Dear Premier Pallister,
I’m writing today in response to the reported possibility of cuts ranging from 10-30% to public sector organizations in general, and Universities in particular. While I am a professor and faculty member at the University of Winnipeg, I am also a downtown resident, a parent, and a first-generation University student (neither of my parents went to University, and University education has been truly transformative in my life). My partner and I have a four-month old daughter for whom we started a RESP: she’s a future UWinnipeg student!
Universities in Manitoba, as I’m sure you know, are open for business: personally, I’m not sure if I’ve ever been busier as a chair (supporting my colleagues and discussing and formulating plans for online/remote teaching) and instructor; moreover, in times like these, it’s apparent to me how essential University professors are to students. I have heard from many of my students who are facing unprecedented anxiety for the present and fear for their future: classes and University are both a proactive way of improving their future possibilities and a way to normalize life. I’ve heard from students in my own small Department that these classes are essential elements to how they plan to prepare for the post-pandemic world and contribute to Manitoba’s economic recovery.
I’ll keep my letter brief. Research, teaching, and the necessary service to the University that keeps it operating has continued. We’re working full-time and looking to help position Manitoba as an economic leader in the post-pandemic world. I have students graduating with Classics degrees who have gone on to careers in health, finance, law, and public policy; or other students who are now in post-degree diplomas in computer programming and looking to contribute to truly amazing boom in Manitoba’s tech sector (I live not far from UbiSoft). As has been continually reported by business and labour leaders, postsecondary education is central to our economic recovery. The present health crisis demands action, there’s no question, but the future economic health of the province also demands that we do not make decisions that will affect our future capabilities.
I implore you to take these concerns into account. Like me, you’re fond of sports analogies (among other things, I research and teach the athletics of the ancient Greeks and Romans): teams need people in all sorts of positions and need to act cohesively and coherently. Even when a soccer team is on offense, players stay back; even when a hockey team attacks, some players remain in their own zone. We need to keep in mind all parts of our team, all parts of the field of play, and make decisions that will ensure our future prosperity in the coming months, years, and decades.
Thank you for reading my concerns. I am a resident of Union Station and postsecondary education policy is central to me when I vote.
Dr. Peter J. Miller, Assistant Professor
Acting Chair (1 January 2020 – 30 June 2020)
Department of Classics, University of Winnipeg
Vice-President, University of Winnipeg Faculty Association (2018-2020)