Summerlee, you should be ashamed of yourself

Monday, May 16, 2005


Written by Dan Chappell

Dear Summerlee,

A little over a month ago, you and your Board of Governors held a meeting
regarding next year’s budget. Students had to fight their way through police
and fire marshals so that they, as well as workers, would be allowed to attend
this allegedly public meeting. At this meeting your excuse for not considering
alternative budget plans was that you could not risk taking a deficit because
the government might not increase funding to universities.

Yet, today I find myself reading a press release stating that the government did
indeed decide to increase funding to Ontario universities, by $1.8 billion
dollars. Even if this money was divided evenly between all of Ontario's 18
universities and 25 colleges that would leave the University of Guelph with
more than $41 million over the next two years. The deficit you could have taken
to get rid of the increase to international tuition fees and allow workers to
keep their jobs was only $11 million. I think you can see the connection I'm
trying to make here.

I can also see that you attempted to justify this in the press release by saying
that it's going to take two years to get at that money. This does not make
sense. You’ve missed the point of a deficit entirely. The idea of the deficit
is to go into debt because you don‘t have the money this year, and need to wait
until you do. It will only take an extra year to get it. You've never had to
shoulder any of this debt yourself. In fact, the million's of dollars that you
and your administration makes every year was never in jeopardy during the
budget talks, and likely never will be.

Your other point is that much of this money is targeted and so you would have to
invest in some specific programs to access that money. That's also beside the
point. By your own admittance a portion of the budget is non-targeted. Maybe
you could even try reworking the budget before deciding that it's not worth
your time.

You can't make things better by saying that "it’s sometimes difficult to
understand the need to deal with cutbacks," especially since you still don't
have to deal with any cutbacks yourself. Try telling that to an international
student who has to drop out of school, get an extra job, or not even bother
coming to this university because it's the only school in Ontario that made
such an increase and they can‘t afford it. Try saying that to a worker who will
soon be out of a job. What's worse, you're saying that they have to deal with
these cutbacks so you can "modernize" campus. I wonder what good avoiding this
deficit will be in several years when all those perfectly useful buildings are
gone to make way for the prettier modern versions but getting a degree here
means nothing because there's no infrastructure left. Though I suppose that
depends on whether you bother to hire anybody to do the construction. You'll
have to delete that part on the front page of the university website about your
commitment to internationalism too.

You should be ashamed of yourself.


Dan Chappell

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