

But anyone who can think critically – a liberal arts value, ironically enough – can see that there’s way more to this issue than simply a matter of that right-wing bugaboo, the Bloated Bureaucratic Salary. There’s issues of university transparency (Why is the public and university community dealing with the budget shortfall late and learning about cuts to departments secondhand?), issues of lax government funding (Why has the Saskatchewan government, which proudly touts the Saskatchewan advantage and the unimpeded, juggernaut-like growth of the Saskatchewan economy, been consistently shorting the universities by a paltry four million each for the last five years?), issues of societal attitude towards universities and university education (Why are the liberal arts and fine arts the first ones to get targeted? What purpose did changing the engineering faculty’s name to include the ominous-seeming qualified noun “Applied Sciences” serve? Who benefits from the university’s shift from philosophical educations to vocational ones? What benefits are there to that, exactly?).

If we care at all about the liberal arts and what they stand for – if we believe there is value in having people in our society trained in the vocation of parsing the world and trying to figure out ways to make the arcs of history and politics and language and thought make sense for the average person, the way we believe there is value in having people who know how to build wells and how to keep the books of a small business in line – then we won’t let the discussion stop at an infographic, and if I can be blunt then we shouldn’t allow the discussion to start there. Scrapping over a few thousand dollars a year isn’t going to change the way we perceive the humanities, nor is it going to save the humanities. What it will do is keep us from trying to figure out who benefits from the humanities being cut, being de-emphasized, being discarded and ultimately forgotten – and how they benefit.

Because someone does benefit. And if they cared enough about Saskatchewan to look at those infographics the CBC has posted, they’d probably laugh so hard they’d piss milk.

About John Cameron

John Cameron is a freelance journalist and occasional writer from Regina, Saskatchewan. He was the editor-in-chief of the Carillon, the University of Regina student newspaper, from 2010 to 2012. You can find more of his work in the Trash folder of several prominent national magazine editors' inboxes.

13 Responses to Hey, Saskatchewan Media: Stop Bungling The “Cuts To The Liberal Arts” Story

  1. Talbot Fresh, Jr. December 11, 2012 at 5:48 am #

    Vianne Timmons’ $350K salary and free house don’t bother me, but I would like to know what the president’s $70K/year bonus would be based on? How many lemmings she’s able to lure to the fiscal cliff of debilitating debt and unfulfilled promises of a brighter future?

    I’m pretty sure that at today’s prices, I’d be going into street vendorship before “taking classes” at the university. There should be a mandatory class dedicated solely to teaching the importance of who you know, and how to know them.

  2. The Cowarldly Lion December 11, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    The CBC has been incredibly lazy on this issue, posting info on administrators’ salaries without providing any context. How do the salaries compare to other university’s of comparable size? That’s the info the CBC needs to provide.

    The Saskatchewan government is probably very happy that the CBC is organising the tar and feathers for the university Presidents rather than shining the light on the government’s role in the budget crises at the universities.

  3. The Cowarldly Lion December 11, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    The CBC has been incredibly lazy on this issue, posting info on administrators’ salaries without providing any context. How do the salaries compare to other universities of comparable size? That’s the info the CBC needs to provide.

    The Saskatchewan government is probably very happy that the CBC is organising the tar and feathers for the university Presidents rather than shining the light on the government’s role in the budget crises at the universities.

  4. Marc Spooner December 11, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    I agree with The Cowardly Lion:

    Why in this period of greatest non-renewable resource extraction are universities being myopically underfunded? Where’s the Sask Advantage? We could be the envy of Canada, and the world, by taking advantage of our economic position and parlaying our good fortune into attracting bright young minds, stellar scholars, and the creativity and innovation they foster.

    Why is “good enough” not ok for our stadium, but fine for our universities?

    The provincial government is squandering a golden opportunity for Saskatchewan to lead!

  5. Marc Spooner December 11, 2012 at 8:48 am #

    As for bonuses, what about these folks who just recently received substantial government bailouts?

    Universities created wealth, not bankers.

    http://metronews.ca/news/canada/472923/canadian-bankers-set-to-get-big-bonuses/

    Among Canada’s banks, here’s how the bonus pools look for 2012:

    • Royal Bank’s variable compensation rose nearly 11 per cent to $3.65 billion, reversing two years of declines.

    • National Bank’s rose just under 11 per cent to $690 million.

    • Bank of Nova Scotia rose 9.4 per cent to $1.48 billion.

    • Toronto-Dominion Bank rose 7.8 per cent to $1.56 billion.

    • BMO rose 5.2 per cent to $1.64 billion.

    • CIBC fell 2 per cent to $1.24 billion.

  6. Marc Spooner December 11, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    typo:
    As for bonuses, what about these folks who just recently received substantial government bailouts?

    Universities create wealth, not bankers.

    http://metronews.ca/news/canada/472923/canadian-bankers-set-to-get-big-bonuses/

    Among Canada’s banks, here’s how the bonus pools look for 2012:

    • Royal Bank’s variable compensation rose nearly 11 per cent to $3.65 billion, reversing two years of declines.

    • National Bank’s rose just under 11 per cent to $690 million.

    • Bank of Nova Scotia rose 9.4 per cent to $1.48 billion.

    • Toronto-Dominion Bank rose 7.8 per cent to $1.56 billion.

    • BMO rose 5.2 per cent to $1.64 billion.

    • CIBC fell 2 per cent to $1.24 billion.

  7. Carle Steel December 11, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    And they’re at it again! It made the 9:00 newscast! Ghah!

  8. Tzikas Kalmerous December 11, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I am also alarmed on de-emphasizing (on the road to obliterating) Arts and Fine Arts.

    Don’t think basic research and the departments that carry it out are fairing any better. A close look at several of the Departments in the Faculty Science clearly shows years of neglect by administration (perhaps because most administrators do not understand how research functions and what it requires to continue to do so?).

    It is doubtful whether those units can survive much longer, beyond teaching college level (service) courses at the first year. If universities are just to do that, where will the next brilliant poet or physicist come from?

  9. Barb Saylor December 11, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    @8: With all due respect while it takes a university to produce a physicist, the same cannot be said for a poet. If brilliant poets have come out of universities, it has been despite, not because of, university programs.

    As to the CBC, why is anyone still looking for good reportage from that outfit?

  10. Anon December 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    In Saskatchewan’s eyes, a stadium for the ever dissapointing Riders will always triumph over not only the arts departments, but education itself.

  11. ron December 11, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    #10 here comes Barb..

  12. Barb Saylor December 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Over to you, Ron, or did you forget your subcontract?

  13. mb December 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

    A few years ago, the U of S divided off some of it’s ag land for retail development and gets extra revenue from business leases.
    Soon, they plan to mark off some more of it’s ag research land for more retail and home development more revenue from that to fund it’s operations.

    http://ckom.com/node/82636

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