Halifax – News that Acadia University received $24.5 million in emergency funding came as a surprise to over 1,400 hundred faculty, contract staff and librarians at eight universities across Nova Scotia represented by the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT).
“Our concern is not with Acadia University receiving this additional funding,” says ANSUT president Scott Stewart. “Obviously Acadia did need that money, and we are happy they received it. Our concern, rather, is the ad hoc, secretive manner in which the funds were distributed.” Stewart says that the government is missing the point that all Nova Scotia universities have been drastically underfunded for decades. “Even with the unreasonable increases forced onto students through tuition, our universities (and our students) are struggling to make ends meet.”
“By passing Bill 100 in 2015, The Liberal government in Nova Scotia has made it virtually impossible for universities even to request additional funding without risking their autonomy and the academic freedom and collective bargaining rights of their faculty,” says Stewart. “In other words, behind closed doors, the government seems to be acting one way while publicly acting in a completely different manner.” He offers Cape Breton University (CBU), where he is a professor, as an example. “The (former) President, David Wheeler, and our Board of Governors threatened to lay off approximately 20 per cent of our faculty shortly after Bill 100 was passed, claiming that CBU was in a financial crisis. Only the extraordinary work of the CBU Faculty Association averted that disaster – at least for the time being. But there is no guarantee that this won’t happen at any of the other universities in the province.”
Stewart says that University Presidents and Boards are not blameless in this. “Increasingly, they prioritize administrative expenses and infrastructure ahead of teaching and research expenses. This has to stop. But so too does the chronic underfunding of our universities”.