Wednesday, March 24, 2010

halt the cuts in IDST's budget

The students of international development at Trent University are an exceptional group of young people. The following article was published in the Arthur, the Trent University and Peterborough community newspaper, this week:

Halt the Cuts in IDST’s Budget: Shortsighted Decisions a Serious Blow to Trent’s Educational Experience

Written by Andrew Skinner and Christina Franklin

Monday, 22 March 2010 14:22

What would you do if your department were planning to cut its fourth year course offerings in half, attempt to stuff 40 fourth-year students into seminars meant for 15, and shrink the department faculty by one third? This is the current situation facing the Trent’s International Development Studies (IDST) Department. On the chopping block are:

- IDST 314: ‘Global Institutions and Development’
- IDST 411: ‘Capitalism’
- one section of IDST 424: ‘Canada, Globalization and Development’
- IDST 425: ‘Topics in Global Political Economy: Money and Finance’
- IDST 470: ‘Religion and Social Movements’
- IDST 476: ‘Family and Modernity’.

Gone also would be the Oshawa serial of IDST 100: ‘Human Inequality in Global Perspective,’ which effectively means there would no longer be an IDST program offered in Oshawa. So, if any of the 40 students currently enrolled in IDST 100 in Oshawa want to continue with an IDST degree, they will have to come to Peterborough.

Though it appears that cuts are being made in the ‘instructional budgetary allocation’ of all departments to help make up Trent University’s deficit, these cuts will negatively impact the IDST department in a particularly deep way. For those who may not be aware, the Trent IDST program – which examines the sources and consequences of global inequality from the economic, cultural, political, historical, gender, environmental, and social perspectives – is one of the best in all of North America, and certainly in Canada. Its year-abroad programs are unparalleled, and its small but dedicated faculty are second to none. The proposed cuts not only eliminate the growth of an outstanding program (particularly its expansion in the growing Oshawa market) at Trent, but cut deep into the core of what makes the program so great: its breadth and depth of courses, and the exceptional professors it attracts.

This decision seems to be a shortsighted one. On a primitive financial level, the IDST enrollment for the 2009-10 year is up by at least 15 per cent. As it is right now, the department is almost coming apart at the seams to accommodate this growth. Beyond simple accounting, the proponents of these cuts do not seem to realize that the net worth of an educational institution (or any business for that matter) cannot be captured on a spreadsheet. The long-term reputation of one of Trent’s image-defining departments is seriously jeopardized by the proposed cuts. As Trent IDST students return to their hometowns or graduate and move into socially-minded careers, they will tell the story of how Trent’s IDST program is declining. The most powerful marketing tool is still word of mouth.

While the situation of the IDST department is particularly bleak, it is certainly not unique. It is part of what we perceive to be a larger strategy to move away from the liberal arts foundation of the university towards the more grant-rich pastures of science programs. Don’t get us wrong: we have nothing against science or making money! But the reality is that Trent’s niche in the university market is as a smallish liberal arts university, and it needs to continue doing what it does best.

If you are a first, second, or third year student we encourage you to investigate the cuts in your department because they will directly impact the quality of your education in your remaining years at Trent, should you choose to stay. If you are a fourth year student, we also encourage you to investigate cuts in your department, because the value and reputation of your degree will be undermined by the loss of Trent’s prestige that these cuts necessarily entail.

To become more involved in this student-led campaign there is a Facebook group called ‘Petition to Halt Cuts in IDST Instructional Budgetary Allocation’ which you can join to find out about announcements regarding this important issue (you must be part of the ‘Trent network’ to join). Students from all departments are encouraged to join.

We call on President Steven Franklin and/or the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Mark Parnis, to make an official statement about the planned cuts, and to open a dialogue with students (who are also ‘consumers’ of education). We believe that the stunning breadth and depth of the proposed cuts compromises the future of Trent University’s long-term financial viability and its ability to deliver a top-quality education. The value of our education cannot be reduced to numbers on a spreadsheet. If you would like to sign the petition please visit either the Seasoned Spoon or the TCSA Office, both in Champlain College.

President Franklin’s Office:
Vice President, Dr. Christine McKinnon:
Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Mark Parnis:
Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Jocelyn Aubrey:

Postscript: Following the publication of this article, both the Dean and the President agreed to meet with a group of IDST students. Let's see what happens.


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