Divided we fall
The old adage “united we stand, divided we fall” has stuck around so long not just because it sounds cool, but because it is absolutely true. This adage needs to be quickly applied to the situation at the University of Regina.
The University Council meeting was an extremely important step toward actually finding a solution to our funding crisis, but there was an unspoken division that ran through the meeting and I suspect showed itself in the voting blocs that formed. The unspoken ultimatum, probably unintentional but nonetheless present, was the Arts “us or them” ultimatum, suggesting that if Arts is going to survive in any meaningful way at the University of Regina, it will have to be at the expense of engineering or business.
This, I am sure, is not the intention of those leading the fight to save programs at the university, but it is a perception that is becoming more and more pronounced. It just doesn’t appear that the business and engineering faculties are not suffering to the same extent that other faculties at this university are. If we ignore that business and engineering students are paying ludicrously high tuition compared to everyone else, it appears that the administration favours these programs over all others.
This division can be a serious threat to the unity of the university, but the really ironic thing is that this division represents both the greatest strength and greatest weakness of this university – its diversity.
The University of Regina is fortunate to have so many varied programs from which to choose. When I came here in fall 2009, I had no idea what I wanted to do. If it hadn’t been for the wide variety of classes I was able to enrol it, I would have had a tough time finding what I really love doing. This is not a unique experience for students at all, and so anything that limits this variety is going to limit the options of students that attend this university to the detriment of everyone.
The government through its refusal to properly fund this university by giving it only a two or three per cent increase has turned our greatest strength into a weakness. It has pitted faculties against each other in a fight-to-the-death over funding. The senior administration has been totally complicit in this process, making soothing sounds about how arts, fine arts, and sciences are fundamental to this university but also saying that cuts are difficult but absolutely necessary in this new economic reality.
There’s a point when soothing sounds become patronizing. That time has long come here. Collective, unified, and organized action needs to be taken to secure proper funding for this university.
The truth is, this university benefits from its strong engineering and business faculties. It benefits from Kinesiology, Science, Fine Arts, and the Liberal Arts. It benefits not just from each individually, but from all of them as a whole. And the destructive atmosphere that the government and the administration are creating is destroying this strength.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We are supposed to be the pinnacle of education in society. We can certainly come up with a new system wherein we can make our diversity a strength to be touted, not a weakness to be exploited by those that would wish to tear down universities. We cannot be content to let outside forces grind us down, tear us apart, and pit us against each other. We can re-envision the system we are working within. We just have to put our collective minds to it.
Photo by Arthur Ward