Financial Cuts Threaten ConU’s Fine Arts Faculty

Arts Students Need to Get Involved, Be Aware

  • Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

When the Parti Québécois announced cuts to university funding, I knew the Faculty of Fine Arts would get hit. After all, all of Concordia’s faculties were inevitably going to see their budgets cut.

What I didn’t expect was for a 15 to 20 per cent reduction of the non-salary and non-permanent budget of the Fine Arts Faculty. This amounts to roughly $500,000 to $800,000.

I’m also a little angry—actually, I’m very angry—about the fact that the administration has mostly failed to keep students informed of the cuts.

Dean of Fine Arts Catherine Wild, for instance, sent a memo to faculty members about the budget cuts. She urged them to pass on the information to their students, but inexplicably never got around to directly sending the memo out to students herself.

I guess, to her credit, she did meet with Fine Arts Student Alliance executives to talk about the cuts—but meeting with six students out of over 3,000 seems like a really hollow gesture.

Given that I had already found out about the seriousness of the cuts from another student in another faculty two days earlier, this meeting seemed like it was already too little, too late. In fact, my source proved to have more useful information for me than the administration.

What the administration now slowly seems to be realizing is that fine arts students don’t take anything lying down. It’s not in our nature.

What started out as two-minute class presentations quickly turned into full-on discussions about the severity of the budget cuts and how they might affect students in our faculty. The most prevalent response from students has been, “How did I not know that this was happening?”

Simply put, because information is not being disseminated to you.

From conversations I’ve had with my fellow student politicians in the Concordia Student Union, cuts to the other faculties have been kind of hush-hush so far.

A word of advice to students in other faculties: start poking the bear. And by bear, I mean Bram Freedman in the Office of the Vice-President.

He’s the guy you email if you want to know stuff. You can send him Access to Information requests about the cuts going on in your faculty. It may take a while, but he is up for review this year, so it’s in his interest to grant you your request.

“What the administration now slowly seems to be realizing is that fine arts students don’t take anything lying down. It’s not in our nature.”

As soon as I found out about the cuts, I went to go see the Concordia Association of Students in Theatre, since it appears that the theatre department will be hit the hardest in the Fine Arts Faculty.

CAST has started a petition to keep their summer classes, and I hope you read CAST treasurer Ned Zimmerman’s piece for The Link last week [Vol. 33, Iss. 25], because I have the greatest respect and admiration for everything that CAST has been doing over the past month.

The FASA council unanimously opposed the cuts and we’re circulating a petition in our classes for students to sign. If you’re a fine arts student, I strongly suggest that you sign it, and if you’d like to help, feel free to stop by VA-025 in the VA Building between Monday and Friday to pick up copies of the petition to circulate around.

A university is supposed to be a place for learning. Money should be going to those who need it the most, the students. What I can’t comprehend is the obvious lack of understanding on the part of the people who are deciding how much gets cut where.

By their very nature, fine arts programs are expensive to run. Studio and workshop classes have to remain small in order for teachers to be able to give feedback to students. Students also need resource labs to be able to complete their projects.

I understand that that makes Fine Arts less than cost-effective, but I think that there is a strong argument to be made for the prestige that our faculty brings to the university in spite of this.

Every year, people turn down admissions offers with scholarship money from other universities to come to Concordia because our Fine Arts faculty is truly top-notch—because it’s small and provides an intimate working atmosphere.

This format has produced Tony winners, official Cannes selections, Oscar nominees and world-class artists. Concordia loves to then wave those achievements in the public’s face every chance that it gets—rightfully so, because our faculty is awesome.

Excuse me, though, for being a little baffled that those achievements are apparently meaningless when the university is asked to put its money where its mouth is and find ways to support its Fine Arts programs as much as it can.

The silver lining in this situation is that the administration is taking notice. CAST’s petition resulted in a meeting with the Dean on March 13. And thanks to negotiations on the part of the Fine Arts faculty, the theatre summer classes are back on. I may or may not be singing Queen’s “We Are the Champions” right now.

Erika Couto is the VP Clubs & Services of the Fine Arts Student Alliance and an ex-officio officer for Fine Arts with the CSU. This article represents her own opinions, and not those of FASA or the CSU.

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