Bracing for reductions

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Since 22 staff and management positions were eliminated at Wilfrid Laurier University on March 9, students and faculty have been looking for answers and solutions.

Jonathan Finn, chair of the communication studies department, said there is quite a lot of work to be managed after the junior administration assistant for communication studies, Susan Muck, had her hours reduced.

“They’re cutting [Muck’s] hours down significantly, which means that I think ultimately students are going to have to get used to not having the same level of support and service that they’ve had in the past,” Finn said.

According to Finn, Muck’s reduced hours means he, as well as the intermediate administrative assistant, Silvia Hoang, will take over some of the workload. Muck’s position was the only one reduced in the department.

“We’re going to have to start doing less or providing less kind of one-on-one help for students and just stop doing some kind of service all together,” Finn explained.

According to Finn, there has been no advice or contingency plan given to the departments since the staff cuts.

“It has just happened and there’s been nothing in terms of support or suggestions of how we should deal with this.”

Dean of arts Michael Carroll said all students and staff will get the same level of service even though there has been a reduction in the number of faculty members and courses offered to students.

Overall, four staff positions were declared “redundant” and the hours for three staff positions were reduced in the faculty of arts.

“Having a budget deficit and the need to make cuts is unfortunate, but given that we have to do it, I believe, and working with my admin manager, we believe that we will be able to offer the same level of service to everybody,” said Carroll.

The reason why the positions were eliminated was because they were supposedly found to be redundant. At the divisional arts council meeting on Friday, a motion was put forward to reverse the redundancies and allow the staff to return to work.

The motion passed unanimously with one abstention, and will now go forward to Laurier president Max Blouw and vice-president of academic and provost Deborah MacLatchy.

According to Finn, one of the bigger problems of the staff cuts is the bizarre timing. There are just over two more weeks left in the term, not including the exam period.

“Susan [Muck]’s situation is not finalized yet and so I have no idea what we’re going to do — we’re not getting instruction from anyone about how to handle this,” said Finn.

Finn also said communication studies students would have to get used to less support and service on the frontline of the department.

Things may get more “centralized,” like advising or services, but it will be less than expected.

When asked if the faculty will fall behind in their work, Carroll said he believes no work will have to be pushed back.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to do this, but the university is facing a budget deficit and this only goes part of the way towards reducing that deficit,” said Carroll.

He added that Laurier is not the only university experiencing these cuts, but is one of multiple universities across Canada and the United States.

Finn noted his biggest frustration is how the cuts were unannounced so close to the end of the winter term.

He said it will be difficult for him to meet prospective students who will be coming to Laurier at the open house later this week.

“I have to do that with a big smile on my face and tell them how awesome this place is, and it’s very hard to do that when something like this has just happened.”

 

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