Group angry after Redford cancels campus appearance
Photo by Kassidy ChristensenChants of, “Where is Redford,” and, “No ifs, no buts, no education cuts,” filled the courtyard and halls of Mount Royal University where more than 150 students and faculty members rallied outside the school’s East Gate the morning of Sept. 25.
The disgruntled group came prepared with picket signs and megaphones to spread the word about their frustrations with the lack of provincial government presence and budget cutbacks at the post secondary institution.
Wolfgang Knox, one of the organizers of the event and member of the MRU Student Empowerment Committee, led the protest alongside other frustrated students and faculty.
“We thought it was important to bring students together in a passion-inspired environment where they would be able to hear from each other the effects that they’ve been dealing with because of the provincial budget cuts,” Knox said.
Photo by Kassidy Christensen
Last spring the provincial budget was announced, but due to a shortfall in revenue, the province said it had to trim down some of the funds allocated to post secondary education.
“Yes there was a promise of sustainable funding,” said Janice Schroeder, press secretary for deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk in a phone interview. “But then there was also budget reality of a $6-billion shortfall that happened in energy revenues.”
“It was a difficult decision for the government to look at how to deal with that shortfall revenue, and part of it was a reduction in the post secondary budget,” Schroeder said.
For Mount Royal, the financial cuts resulted in a $14-million shortage in funds for 2013. Parking passes for the semester went from $200 to $280, and a mandatory $125 per semester student fee was added.
In addition to the increase in dollars spent, students are seeing larger class sizes, fewer spaces available in specific programs, faculty layoffs, reduced enrolment rates and fewer computer labs, meaning students are now required to bring their own laptops.
“You’re seeing a lot of students that don’t know how to come up with the money to pay for school anymore,” Knox said.
Where is Redford?
To add to the frustrations of students and faculty, Premier Redford announced that she would be making a public appearance at Mount Royal on Sept. 25, but cancelled due to scheduling conflicts shortly after the rally was announced.
“What’s a student to think about that (Redford cancelling her appearance)?,” Knox said. “She was going to come talk to students about the value of arts education in the province and the following day she cuts it. I’m personally not impressed.”
Photo by Kassidy Christensen
Mount Royal anthropology student Elizabeth Bassie has been feeling the effects of the cutbacks as many of her required classes have been cut.
“I won’t be able to have the experience or courses required if I choose to go on to further my education, whether it’s a masters degree or PhD,” Bassie said.
“I want to see a change,” Bassie said, “a change from where we’re at right now and moving into a better education future for us.”
As a member of the Student Empowerment Committee, Bassie hopes that the group raises awareness and shows Premier Redford that students, “are standing up and that there is something changing,” Bassie said.
The committee hopes to “provide a platform for students to be able to raise their voices into the public sphere,” Knox said.
The first steps being taken are simply raising awareness throughout campus, and connecting with other institutions through faculty and students, Knox said.
“All the different characters play a role in that, and getting more on board with each other, and keeping up with the right positive, progressive plan so that when we do discuss with the government, we can have a positive approach,” Knox said.
“I think just about any student here or in this province can identify with (the frustration), which is why we stand together and push our right, and the rights of education,” Knox said.
For more information on future rallies or the goals of the Student Empowerment Committee, visit the group’s Facebook page.
Due to the nature of this article, it is important to disclose that the Calgary Journal is produced and overseen by Mount Royal University students and faculty.