by Julia Dima
Last year’s provincial budget saw a change to the University of Regina’s overall faculty operating budget, requiring all faculties to find three per cent within their budget operations to reduce costs. All faculties were affected. In the faculty of science, this round of cuts was manageable. But, with the upcoming budget future cuts are a concern.
“The university asked the government for a five per cent increase last year, and the government said, ‘no we can’t do that, we’re giving you two per cent’," Daniel Gagnon, dean of science said,"That is where the three per cent comes from. The proposed budget needed five per cent, but we only got two per cent and had to find the three percent in our budget.”
Last year, Gagnon axed three empty positions to cut the three per cent, although the department was able to give tenure track to three professors. This year, he’s chosen not to fill two retired positions to help deal with the cuts. However, he says this is a temporary response to the cuts, and cannot go on longer than a few years, and this is a problem.
“I can’t take the cut on salaries, those are blocked. I can only cut on 10 per cent of my ... operating budget: teaching assistants, sessionals, lab materials, toxic materials disposal (which can’t be cut).”
Mark Brigham, head of the biology department, has also thought about how budget cuts may affect these necessary operational costs.
“As of this moment, we simply cannot run our practical lab program without TA’s. I think (because of budget cuts) that we are going to have a harder time hiring TA’s, and if that happens, our only option is to offer less lab experience,” he said. “Will that reduce the quality of education? Absolutely. Will it sink to a level where students shouldn’t take the degree? No. They won’t get as much experience as in the past. I don’t want that, but if I have reduced money, it is going to come to that.”
Science undergraduate students like Mhmoud Essalah are concerned about what could happen to their education if budget cuts harmed TA’s.
“If they cut TA’s – the labs are already too big for one guy, so I actually think they need to double that to properly run the lab. A science class without a lab is really point,” he said. “They are working towards removing labs if they cut TA’s, the equipment is getting old. The labs are an essential component to understanding these things ... I don’t know if funding is the problem, but it’s just smart management of what we have.”
Another student, Brendan Warner, said he feels labs are underfunded already.
“My biochemistry 220 lab instructor pretty much said flat out that he didn’t have the money in his budget for the expensive enzyme for the experiment, so we just talked during that lab.”
Gagnon says he’s not worried about losing TA’s, as they are essential to the faculty. However, if there are major cuts in this month’s provincial budget, that may change.
“Maybe if this trend continues, if we don’t make some of the choices we need to make and continue to spread cuts on everybody, it won’t be good. But these across the board cuts are a reaction for us to do (something) right now, to give us time to prepare and decide what we need to cut. Perhaps the economy goes well ... then maybe it won’t be so tight in the following year. I’m hoping for that.”