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Budget cuts affect more than just students

By Kristal Turner, March 5 2020—

Do you remember that scene in The Godfather when Michael closes the door on Kay? The anguish on her face at being shut out. After all that time, and what they had been through, only to be dismissed in such a manner?  

It’s hard to watch that scene, and even harder to experience that kind of rejection. Watching what the university is going through now, for staff and students, feels like that moment.  That may sound harsh, but we are family only until we are not. You are the one impacted or the one who survives the cuts, struggling with a backlash of emotions and continued fear at being next.

As a former staff member and current MA student, it’s hard to watch people I know lose their jobs from a domino decision driven down by the government. Increasing fees while cutting staff and resources isn’t a place the university wants to be in, but the administration has allowed each faculty to make the cuts that one hopes is the best decision they can make. I can name any number of studies that discuss the impact of cuts to education funding, but we all have access to the library database, so I won’t go into that here. Instead, I’ll highlight the impact that cutting technicians and facilitators will have to the maker spaces and capstone/honour projects.  It is important to keep staff running these spaces to engage a wide range of students. How else will anyone learn that these spaces are there to help them?

These types of cuts impact all students, not just those already struggling to afford an education that will set them up for future success. And yes, there will be money set aside for more scholarships, but we can’t ignore that people will fall through the cracks. Cuts to education hurt us all, but they cut most deeply to those hovering on the boundary already.

No student truly supports tuition raises, not wanting to lose more money from already tight budgets. You say what you have to when you don’t feel you have any power. The impact of staff reductions on students is being noticed, they are feeling the loss of those who spoke up in support of their needs, even when it wasn’t what those who make the decisions wanted to hear. Staff are now afraid to speak up or contradict, because they might be next. The loss of power, agency, and the effects on everyone’s mental health is staggering, and I take the time to listen to those impacted, to do my small part.

My job as an advisor ended in June of last year, and I chose to accept my admission to graduate school knowing that work would be hard to find and knowing I was likely to be impacted by the cuts. It’s been hard being on campus watching the impact on my friends and colleagues from the sidelines, but there are moments that break through and make me feel hopeful, like seeing the student and union protests and the Calgary community working together to humanize the cuts in Alberta. We can’t be silent during hard times. As someone who went back to school to study education and advocacy, I know the power of speaking out with a combined voice to help each other. I want to use my skills to make sure we don’t stay silent and that we know we need to fight these government cuts. So, I will write. It’s easy to fear the repercussions of speaking out and stay quiet, but quiet won’t help our education system. And it won’t help us.

This article is part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet’s editorial board.

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