Dear Premier Pallister,
I am writing you to express my deep concern over the prospects of substantial cuts to Manitoba’s post- secondary system.
First, I am doing so in my capacity as an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Winnipeg.
Many in our faculty and administrative ranks are declaring that we as a university are busier than ever as we learn how to meet students’ needs under the new challenging circumstances.
We know that in challenging economic times, when work is often difficult to find and the future is unpredictable, young people increasingly enroll in universities so as to enhance their skills and future employability. We are seeing an unprecedented surge in demand for Spring courses, and many colleagues have noted that waiting lists to get into available courses are longer than they have ever been. We can anticipate new challenges in the fall term, having to puzzle out how to continue to offer courses to meet what is certain to be increased demand, all amid the challenges presented by the pandemic.
Simply put, cuts prevent us from serving our students in the manner they require and deserve.
Moreover, while dealing with the pandemic, we must not lose sight of the short, medium, and long-term objectives of educating and training a skilled and talented workforce, the foundation of our collective well-being under any economic circumstances.
Cuts also hurt our ability to do our research. While we must continue to give our research the consistent, long-term attention that it requires to come to fruition, many of us are also re-orienting to fight COVID-19 and its health and economic impacts in myriad ways. We do this because of our commitment to the communities that we serve, and we do it amid the unprecedented challenges that the pandemic presents. To encapsulate all of our relevant and timely research undertakings would necessitate a much longer letter, but suffice it is to say that the contributions of Manitoba’s research community are required now more than ever.
Second, I am writing as an alumnus of Brandon University, and as one born and raised in Brandon, whose wife was raised on a farm in Western Manitoba. We, our families, and those in the communities we are from understand that universities are not only urban phenomena – they are essential to the well-being of Manitoba’s smaller cities and rural areas.
In these challenging times, post-secondary institutions are central to the present well-being of Manitoban communities. They are also central to ensuring that we may thrive after the worst of the pandemic is over. It is incumbent upon political leadership to create the environment in which this is possible.
Dr. Ray Silvius
Department of Political Science
University of Winnipeg