An open letter to the Mt. A administration

Dear Mount Allison administration,

As a student in the women’s and gender studies minor program, I was extremely disappointed to hear about the potential loss of funding next year. Without replacement faculty for the four core courses, the program will essentially cease to exist, and that is unacceptable.

The university has expressed concern regarding its 2016-17 budget and how monetary cuts will be felt across the university. I am aware that Mt. A is not immune to the current economic struggle facing the province and that the university is making every effort to balance the budget. I understand that Mt. A felt it fair to ask all departments to absorb some cuts; however, no academic department aside from WGST relies on only one faculty member to administer their entire program—a department of one cannot absorb budgetary cuts, and the notion that other departments could take on the responsibility of delivering the core WGST themselves is foolhardy at best. This would result in further cuts to other departments and would significantly impact the quality of education for students in the WGST program. It is also important to note that when the full-time position in WGST was created in 2002, it was because it had become evident that the program could no longer be delivered without a full-time faculty member and core courses.

As you are aware, recruitment is an area of concern for Mt. A, and the arts and social science disciplines are struggling to attract students. However, the WGST program has grown exponentially over the last two years; the minor has grown from 13 students to 44, and this excludes all other students registered for the core WGST courses.

This year, all four WGST courses were full and each of their enrolment caps were raised because of their excessively long waitlists. With a growing interest in the program, it would be unwise to discontinue offering these courses.

Historically, WGST has been an interdisciplinary program and courses have been taught by faculty from across the university. The ability to integrate WGST into a multitude of programs is one its strengths; however, over the past several decades it has become its own distinct and rigorous academic field which functions separately from other departments. For over 40 years, courses, degrees and diplomas have been officially offered in WGST in Canada.

WGST focuses on issues of historical and contemporary importance and continues to provide critical and consequential research in the social sciences and humanities. Mt. A students are considered some of the best students in the country and their degrees – minors included – must be relevant, academically rigorous, and in line with what other institutions offer. The University of Toronto, Simon Fraser and Queen’s all have strong WGST departments, and are currently three of the best-ranked universities in the country. It’s also worth noting that the three universities which score above Mt. A in Maclean’s “primarily undergraduate” category (Trent, Northern British Columbia and Lethbridge) all have comprehensive WGST programs. This sets them above Mt. A not only in terms of student satisfaction, but academically as well.

A women’s and gender studies minor is important on the Mt. A campus for several reasons. Mt. A struggles with gender inclusion and is lacking in safe spaces for women and people of various gender identities on campus. Students, faculty and staff are often subjected to overt racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, among others. As such, any de-funding or cancellation to the WGST core courses is indicative of a devaluing of these issues and proof that Mt. A does not take women’s and gender issues seriously. I strongly urge you to reconsider the decision to not fully fund the WGST program at Mt. A.

Sincerely,

Natalie Mellon

Mount Allison WGST student

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