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CAUT Bulletin Archives

January 1998

Library takes brunt of cuts at Algoma

As the faculty association representative on the exigency committee, I would like to thank Ron Melchers for his invaluable guidance and service during the investigative process, for the contribution he made in drafting the final unanimous report of the committee, and for the article he wrote for the Bulletin ("Algoma University College: Financial Exigency Declaration Averted," December) reporting on the exigency process at Algoma. He accurately observes that "There are lessons to be learned from this experience by other institutions."

The initial offer by CAUT to appoint an external faculty member (i.e., Melchers) to the financial exigency committee was met with skepticism not only by board and administration members, but by some faculty as well. Owing to his tact, his grasp of the local situation and his ability to offer reasonable direction, Melchers was able to steer the process toward an amicable and effective resolution. Without his contribution the process may well have resulted in failure and an on-going crisis that would have irreparably damaged the credibility of the institution.

It remains to be seen how fairly and forthrightly the recommendations in the financial exigency report will be carried out. Cuts to administrative and support services slightly in excess of the minimally called for $350,000 have been made. However, the process by which these cuts were identified was made entirely by a management group which evaded any consultation with the called-for oversight committee.

The position of chief librarian was eliminated, leaving the Dean to run the library, as neither of the remaining professional librarians have chosen to quit the bargaining unit.

The position of director of student services was also eliminated and the responsibilities of that office reassigned elsewhere in administration.

It was further decided that the office of assistant registrar would be reclassified as a non-management position.

These were the only real cuts made to administration or to administration support services. For the balance of the savings, 5.5 support staff positions were eliminated - all in the library.

In effect, minimal cuts seem to have been made in the area of administration while undue advantage was taken of the financial exigency report citing the library as overstaffed. The heavy hit taken by the library will no doubt seriously hamper its ability to deliver adequate support to students and faculty, especially in the area of audio-visual services (that department has been eliminated).

The faculty complement at Algoma, while small, is by and large highly qualified and accomplished, providing students with the kind of teaching and contact that ought to be envied everywhere. In order to maintain the "quality and diverse undergraduate programs" mentioned in Melcher's article, faculty members shoulder responsibilities beyond the normal call of duty.

Given the present situation of funding cuts, declining enrolments and tuition increases, the solution to Algoma's financial woes is not to pare away at the skeleton faculty, but to further rationalize administrative services, and to restructure the academic program in order to make it even more distinct and attractive to potential students.

English/Theatre, Algoma University College