The struggle to "Save Women's Studies" continues...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Written by Andrew Garvie

On Monday March 30, the Board of Undergraduate Studies (BUGS) voted to eliminate Women's Studies at the University of Guelph, but the campaign to Save WMST continues. The Organic Agriculture program was also voted on to be cut. A student senator and the Associate Dean and Dean of Arts all supported the cuts but the votes on the two majors were not unanimous. The "Save Women's Studies" campaign vows to continue fighting and there is now another rally planned for next week. Next Tuesday the BUGS decision will go to the Senate and there will be a rally before the meeting. There will be a survey from Guelph students that will be presented to the Senate with the hopes that it will send a clear message that Guelph students are not willing to tolerate these cuts. To sign the survey click here

Here are some photos (taken by Martina Schaefer) from last week's rally that saw around 100 students march up to the 4th floor to take their case to the administration. It was viewed as a success by those that participated.

The facebook group "Women's Studies on the chopping block at Guelph? That's BULLS**T!" has almost 2000 members and is growing daily.

Organic Agriculture majors also expressed disbelief with the BUGS decision. The program is on the cutting-edge of agricultural research as it focuses on sustainable food production.

Trent's school newspaper, the Arthur, has covered the recent cuts at UofG, which are seen as a preview of what is to come on campuses across Canada. This week Jon Lockyer, of the Arthur, wrote that "It would seem that given the current restructuring of the neo-liberal framework in larger society, that in much the same way as gendered, racialized, poor, and working-class people continue to bear the brunt of this economic failure, so to will university programs that seek to represent these very people".

The organizers of the "Save Women's Studies" campaign have recognized that the elimination of their program is only the beginning of the recession's local impact. As government funding and corporate donations to universities are expected to decline, cuts are seen as inevitable to many people. Organizers of next week's rally argue that we can have an impact to ensure that students and university workers do not "bear the brunt" of the recession. They argue that a strong student voice, aimed at both the University admin and governments, is necessary to ensure that accessible, quality education is kept as a priority and is not seen as an acceptable casualty of an economic downturn.

The rally is scheduled for April 7th at 4:30 in Branion Plaza.

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  1. Posted by: itshardtopost on Mar 31, 2009 @ 7:07pm

    100 students participated in the protest, 2000 in the facebook group. Yet, only 25 are enrolled in the major? :

    I'm not a big fan of cutting programs, but those are some pretty bad numbers. I know the points that people are giving in support of the program, that it's a forum for discussing oppression and issues of injustice. But if so few people are listening (25), I can't say it's really worth it. The stagnation thing was interesting too. Had the curriculum really not changed since 1994? 15 years without ANY changes to the program? That's insane.

  2. Posted by: JB on Apr 1, 2009 @ 6:45pm

    I want to point out that there are other programs being cut, as well as all minors. We are losing a lot of academic diversity here, there are some programs that are only offered as minors such as: Neuroscience, Ethics in Life Science, Italian, Biotechnology, Educational psychology, and others for a total of about 20 minors programs. The University is saying students can indicate speciality in these fields by showing employers/grad schools/professional schools courses in these fields, but really what are they going to say? "I took all the courses that in the past would have given me a minor in Neuroscience but my university can't afford to put the notation on my transcript". The rally on April 7th isn't just about saving Women's studies, its about the university's lack of transparency in these matters and defending academic freedom.

  3. Posted by: uogstudent on Apr 2, 2009 @ 2:13am

    Like noted above, hundreds or thousands of people will sign up for facebooks group that have little or no meaning. No, I am not saying that a womens studies group has little or no meaning. I am saying that 2000 people are 'supporting' this group by nobly allowing the group name to be posted on their profile-great. True support, in this case, would come in the way of tkaing the coures. What does that require? Hundreds of dollars, per students per semester. Now the question becomes this: will 2000 people drop five hundred dollars to take these courses? In most cases the answer is no. Should the rest of the student body pick up the tab for the students who do want to take it? Well depends if your one of the rich students, or one of the poor ones. Most might say no. It would be nice to think that the government was going to front some more cash for programs like this. In the mean time, is was noted that many schools across Canada have great women studies programs. I myself have relocated to take a desired major here in guelph. One with more students than 25. It happens all the time-relocated if needed.


  4. Posted by: on Apr 2, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    People do take the courses required in the Women's Studies major. The first year WMST course reportedly fills every year. I just looked at Webadvisor and already 358 of 401 spaces in that course are full. Its not a matter that if we cut the program that we'll save money from cutting the courses associated with the major. The first year WMST is still going to be offered. So yes, many people who are not in the major do drop $500 to take these courses.

