I support Students Against Austerity (SAA), but their target is completely wrong.
Much of the vitriol of SAA in Regina has been directed against the administration, and while there is certainly blame to be placed there for their decision to allocate funds away from Arts and Sciences, their decisions are a symptom of a deeper disease.
The reality is Thomas Chase and Vianne Timmons have limited options in what they can do to save programming. They can raise tuition or they can find corporate donors to fund programs. Cutting administrative positions and salaries will not solve anything.
Both of these options are absolutely awful for students and society at large, but they are the only options the university itself can take. They are especially awful because there is no good reason the government is not properly funding our post-secondary education in Saskatchewan.
To put our situation in perspective, Newfoundland is killing us at post-secondary funding. Newfoundland, who was traditionally a have-not province much like Saskatchewan, is now destroying us and the rest of Canada in terms of funding universities.
There is no “Saskatchewan Advantage” for students when we are at a disadvantage to Newfoundlanders when it comes to post-secondary funding. And yet, students say nothing.
We have been co-opted into the strategy of the administration. Much as I accused the administration of before Christmas, we now seem content to manage the decline of the university rather than actually do anything to save it. The consultation with the university has morphed from something useful into a “participation trap” in which we have already admitted the necessity of austerity and now simply wish to force austerity onto someone else.
With the provincial budget coming up very soon, we are at a critical juncture. We can seriously make a fundamental change in government policy if we are willing to stand up for it. At this time, we should not be wasting energy uselessly scorning Timmons and Chase, but constructively lobbying the government.
More leadership from Students Against Austerity, or even from URSU, in demanding better from the government would be seriously welcome. Unfortunately, as it stands, students seem content to yell at Vianne and Tom than to write a letter or organize a demonstration against the government who is holding the purse strings.
If we are actually interested in curing the disease the university is suffering from, we must treat the cause, not simply the symptoms.
Photo courtesy of Students Against Austerity