Kathleen Venema – Letter to Premier Brian Pallister and MLAs

I am deeply concerned about the current government’s direction to the administrations of Manitoba’s universities to cut costs by as much as 30%.  Linking austerity budget measures to the current COVID crisis makes no economic sense.  University spring courses are currently over-subscribed.  Twice as many students are enrolled as was the case a year ago; students are asking for yet more courses; and professors are working exceptionally hard in difficult circumstances to meet the demand.  The current pandemic has wiped out both full- and part-time employment for many young people.  Young people and older people turn to university training in times of crisis, precisely in order to be prepared for the realities that await when the crisis abates. 

Cutting the public sector at a time when people need genuine leadership is profoundly miscalculated.  It’s at universities that people train to be scientists, psychologists, social scientists, empathic thinkers, entrepreneurs, writers, business leaders, artists, politicians, musicians, doctors, nurses, technicians, pharmacists, and more.  All of these skills are essential to Manitoba’s collective capacity to respond on the front-line of the pandemic and to create a vibrant, post-pandemic world.  The budget cuts that the government has demanded will cripple educational institutions until long after the current pandemic is over.  Undermining Manitoba’s universities and its broader public sector now will render our province less able than others to adapt to a post-pandemic world. 

Premier Pallister, I urge you and your colleagues to reconsider these directions to cut.

Respectfully,

Kathleen Venema
Department of English