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The group that represents Ryerson full-time faculty says the way the university is contemplating budget cuts would have dire consequences and will affect certain programs more than others.
An email sent Friday from the Ryerson Faculty Association (RFA) to its members outlined the union’s concerns about the slashing of the budget. Earlier in the week, the RFA hosted a “standing-room only” town hall where members expressed concerns about the budget cutting process.
Ryerson has said it expects the cuts to cost upwards of $29 million, due to the reduction in domestic student tuition by 10 per cent. That cut was ordered by the provincial government in January, leaving post-secondary institutions scrambling to adjust their budgets.
But the RFA says Ryerson’s process has been problematic.
“The execution of the budget process appears to be having a gendered impact,” the email sent Friday reads in part. “The faculties where the most extreme cuts are being imposed are those with the greater proportion of women faculty members and also those with the lower salary levels.”
Joey Power, a history professor who attended the town hall, said the Faculty of Community Services was requested to submit its budgetary plans earlier than others, which caused alarm over the potential for the downsize to hinder the faculty.
She also claimed that it was said the Faculty of Community Services would have to erase eight courses.
“So one of the most marginalized programs is under threat. So much for EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusivity) being part of our DNA,” Power said.
The RFA also expressed its unease about the budget’s ability to uphold the university’s mandate. “It also appears as if the budget has not made any attempt to protect the core mission and activities of the university.”
Power concurred, saying that the cuts would affect the ability of the university to prioritize students and protect Ryerson’s core business.
“We have the highest student to permanent faculty ratio in Ontario,” Power said. “I cannot help but think that will take the place of Ryerson’s main mandate, which they say is to prioritize students and students who do not have a rational exam schedule.”
Power said she personally encountered issues with balancing her schedule, and the rising problem of larger classrooms, which she expects will deepen after the budget cutbacks.
“We do take what we do seriously and there have been in my mind a real palpable decline in not just physical working conditions,” she said. “We see our enrolments go up, we see timetables that are less than optimal in terms of fulfilling our teaching and our service commitments, but certainly our research commitments. That is not because scheduling is evil, but because they have to deal with the shortage of teaching space.”
The email said the RFA would enlist a third-party auditor to analyze the university’s finances. The aim is to produce “an ‘alternative budget'” so RFA members could have “more informed involvement in decision making at the university-wide level and at the level of their respective schools/departments.”
The lack of transparency was a problem echoed by the RFA in the email.
“The opaqueness of the budget was raised and it was questioned whether this budget represents the most appropriate allocation of the university’s resources at this time and whether alternate measures are not available.”
Additionally, RFA members questioned the university’s plans to decrease the budget when a 2018 audit revealed the university was operating at a $64,275 million surplus.
“I think the union’s position is that it’s not entirely clear that we are in crisis, but there seem to be some funds, which might be used to offset cutbacks,” Power said.
She added that people were “mystified by the cuts” and confused because Ryerson’s future revenue stream remains foggy.
The university will host the last in its series of budget town halls on Monday, for faculty only. The meetings have been held to get feedback from the university community about where cuts should be made.