  5. Posted by: itshardtopost on Apr 2, 2009 @ 1:12pm


    Yeah.. cutting minors out entirely is pretty BS. While I get the justification given (that minors don't really mean much in terms of a career), it's still kind of a BS cop out.

    As an aside, I wonder what's going to happen to the BAS program, since everyone in the program declares two minors as a requirement.

  6. Posted by: on Apr 2, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    It isn't like the University is denying anybody knowledge: taking a course on woman studies is not the only way to get the knowledge that the courses otherwise offer. It seems like some people have put a lot of time and effort into protesting the removal of the women studies program, but it seems like they could have just spent that time learning/teaching women studies (about which they are so passionate). I anticipate someone would say that this protest is a feminist act, however, the university is not marginalizing women studies, it is marginalizing(extremely) a program that is the best fit economically. I just think that the protesting that has taken place, and the 'facebook' group, does not represent the true passion for women that is truly held by the protesters.

  7. Posted by: Karen N on Apr 4, 2009 @ 1:53pm

    Adam.. wtf. taking a course in bio is not the only way to get that knowledge now is it? Go to the washroom..i bet you'll learn a lot about your digestive tract.grr
    Itshardtopost.. those numbers are severe you are right. I took womens studies andit was a fantastic course. Not only well run but extremely informative and hands on (discussion groups). I agree we need more students taking these courses but it does not necessarily need to be their major. Taking the course as an elective or as your minor should be just as effective

  8. Posted by: Not_My_CSA on Apr 6, 2009 @ 4:33pm

    the title reads:

    The struggle to "Save Women's Studies" continues...

    but shouldn't the word struggle be in quotations, too?

  9. Posted by: Darryl Bannon on Apr 7, 2009 @ 10:34pm

    Be aware that there will be a year of 'reflection' before the major is in fact cut as such (meaning Mar 2010). And students currently in the major will have the chance to complete it. Women's studies courses will almost certainly continue to be offered (in some sort of revised form). We shouldn't get carried away with changes that might in fact improve a program with little enrollment into electives with high interest.

  10. Posted by: itshardtopost on Apr 8, 2009 @ 2:09am

    Honestly, it sucks that the University was forced into shutting down the program, but the displays on the facebook group are downright shameful. Personal attacks and name calling against those who voted against keeping the program? Grow up.

    I'd have posted this on the facebook group's wall, but I'd rather not have my name dragged through the mud as many of their supporters seem to be doing with anyone that dissents from their opinion.

  11. Posted by: Kasia on Apr 8, 2009 @ 3:34am

    I support getting rid of minors, if only to open up the offered courses to more students. There are a number of courses specialized to science minors I would have loved to take, but have been unable to do so because I have not been registered in that minor. In the end, it's the education you receive, not the details in the title on your diploma.

    I think it's a bigger deal that the university of Guelph is cutting programs that are unique to this institution compared to others, like Environmental Toxicology. I'm sure Guelph isn't the only university to offer women's studies. Part of academic freedom is freedom to go to the university that offers the program of your choice, not to demand that the university you want to attend provides you with the program you want.

  12. Posted by: dissatisfied student on Apr 8, 2009 @ 11:43am


  13. Posted by: itshardtopost on Apr 8, 2009 @ 12:24pm

    ^ - Point proven, thank you.

  14. Posted by: Darryl Bannon on Apr 8, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    You know, I don't think I've spoken to anyone as yet (out of maybe 15-20 students, undergrad & grad) who are specifically opposed to the cuts - concerned, yes, particularly if the program is near and dear to them. Without a doubt some people oppose the cuts as protests would indicate, but it certainly seems that the vast silent majority is at the very least indifferent. I do acknowledge that this may be a product of a lack of information - even after attending a number of meetings I was still learning new stuff at last night's senate meeting. However I think the big picture message that certain programs, courses and minors (all of them) will eventually be cut has been relatively clear for some time.

    As a student senator myself I believe my role is to vote for what is arguably in the best interest of the university balanced against what the students I presume to represent want. In this case I think both of these sometimes competing interests are aligned in favour of cuts to support a stronger university in the future. That being said, some programs might warrant at least a temporary reprieve such as was issued to organic agriculture last night.

  15. Posted by: Darryl Bannon on Apr 8, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    We should all be happy (regardless of our views on the issues at end) that we live in a society where we are able to engage in such vigorous debate and reflection. Except for some comments, etc. at the end of a long meeting last night I would say that due process was followed to a tee with everyone who wished to speak given the chance to do so. An invigorating example of freedom of speech. The meeting was certainly the most exciting one I've been to in the past couple years on the senate, even if excessively long.
    I do wonder what will happen to the rest of the unfinished senate business - will it be pushed to the summer session when no one's there?

