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Profs overreact to funding challenge

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As an academic administrator at the University of Winnipeg who shares in the austerity measures being considered at the University of Winnipeg, I am embarrassed by the public histrionics currently on display in your pages by a couple of department chairs. To make up for an astonishing lack of perspective on this matter, I wish to offer some comments of my own.

First, the U of W's 2012-13 budget difficulties, which I believe have been aggressively misrepresented by associate professors Linda Dietrick and Kirsten Kramar, have been generated by a chronic shortfall in provincial funding. This is a matter of public record. For years, the university has received far less per-student funding than either the University of Manitoba or Brandon University. The suggestion that the U of W's 2012-13 budget situation is caused by a "massive building campaign" is manifestly not true. President Lloyd Axworthy and the University of Winnipeg Foundation relentlessly fundraise for capital campaigns, such as the science building and our other current capital projects. In the past year alone, Axworthy and the foundation generated $130 million for capital initiatives.

Second, an email campaign in the midst of such a budget situation demanding that the president "free up funds" for the continuation of a German program -- in which only a handful of students are registered, and for the sole reason that it has been around for 130 years -- strikes me as self-serving. Surely it must be understood that funds need to go where our students are. And for reasons obvious to any reader of Dietrick's email compositions about our current budget, that place is obviously not in the German program.

Similarly, I would suggest that a Facebook campaign by the sociology department before the budget process is even complete is an egregious abuse of professorial power. It's also evidence that students have been frightened into a premature panic over whether or not they can graduate.

In recent years, the sociology department has contracted for a number of reasons, including, for example, the fact that women's and gender studies broke away to set up their own department in 2005; criminal justice also left to establish its own department in 2008.

In my 15 years as an administrative librarian who has served in four universities, Axworthy has shown himself to be the most committed, student-focused and entrepreneurial president I have ever seen. And I have confidence that the University of Winnipeg, especially under its current leadership, will prevail in the best interests of its students not just this year, but for many to come.

Jane C. Duffy

Dean of Libraries

University of Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 22, 2012 A11

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