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Agriculture and Environmental Science faculty prepares to cut courses

Next year’s course lecturer budget likely “zero”

With the continued threat of budget cuts throughout McGill, the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (FAES) is preparing for a reduction of classes.

In an internal memo addressed to Program Directors and Specialization Coordinators, FAES Associate Dean (Academic) William Hendershot pointed to the likely possibility of the faculty receiving a directive to cut low-enrolment courses, and to create a preemptive plan to manage the down-sizing “in a less damaging fashion.”

The memo reads that “in light of the severe financial situation of the University, it is quite possible that we will be faced with the need to decrease the number of courses we teach. I expect that the directive will focus on low-enrolment courses, without any consideration of the effect that this would have to our programs.”

Hendershot asked department heads to evaluate the relative importance of certain courses in programs, to rank the complementary ones in their programs and to identify those that are not essential.

Attached to the document was a list of courses described as “less important” to each program, which, as the document states, could be dropped with the least impact. These courses include those that are not prerequisites or program requirements.

Natural Resources Sciences Department Chair Jim Fyles told The Daily that the memo was the most recent part of an ongoing discussion, which has been taking place for at least five years.

“This is in part preparation. We expect there to be budget cuts, really serious budget cuts to be coming down shortly and over the next few years. This kind of prior reflection on these courses when we get into that position these are courses that we would look at to say, could we amalgamate those courses with other courses? Do we really need them to be taught?” Fyles said.

“In our case, [the memo] raised a lot of questions about how the offering of those courses link to government funding. Because we know that different courses have different government funding weight…if we decide we are going to close courses, we should have some sense of what that means in terms of its attachment to government funding,” he added.

The document also states that in all probability the budget for course lecturers will be zero in 2013-2014. “That means that other members of the teaching staff will be expected to teach courses that would otherwise be taught by lecturers,” reads the document.

According to Hendershot, teaching fewer courses will increase the time faculty members have to do other tasks that could increase revenue, like writing grant proposals and working on recruiting materials.

There are currently ten course lecturers employed in FAES, who are paid $7,200 per three-credit course.

In an email to The Daily, AGSEM-McGill Teaching Union’s Communications Officer Stefana Lamasanu wrote that AGSEM had not heard about courses being cut, but is “outraged that such decisions continue to be taken without discussing them with the course lecturers,” Lamasanu said.

“The administration is clearly not interested in consulting with those primarily affected by these cuts; this is unacceptable and worrisome.”

“There is no question that it will affect, we don’t currently have a budget line item for course lecturers, but we use a variety of funding sources, some of which are freeing up money from other locations that we use for teaching some courses and those will have to be taught in different ways,” said Fyles in response.