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.