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100 Arts classes to be eliminated

Arts senator alleges cuts are punishment for Course Lecturer unionization

Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi announced last Wednesday at a Faculty of Arts Committee meeting that as many as 100 classes in the Faculty of Arts are set to be terminated for the 2013-2014 academic year. The number represents 8 per cent of Arts courses.

The cuts have been under consideration since September of last year.

According to Manfredi, smaller classes currently taught by full-time professors will be cut, and the professors moved to larger lectures at the expense of the temporary course lecturers currently teaching them.

In an email to The Daily,  Manfredi wrote that that the objective was to “increase the proportion of Arts courses and students taught by permanent, full-time faculty members.”
“Whenever possible and reasonable, our Arts courses ought to be taught by permanent, full-time faculty members rather than temporary teaching staff,” he wrote.

Each individual department within the Faculty of Arts will decide how to achieve the objective.

“One way to achieve this objective is to ask permanent, full-time faculty members to teach slightly fewer of the lower enrolment courses and to teach instead more of the larger introductory and intermediate courses that are often currently being taught by temporary teaching staff (called course lecturers at McGill). Another way to achieve this objective is to rotate lower enrolment courses on a two or three year basis.  Yet another way is to replace several lower enrolment courses with a more broadly defined slot course,” wrote Manfredi.

The move, according to Manfredi, will save the faculty money that will then be put directly into other teaching support like Teaching Assistants (TAs) and activities like internship programs and student advising.

“Additional TAs and TA-ships will mean more financial support for graduate students, smaller conference sections, better undergraduate student access to certain courses, and more time for professors to have substantive interactions with students,” stated Manfredi.

AGSEM–McGill’s Teaching Union president Lilian Radovac told The Daily that she was surprised and disappointed by the decision. The union is composed of three units: course lecturers, invigilators, and teaching assistants.

“No one from the faculty spoke with the union that represents course lecturers at McGill, even to give us a heads-up, let alone to consult with us on this move,” said Radovac.

The course lecturers unit of the union was certified in August 2011 and is currently negotiating their first collective agreement with the University. According to Radovac, the decision of cutting classes was not addressed during negotiations with the administration.

Arts Senator James Gutman told The Daily that he believed the administration is “punishing course lecturers for unionizing.”

“What this does is pit course lecturers against TAs, because they’re saying: ‘we’re going to cut course lecturers but we’re going to give it to TAs’,” he said.

Radovac stated that AGSEM stands united in its opposition to these cuts. “[The teaching assistant unit in AGSEM] is aware of the fact that McGill does not deal fairly with any of its employee groups and they’ve had twenty years of experience learning that.”

Radovac also stated that the decision to cut smaller classes will negatively affect the quality of education at McGill.

“We don’t have enough [small classes] as it is, our students are crying out for more intimate learning settings and instead of giving more opportunity to learn in a smaller class environment with more one-on-one time with their instructors, the university is now going to give them less of that.”

Arts Undergraduate Society VP Academic Tom Zheng, believes that “courses should not be cut, students should have access to a diversity of courses.”

Zheng also mentioned that while he encouraged an increase in the number of TAs to reduce the TA to student ratio, classes should not be cut to achieve this. “Both [increase in TA and course lecturers] should be done without one affecting the other,” he said.

The decision-making process is still ongoing and a Town Hall meeting – planned by the AUS – for the Dean and students to discuss is planned for January 22.