Correction appended January 17, 2013.
Pressure on the provincial government is escalating as Quebec universities begin to mobilize against the $124 million budget cut initiated by the Parti Québécois (PQ).
The budget cut came as surprise to universities across the province when it was announced last month, in the middle of the 2012 fiscal year. Student and administrative groups across campus are starting to mobilize their opposition to the cuts. Alvin Shrier, president of the McGill Association of University Teachers (MAUT) talked to The Daily about publicly denouncing the budgetary restraints.
“People have to stand up and speak with a loud voice. For the government to expect a university to come to a substantial cut late in the fiscal year while preparing for something different – well it’s hard to imagine the government doing that on itself,” he said.
MAUT sent a motion to all parties concerned as well as the Montreal Gazette at the end of last year. The motion calls for “all universities, student associations and faculty unions and associations to establish a unified and common position in demanding a reversal of the budget policy on higher education and research put forward by the Quebec Government.”
Quebec universities are now faced with cuts of up to 15 per cent over the next four months, according to the MAUT motion.
Shrier expressed concern over what kind of cuts McGill would implement, fearing students services will be the first to face adjustments.
“I could see some of the first cuts we’ll see will be on student services,” he said.
The McGill University Non-Academic Certified Association (MUNACA) has also reacted to the cuts.
“It is completely unreasonable that these cuts are retroactive, made well after university budgets have been set. McGill’s budget includes a recently signed collective agreement and a soon to be signed pay equity agreement, both of which MUNACA and McGill achieved with help from government conciliators,” read MUNACA’s official statement.
“No matter how universities might make these cuts, they will be damaging to the core functions of universities, which will ultimately be damaging to the province generally.”
The cuts were announced nearly two months before the upcoming summit on higher education slated for late February. SSMU VP External Robin-Reid Fraser expressed concern about the effects of these cuts on the summit.
“The impression given before was that all options were on the table, to be discussed in a constructive way…it was very poor timing on the government’s part”.
SSMU will be releasing a statement on the matter shortly, but indicated a consensus of discontentment with the cuts.
The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) also pointed to the summit in their own press release stating: “With the Quebec Summit on Higher Education to be held in February, these cuts undermine the Government’s credibility to genuinely address the issue of higher education funding.”
PGSS is calling for the Quebec government to reverse their decision on the university cuts.
Principal Heather Munroe-Blum will be participating in a pre-summit meeting on January 17 and January 18 on the topic of governance and financing of universities. The meeting will be held at Université de Sherbrooke.