By Lauren Golosky
Universities across North America are going through turbulence and Saskatchewan’s universities are no exception.
Both universities are currently facing deficits. The University of Saskatchewan is projecting a deficit of $44.5 million, while the University of Regina is facing a three per cent cut across all departments.
Each university is reacting to these budgetary challenges differently, with the U of S instituting TransformUS, a prioritization program that includes two taskforces that will review academic programming and support services. The budget cutting program is hoping to save the university $20-$25 million dollars annually.
As the universities are now challenged to cut their budgets, some student groups are concerned their interests are getting lost in the business side of post-secondary education. At the U of S, the TransformUS task forces include three students. Students’ Union president Jared Brown is content that the university allowed some student membership on the task forces.
“I don’t think the university would have allowed us to have 51 per cent of the members,” he said. “I think we understand that, but would I have liked more? Absolutely. But I am happy we do have people on the task forces.”
However, students at the U of R are less pleased with student representation at the University Council meeting on March 6. Bart Soroka, the U of R Students’ Union LGBTQ director, was disappointed they were only able to fill some of the spots mandated for student representation on the council.
“The administration was actually supposed to do council elections every year in the fall and they never did them so we actually ended up coming into the council meeting with five members instead of 50, which we were supposed to have,” he explained. “I spent about a week desperately, desperately trying to get up to 50, but the administration, and at the end of the day, myself as well, realized that the language of the document would not let us appoint councilors.”
URSU president Nathan Sgrazzutti was also unhappy with student representation at the council meeting, adding that “we were caught by bylaws and rules that we feel weren’t very fairly administered.”
Although a student representative put forward an amendment asking for non-member students to be allowed to comment during the meeting, the amendment was rejected. Sgrazzutti and Soroka are concerned students will continue to be underrepresented, especially in relation to a motion that recommended a separate budget committee be created.
“I just want to make sure when we do have these breakout committees, when we do have these other groups if they end up being formed, that we still do have student representation on them because, as important as faculty and administration are to the university, without students the place couldn’t run,” said Soroka.
One student representative requested an amendment that would require 10 per cent of student representation on a separate budget committee, but it was rejected, as the committee’s composition had not yet been defined.
For Sgrazzutti, it is crucial that U of R students remain engaged during these tough times.
“We need to make sure that our voices continue to be heard and then listened to because the things that make sense for administration and make sense for government aren’t necessarily going to be things that make sense for students,” he said.