Students speak against cuts at Saint-Boniface university


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Abdoulaye Diarra says he's lucky he has just completed his work in the Université de Saint-Boniface science co-op program because it's now threatened by budget cuts.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/06/2018 (1818 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Abdoulaye Diarra says he’s lucky he has just completed his work in the Université de Saint-Boniface science co-op program because it’s now threatened by budget cuts.

The science student was among a group of students, professors, union and community leaders and politicians who protested against the cuts Thursday at noon at the university’s main entrance. They said the recently approved budget eliminates two teaching positions — in math and the science co-op program — among other cuts. 

“This co-op program can open doors for you and show you a new world but now, if you cut that, you will not be able to experience that anymore,” said Diarra, 22.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press Students and faculty rally against tuition-fee hikes and budget cuts at Université de Saint-Boniface on Thursday.

He said the co-op program gave him hands-on experience in a microbiology lab and he plans to pursue a master’s degree in immunology at the University of Manitoba this fall. “Luckily, I just finished my co-op program, but I know many people, they’re going to be affected by that (budget cuts).”

The USB board of governors approved the budget on May 29 after it defeated a motion by the faculty association to reject the budget.

Those attending the rally were also protesting against the Manitoba government chopping $6.3 million in funding from the province’s post-secondary institutions in 2018-19, which will filter down to students as tuition increases of 6.6 per cent. 

USB president Gabor Csepregi told the Winnipeg Free Press that the science co-op program lost its co-ordinator because of provincial cuts, but said a partnership with the U of M will keep the program running. He said the two teaching posts were term positions that were not renewed.

“What they don’t say is that we renewed two term positions in (the faculty of) education and we channelled resources to the nursing program and we transformed our IT department as well as the library services,” Csepregi said, noting every university and college is affected by the province’s funding cuts.

“We just have to very wisely put our resources where it was needed, especially education and nursing. There is a lack of a sufficient number of teachers in the (French) immersion schools. We had to somehow make a decision that is not easy to make, and I understand this is not pleasing for everyone.”

Faculty association president Jean Valenti said Manitoba, Winnipeg and Brandon universities are cutting their administration costs while USB is reducing teaching positions and programs.

“This leads us to the question whether USB still seeks to be a hub, a protector and a promoter of French-language cultural expression in Manitoba,” Valenti said.

Csepregi said the science co-op program has always been in an English setting, and will continue as such because of USB’s affiliation with the U of M but other programs will continue in French.

“I feel, as university president, it’s a card that’s unjustly used and it’s not correct. With due respect to their views, it’s just not correct,” he said. “We do promote French education very much.”

As the crowd chanted, “Oui, à l’éducation, non aux compressions” (yes to education, no to cutbacks), Michelle Gawronsky, the president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, called on the province to restore funding so the 6.6 per cent tuition increase can be eliminated.

“We are demanding that this government reverse these (cuts) immediately. They have the whole summer ahead of them to get this right and to ensure proper and stable funding continues to flow to our post-secondary educational institutions before students return in the fall to start or continue their studies,” Gawronsky said.

The Association des professeurs et professionnels de l’Université de Saint-Boniface is an MGEU member.


Updated on Friday, June 8, 2018 9:20 AM CDT: Corrects date of meeting

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