Many classes sat empty during lunch hour at Simon Fraser University today.
Students and faculty made a lunch date to join together in protest of provincial funding cuts implemented last year by the British Columbia government lead by Premier Gordon Campbell.
The protest has received the support of the University’s senate which passed an academic amnesty motion in January encouraging faculty to accommodate students planning to attend the protest. (I’m told that many professors have cancelled classes.)
Last spring, in a classic case of smoke-and-mirrors, the Campbell government announced a ‘re-prioritization’ of higher education funding. According to the government, they were moving from universities into high demand college programs in health care and the skilled trades.
Once the spotlights were off, it was quickly realized that the government was actually cutting both colleges and universities while playing a shell game..
The cutbacks were a major factor in the president of the University of Northern British Columbia decision to resign and return to the United States.
Most concerning for British Columbia universities is that these cuts occurred prior to the economic slowdown at a time when the government balance sheets could have afforded the funds necessary to provide stable funding to universities. If universities were so low on the government’s priority list when it had money; what is going to happen now that the government is facing a major budget shortfall?
This is an election year, it is quite possible that a strong showing on Burnaby mountain may get the attention of Premier Campbell in Victoria.
Then again, Campbell has kept Minister of Advanced Education Murray Coell on the job despite the attention he’s receiving from us pundits.