by Rikkeal Bohmann
In 1963, Regina Campus of the University of Saskatchewan, the predecessor to the University of Regina, had a group of faculty members that drafted the “Education Policy for Liberal Arts,” known commonly as “The Regina Beach Manifesto”.
This was intended to make clear the campus’ firm commitment to its liberal arts beginnings. A half decade later and the fate of the liberal arts is a major topic of conversation at the U of R.
President Vianne Timmons hosted an open forum Oct. 24 to address concerns brought up at last month’s council meeting, one major concern being what is happening to the liberal arts.
In its beginnings, Regina Campus was originally a high school known as Regina College. It had a “strong focus on the liberal arts,” according to the president’s liberal arts advisory group. Over time, other professional programs joined, as the campus evolved into the U of R.
Kathleen Wall, a professor in the department of English, said the current situation for the liberal arts is not good, and “that in attempting to cope with budget crisis, the administration is simply letting the budgets get balanced through retirements.”
Wall said she believes the university needs to hire more professors, stating they are short staffed in the English department because faculty who have retired, have not been replaced. She said she also believes the university is over administered.
“I think we are spending more budget serving students, seeing them as consumers... instead of teaching them.”
To tackle issues liberal arts are facing, Timmons outlined three things the university is doing. In June, the liberal arts advisory group was set up. The deans of professional programs are looking at ways to highlight liberal arts too. As well, the federated college presidents (at Luther, Campion and First Nations University) are looking at ways to revitalize liberal arts.
Wall said that the problem goes beyond the university level though. “I see the university as the canary in the mineshaft. That our culture as a whole has become very purpose driven, job driven, end driven… the humanities and social sciences though teach us how to live, how to communicate, they teach us how to think critically.”
Timmons said she agrees that the liberal arts are essential to the university. “The liberal arts and science are the foundation of this university. Even if professional programs grow - business for example - 50 per cent of the courses in the business degree are liberal arts and science.”
The Faculty of Arts is the largest on campus. As of Fall 2012, there were over 2,500 undergraduate students enrolled.