WGST Program Cuts “Not a Minor Issue”

The Women’s and Gender Studies (WGST) program at Mount Allison University is in jeopardy due to alleged budgetary reasons. The absence of a budget would do away with the WGST program, a prospect that has many students outraged, voicing the misogyny and gender-bias that such cuts indicate on the part of administration.

On Monday February 1st, students currently enrolled in the program received an email from the acting head of the program, Lisa Dawn Hamilton, stating that the university will be cutting funding to the WGST program in the 2016-2017 year, as communicated to her by the Dean of Arts. Quoting the email from Dr. Hamilton: “I am writing tonight with disappointing news. The Dean of Arts informed me today that due to decisions made in the budget process the university has cut the budget for the WGST program next year”.

The convoluted response from university administration did little to ease the concerns of students. An email from the Dean of Arts stated “The University has not announced any intention to cut this or any program… Mount Allison has not initiated any type of formal review of this program or any other.” Such a response is vastly different from that communicated in the email sent out Monday evening. Such statements do little to address the issue at hand, instead only mentioning that the university has not announced it plans, but does not refute the possibility of the aforementioned cuts.

The student response to the issue was immediate and extensive. Tuesday morning, a change.org petition was created, hoping to “Stop Mount Allison University from cutting the funding to Women’s and Gender Studies.” The petition has garnered signatures from over 6000 supporters. Students organized silent protests before the Board of Regents meeting, as well as letter writing sessions. They refuse to go down without a fight and continue to organize against the proposed cuts.

The issues raised with the potential cut has led to gross student dissatisfaction, as well as many concerns with the lack of transparency between administration and students in regards to budgetary decision-making and allocation of student funds. A statement on a student-led forum speaks to this frustration: “Rather than directly addressing the funding decision and its consequences for the university, they have misled and misdirected, resorting to the corrupt techniques of doublespeak to disguise the truth of the situation and to evade responsibility for it.”

An update on Friday indicated that the administration has committed two stipends totalling $12,000, which is enough to hire a part time staff member to teach two courses for one year. This may be enough to allow current WGST minors to finish their degree. However, the future of the program is still unclear, as the program is not sustainable with such minimal funding.

The Acadia #kNOwMORE campaign released a statement voicing the importance of WGST studies and showing their solidarity for Mount Allison students:

For too long women have been systematically excluded from society. Women and Gender Studies programs were established to address this exclusion by critically analyzing gender historically, politically, economically, and sociologically. WGST students, alumni, staff, and faculty past and present have been involved in research, activism, and policy work that has been pivotal to the gender equality movement. Cutting the funding to their Women and Gender Studies Program is an entirely misogynistic act, which will further silence and oppress an already marginalized group. Although we are not Mount Allison students we stand by them and their WGST department in solidarity.

To show your solidarity and support for Mount Allison, please consider signing the change.org petition by visiting: https://www.change.org/p/cbc-news-ctv-news-fox-news-robert-campbell-mount-allison-university-stop-mount-allison-university-from-cutting-the-funding-to-women-s-and-gender-studies

If you wish to further discuss this important issue, please join the conversation at Commit Sociology Friday February 12th at 12 PM, location TBA.