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Guelph to Cut Organic Agriculture

This latest academic debacle was just brought to my attention.  How sad that the organic agriculture program, unique in Canada, as well as the women’s studies program, are to be cut at Guelph.  What a giant step backwards.  Guelph U, you should be ashamed that you are letting this happen, regardless of the “it’s out of our hands” excuses you are making.

Universities are slashing their programs left and right, but these are not the areas that we can afford to be cutting.  We need fresh ideas and new thinking.  Instead government (and thus universities) are putting all their support into business and technology degrees.  Programs that challenge the mainstream business model are deemed peripheral, and cut.  How is it possible that we are moving in the wrong direction?

For more details, here’s an article on the Guelph cuts.  Basically they are cutting all programs with low enrollment, an approach that seems to have become a standard practice of purported “fairness” in terms of who gets cut.  Equal opportunity for everyone.  You don’t attract enough students?  Too bad, so sad.  Goodbye.  No matter that some programs receive more funding, and – probably more importantly – more ideological support, than others.  No, this “trimming of the fat” approach is supposed to make the decision as to who stays and who goes a fair and equal one.

Sadly, the impact is neither fair, nor equal.  The outcome is a slashing of programs that are just starting out (like the organic agriculture program) or that are pushing the boundaries of new ideas.  These tend to have fewer students, but often attract the best and the brightest, or at least those willing to take chances and try something new.  What we’ve been doing just hasn’t exactly been working out that well, so we need new thought and ideas!  But alas, our illustrious leadership is making sure that just won’t happen.

The same thing is going on here at Western, and in my department they are cutting all courses with enrollment of fewer than 25 people.  That translates to the elimination of all special topics classes, and also of most sessional instructors (but of course, they are not discriminating against any group, it’s just coincidentally working out that way…).  I was supposed to teach a course this year in Food Security and it was cut because the enrollment was fewer than 25.  Apparently food security is really not very important because not enough students signed up to study it.  Good thing we have a market model of education in place!  No point in learning stuff that doesn’t translate directly into a job…

I’ve stated before that with crisis comes opportunity, but those we permit to make life changing decisions on our behalf are doing nothing but sticking their heads in the sand and ensuring that we follow the same patterns that got us here in the first place.  How are students supposed to broaden their horizons if all they have access to is the mainstream?  

We are perpetuating disaster.


2 Responses

  1. At first I thought this was an April Fools Joke, but a check of the original article in the Guelph Mercury was dated March 31.

    This seems like an unenlightened decision from an university until you realize that they are corporations and will make short term business decisions due to their nature. Sad and annoying but not surprising.

    • Yes, education has really become a commodity, and the university a business. There’s always been some element of this in academia, but now this mentality rules. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to turn it around now, or if this is the way of the future. Hopefully not!

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