On Tuesday, March 10th, 2015, Wilfrid Laurier University eliminated 22 positions and planned to reduce the work hours of five others. In a press release drafted by the university, it says that these lost positions represent two percent of the university support staff and management complement. The cuts have been made in light of serious financial issues; the school is projecting a $25 million deficit for the 2015/16 school year. The school noted that this was due to enrolment changes and, “Our expenses have been rising faster than our revenues,” school president Max Blouw told CTV News. “We have no choice but to make very painful adjustments.”1 Sociology professor Dr. Eglin, who has been very vocal about his outrage regarding the IPRM spoke about the cut of his department’s administrative assistant, saying “She’s dealing with students all the time on a face-to-face, person-to-person basis. Without that interaction, this place grinds to a halt.”1 The university acknowledges the difficulties the community will face in the coming years, but specifically for those directly affected by the cuts. They have found less disruptive ways to achieve the budget:
- Reducing non-salary operating expenditures
- Offering a special voluntary retirement program
- Encouraging staff to take a voluntary reduction in hours, where possible
- Job reductions through attrition (not filling vacant positions), where possible
- Non-renewal of some limited-term contracts
- Additional review and approval of all permanent job openings prior to posting
Wilfrid Laurier University created The Integrated Planning and Resource Management or IPRM as “an initiative developed to identify academic and administrative priorities for the university and to determine how best to fund those priorities, within existing resources, to position Laurier for future success.”2 The focal point of the report was simply a question: “How can we make Laurier a better institution for our students, faculty and staff?” A planning task force was created in 2013 responsible for the oversight and delivery. The planning task force approved principles, policies, criteria, and mandates to facilitate the prioritization of Laurier’s academic and administrative programs.2 The planning task force, with the help of three additional sub-groups, created prioritization categories, academic and administrative.2
The planning task force then created a budgeting model that would be a multi–year strategy plan. The IPRM is designed to evaluate the current resources and then prioritize them based on what will be most beneficial for the future of Wilfrid Laurier University.
In light of the recent decisions regarding the IPRM, a new voice has joined the conversation in the form of Laurier Student Voices. Laurier Student Voices is a grassroots student group that seeks to provide a platform through which every student at Laurier is able to voice concerns. Laurier Student Voices’ main goal is to spread awareness to the whole student body. “It is important that everyone takes a position on what is going on. We cannot effect any change if students do not know what is happening.”3 The belief that students’ voices are stronger unified is a main emphasis in terms of their vision of student activism on campus: “Student activism will provide us with the means to make our administration not only hear our concerns, but listen to them. Students have more power than they often think.”3
Laurier Student Voices (LSV) adheres to a code of conduct in terms of the appropriate way to guide proper action in activism:
- Be informed: LSV encourages student, staff, or faculty members, or those who align themselves with the movement, to be informed of the issues or literature. They encourage those who have questions, need clarification, or have concerns to contact them here. They would like to note that inaccuracy could likely damage the credibility or confuse the debate.
- Be respectful: LSV emphasizes respect; they do not wish to tarnish or discredit the university but simply protest and discuss the issues. If public demonstrations happen they will be done respectfully and without damage to university property. They also encourage members to speak positively of the university on social media forums and in discussion. They say that they wish to demonstrate that they care about Laurier but wish for their voices, as a community, to be heard.
- Stand together in solidarity: LSV says that we, the community of concerned students, stand together regardless of individual affiliations. They maintain the members act with integrity. 3
Laurier Student Voices, upon hearing the news of the cuts in staff, posted to their Facebook page on Tuesday, March 10th, expressing their mourning for the loss of 22 irreplaceable staff members and created the hashtag #mourning22 to start a conversation within the community. “We feel that many of these changes are not in the best interest of students. Some of the recent changes involve promising us 5% operating budgets cuts for the next 5 years, firing our support staff to deal with these cuts, and encouraging our faculty to retire with their positions being filled by exploited Contract Academic Staff rather than Permanent Teaching Positions”.4 Since then, Laurier Student Voices has organized rallies (weather permitting) that took place in the quad or concourse to gain visibility, spread information about the issues, and raise concerns. The group has also posted articles relevant to the situation, provided additional information, and has reposted signs with messages of activism.
The sign was seen just off the concourse towards the Writing Center, where manger Boba Samuels was among the 22 positions cut.
The sign was seen at 202 Regina in the Archaeology wing, a floor below where the Laurier Business Administration office is located.
Laurier Student Voices has gone on to create an event designed to encourage student activism, open dialogue, and give students a chance to raise concerns with Students’ Union. “When we will be meeting with the Students’ Union, we hope to discuss their position, and how they can advocate for the large faction of students who feel threatened by the changes the school is undergoing. We hope to find a middle ground with the Students’ Union through which both groups can work together to advocate for the students.”4 The event will be an open format meeting between Laurier Student Voices and The Student’s Union, who will be answering questions and explaining their stance on the matter. Laurier Student Voices will decide whether to align with them or not. If you wish to attend, the event will be taking place Thursday, March 19th at 10:00pm in the Senate Board Chamber; all are encouraged to attend.
The university has yet to disclose details about plans for the future or any additional reduction that will be made, but it has been emphasized that this will be a multi–year strategy. Her Campus Wilfrid Laurier would like to extend our well wishes and support to those 22 who were let go.