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This article was published 19/3/2012 (3226 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A rapid building expansion plan on the University of Winnipeg campus may be taking its toll on arts programs.

Two U of W department heads have gone public with concerns austerity measures will eliminate courses and threaten the integrity of the university.

In the sociology department, 12 full courses will be cut for next year, which means there won't be enough courses left for students to choose from in order to graduate, said department chairwoman Kirsten Kramar.

In the Modern Languages and Literature program, department chairwoman Linda Dietrick has begun an email campaign to get students and other professors on campus to pressure president Lloyd Axworthy to free up funds.

"I've (emailed) everybody and their brother," Dietrick said of the campaign she began Sunday, asking supporters to contact Axworthy and express their concerns for the cutbacks.

Dietrick said the German-language program, which has been offered at the U of W and its predecessor colleges for 130 years, is in danger of being shut down in two years.

"The U of W is conducting a bait-and-switch scheme," said Kramar. "We're telling everyone that the U of W is an excellent place to get an undergraduate degree, but once they get here there are no courses for them."

John Corlett, vice-president of academic, said the U of W is in a serious financial situation, adding next year's operating budget could be smaller than this year's.

Corlett said the U of W gets almost 50 per cent less in per-student grants from the province than Brandon University and the University of Manitoba, adding that makes it difficult for smaller departments and programs to cope with shrinking budgets.

"We're in a situation where, looking ahead to next year with increased costs, we're having to back away from some things we were doing in the current year and we're trying to do it in a very strategic way so we do the least amount of harm... while maintaining as much of what's good about the university as we possibly can," Corlett said.

Third-year sociology student Gazel Manuel said U of W students are paying a steep price for a massive building campaign on campus.

"There's money for a new soccer complex and a science building and a residence but there's no money for courses," Manuel said. "We've got all these new shiny buildings but no courses."

Corlett said operating funds will be in place to ensure programs, faculty and students will be properly accommodated in the new buildings. He said the budget for next year is still being worked on and no targets have been given to departments.

Manuel said she and other students in sociology have begun initiatives to pressure the administration, including an awareness campaign with a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/savesociologyUW), petitions, and other events on campus.

Kramar said the university administration is being short-sighted in its austerity move, adding 12 courses she's cutting for next year would have generated $450,000 in tuition-fee revenue.

Dietrick said the austerity moves are making it impossible for program chairs to prepare for next year, adding they have not been given any guidelines for budget preparation.

Dietrick said she was disappointed when the administration decided not to offer a full tenure-track position to a professor who had been teaching German on a series of three, one-year term appointments. That person now must be let go, she said, adding it only leaves herself to teach German on a part-time basis supplemented by some contract instructors.

Dietrick said when she retires in two years, there'll be no full-time faculty to carry on the program.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

Warning issued

Excerpt of statement released by Linda Dietrick, chairwoman of the U of W Modern Languages and Literature program, and widely circulated in an email:

"I am now writing to everyone who may be concerned -- students, colleagues at the Univ. of Winnipeg and at other universities, German teachers, donors, the German-Canadian community, and the scholarly and professional organizations.

"I see it as my responsibility to let everyone concerned know that the University of Winnipeg German program is in danger of being closed, perhaps as early as two years from now, and to ask them to write (U of W president Lloyd Axworthy) if they don't want that to happen."