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Queen’s students speaking out over secrecy around cuts

Last Updated on December 15, 2023 by Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A town hall led by Queen’s Provost Matthew Evans and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Barbara Crow was interrupted by student protestors on Monday.

Queen’s University barred students from attending the event, whereas students are calling for more transparency around the massive proposed cuts that have leaked and the school’s priorities for the upcoming years.

Students eventually entered the town hall in silent protest, leading to Provost Evans walking off stage without answering the most recent question posed.

At the town hall students were told that Provost Evans will attend a meeting in the new year of the Arts and Science Undergraduate Assembly and Alma Mater Society, but some feel the university is intentionally trying to avoid keeping them in the loop.

Ethan Chilcott, with the group Queen’s Students Vs Cuts, said that the first mention of any kind of meeting with students only came following pressure from a grad student who was begrudgingly permitted to ask a question at the town hall.

“These are not things that have been widely announced,” Chilcott said.

“There’s no press release, there’s been nothing like that… And they didn’t even say they’ll be available to answer questions, they said they will speak to the AMS and ASUS assemblies.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Queen’s AMS says Provost Evans has formally agreed to attend the AMS assembly where students will be able to ask questions and voice concerns, and the AMS has created a form to ask questions for students who prefer to remain anonymous.

Chilcott and other students say their voices are not being heard even though they should be part of this conversation.

He says now is the time when students, whether already at Queen’s or seeking out a new home for postsecondary education, will be considering their options for the upcoming school year, and that Queen’s administration is allowing people to hang in uncertainty.

The small, intimate nature that the university uses as a selling point for certain courses is the very thing that may make them a target for cutbacks.

“December, January, that’s when students really start accepting their admittances to a university and none of this stuff has been acknowledged publicly,” Chilcott said.

“People are potentially rejecting offers from other universities to come to Queen’s… what they advertise is, you know, small class sizes, individualized learning, strong arts, but none of this stuff will still exist in the future.”

On Monday, Evans said he regularly has meetings with student representatives and reiterated that there would be an opportunity in the new year, but he said the plan was to just have the town hall be with staff.

The Provost told faculty that without immediate action, the university will run out of its reserves in two years time and that the FAS will run through reserves as soon as next year.

He said tapping into reserved revenues to offset the operating budget deficit would be shortsighted, and difficult decisions are required to avoid catastrophe.

“We cannot use endowments, we cannot use money that has been provided for research, and use that for operating funds,” Evans said.

“They have to be used for the purposes which they were given. In the end, that’s why Laurentian went down; it started using money that it shouldn’t be using… I am also concerned about the survival of this institution, because unless we sort this out, we will go under.”

When questioned about cuts that the Provost office could make, Evans said that they already have done so and are now in structural balance, but it didn’t stop staff from calling for cuts to administration – a line of conversation that didn’t amuse the Provost.

“It’s a shame that there’s this antagonism here. No, it is. It’s easy for you to hate me. And it’s not funny, it’s very not funny. Do you think it’s straightforward to be here?” Evans said.

“This is very, very serious. Queen’s could cease to exist if we don’t deal with this issue. It could. We are trying to save Arts & Sciences.”

Evans added that while the projected operating budget deficit was decreased from over $62 million to $48 million, the FAS’ estimated share of that increased from $27 million to $37 million.

The Provost said there will be cross subsidizing from other faculties to keep courses afloat, but which courses will make the cut is based on a value system that nobody is able, or willing, to identify.

In fact the town hall offered very little outlook into what the university’s concrete steps will be to address the deficit, only that it’s course towards cuts has been determined and layoffs will be inevitable.

Queen did not initially return request for comment.

After Monday, students still want answers, and are demanding a professional audit from an external source.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporterhttp://ygknews.ca
Born and raised in Whitby, Ontario, Owen has been living in Kingston for about three years after starting the band Willy Nilly. Prior to that he worked at CKLB radio in Yellowknife and completed studies in Niagara College's Broadcasting program.

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