  16. Posted by: visitor on Apr 8, 2009 @ 1:42pm

    Everyone who wished to speak was not given the chance to do so. Only those who knew that they had to shout out or pre-register their name to speak were allowed to. The senate meeting was not the appropriate place to have such a debate. I assure you there were many more people who wished to speak but were not given the opportunity to do so, or were not comfortable standing up to the university administration, tons of faculty and staff, elected students, visitors and the media.

  17. Posted by: x on Apr 8, 2009 @ 7:33pm

    Anyone who is elected to any kind of offense is, in my opinion, far game for criticism. No one's called the academic commissioner ugly or anything, these attacks are all based on the decision she made, and no matter how harsh, I think they're perfectly valid. We call Harper names, we'll call our CSA names. That's the nature of the business.

  18. Posted by: x on Apr 8, 2009 @ 7:34pm

    Ha! Well that was a telling slip. Offense = office.

  19. Posted by: Re: Karen N on Apr 9, 2009 @ 8:07am

    "I agree we need more students taking these courses but it does not necessarily need to be their major. Taking the course as an elective or as your minor should be just as effective."

    Karen I was just wondering if you were for or against the cut of women studies. I may have misunderstood but it seemed the first part of your post was pro-keeping and the second part was pro-cut.

  20. Posted by: Re: Karen N on Apr 9, 2009 @ 8:09am

    errr, the part I quoted was the part I thought was pro cut, not both.

  21. Posted by: John L on Apr 10, 2009 @ 5:33pm

    It strikes me that one problem appears to be the underestimation of the university admin.

    -Headlines like "student outrage at..."
    doesn't really seem the reality when
    a couple of hundred protesters are on a
    campus of 18,000. A relative handful
    of students who shout a lot doesn't
    alter the reality.

    -It takes about 5 minutes of research to
    find out that Summerlee's salary is
    very much in the middle of the pack
    for other Ontario universities so, even
    if it was relevent, it isn't really
    a good argument. Turns out he's
    wrestled his pay to what everyone else

    -The benchmarks for what is to be cut
    are standard across to board so no
    is "picking on" anyone's favorite

    -Saving .17% of the deficit by cutting
    one program may seems trivial, however
    cutting 10 or 20 underenrolled
    programs will save millions. That
    could translate into dozens of jobs.

  22. Posted by: Not_My_CSA on Apr 11, 2009 @ 12:03pm

    re: dissatisfied student

    this year's CSA has been the LAMEST student government of my university career.

    i understand your frustration, you want the academic commissioner impeached. join the group. communication commissioner, jeff rotman, is currently in the process of being fired. and finance and human resources commissioner, joel harnest, campaigned on lies and should be canned as well. WHERE'S OUR CO-CURRICULAR TRANSCRIPT, JOEL!?!! if the CSA were a university course they'd be given a failing grade, for sure!

  23. Posted by: duh on Apr 22, 2009 @ 2:42pm

    clarifying one of the many statements you made that need clarifying...
    the csa cannot just "fire" any of the five commissioners, only the undergraduate student body can do that. same goes for "impeachment".

  24. Posted by: Jammin on Apr 23, 2009 @ 9:32am

    the commissioners are done in a week anyway, hopefully this charade will go away then. this year has been the worst csa ever, they are all an embarrassment to the university, i still can't believe they get paid for the crap they pulled. let's see if any of them get jobs outside of the csa and in the real world.

  25. Posted by: ugh on Apr 25, 2009 @ 10:03am

    These commenters have been the worst ever!

    I've seen monkey cages with more dignity

  26. Posted by: Wondering on Apr 27, 2009 @ 4:04pm

    When did the Men's studies get dropped?

  27. Posted by: George on Apr 29, 2009 @ 2:28pm

    I guess it's safe to assume there will be no more articles posted on theCannon until September. The paid Cannon staff need to take a 4 month hiatus, their 2-3 articles per month was all they could muster for 8 months!

  28. Posted by: Someone on May 3, 2009 @ 10:10pm

    Wondering, Men's studies never existed. Why? Because men don't complain like women do. Or should I say that: "women are always treated badly, while men are always the a$$holes"?

    Also, why is there more severe penalty when a man hits a woman as compared to when a man hits a man? Thats not equality, is it? Is it because men are usually physically stronger? If thats the case, a lot of feminists need to shut their mouth about how men are not physically stronger.

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