Monday, February 23, 2009

SSHRC funds earmarked for business related degrees, or, we be fuct

Using the impending economic recession to further the master plan of making the University a factory for pumping out business people and science research for corporations? Best idea ever!
On January 27th, the Conservatives unveiled their budget, in which they have apparently decided to redefine "Social Sciences and Humanities."

In "Further Developing a Highly Skilled Workforce," the budget outline indicates that starting in 2009-2010 an additional $87.5 million (over three years) will be provided to federal granting councils. $35million (80%) will go to the NSERC (National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) and CIHR (Canadian Institute of Health Research) while $17.5 million (20%) will be allocated to SSHRC(Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council).

At first sight this seems amazing: it is the equivalent of an addition 500 doctoral scholarships which are valued at $35,000 each, as well as an additional 1,000 master's scholarships valued at $17, 500.

Whaaaaat? The Conservatives are going to throw some of that change at us humanities and social sciences students? holla!

Hold up, and read a little further before you start planning to apply and obtain a SSHRC to buy 'textbooks' or 'groceries,' and to be able to complete your PhD

"Scholarships granted by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will be focused on business-related degrees."


What? "Business-Related"? Actually, they just mean business.

This is only the most recent in a series of steps towards the corporatization of academia-not a new process- but one which seems to have been accelerated in light of economic instability.

As though the integrity of the University hasn't suffered enough with casualization of labour across the boards, the consistent and systematic cut backs in wages and benefits for those who do the majority of the teaching within the University, and the undermining of the right to strike with the recent back-to-work legislation at York University(which redefined Teaching Assistants, Contract Faculty, and Graduate Assistants as "essential services" and forced them back to work approximately a week before the University Administration would have been obligated to give students a refund for the 85 days they were out of school - a decision that the Administration made when they decided to cancel classes during the strike rather than allowing them to proceed)

This is a huge blow to the already underfunding and highly unsupported humanities and social sciences. What's worse is that while the public and media at large felt entitled to comment on the strike situation at York University ad nauseum, this proposal to steal funding from the arts and put it into a field already flush with cash is being completely ignored.

Teachers and students who care about the quality of education they provide and about job security for those who will come after them get called down in the media as lazy and greedy, as robbing students and holding them hostage, as lucky even to have jobs in the first place.

The government is allocating funds to degrees that do not need those funds. The Conservative government is turning their backs on research that that won't line their, and their friends, pockets, and it is robbing future social sciences and humanities students.

During her acceptance of her Governor General's Award for Poetry, Jan Zwicky commented that:

"It is notable that evidence of bad judgement in the area of military expenditure produces the odd sign and shake of the head but no demand that each and every military project be explained to the disgruntled. Even more interesting is the fact that tax-supported subsidies to hugely wealthy transnational corporations rarely raise an eyebrow, even when those subsidies are used to deplete permanently our resource base or to underwrite industries we know create harmful pollution. Why are we often more critical of state support for the arts than of state support for corporate projects we know are bad for us?

...One of the reasons I think we are sometimes critical of support for the arts is that art ... can make us uncomfortably aware that economically expedient answers may not always be true....Art can challenge us in this way because, as Plato understood, it connects us as thinking beings to our bodies and emotions, and so forces us to acknowledge truths that are not easily represented in an economic calculus ...When we engage with it, we are forced to reflect on the degree of our own integrity, and in so doing, we may be led to see that we must change our lives"

Zwicky thanks Canadians for supporting the arts in general, saying that "the meaning of that support extends far beyond honour to an individual or individual work. It is, I believe, a symptom of our moral and political health. It signals our willingness to question the universal validity of rationalizations that appeal only to the bottom line, and celebrates our interest in the flourishing of individual conscience."(

Funding Humanities and Social Sciences is crucial not in spite of economic instablity but because of the kinds of economic problems we are experiencing. Developing a "highly skilled workforce" means that there is a wealth of diversity in terms of skills and it shouldn't require a narrowing of skills that are valued to those that are business-related. These kind of narrowing has not only been an integral factor in the lead up to the recession but will almost certainly contribute to its worsening.

what can you do?
sign a petition, of course:

or, if you're not lazy you could go ahead and write to the people making these decisions.

our illustrious and doughy leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Minister of Industry(The governing Council of SSHRC reports to the Parliament through the Minister of Industry)
Honourable Tony Clement

Minister of Canadian Heritage
Hon. James Moore

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff:
Industry-- Marc Garneau
Youth--Ruby Dhalla

NDP Leader Jack Layton:
Post-secondary education-- Niki Ashton

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe:
Industry-- Robert Bouchard
Youth-- Nicholas Dufour
(etudiants quebecois, ecrivez-les en francais, svp.)

President Chad Gaffield
350 Albert Street
Box 1610
Ottawa, ON
K1P 6G4

Student federations:

Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ):
Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante: executif(à)
Canadian Federation of Students:

National media such as the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Southam papers, CBC, CTV, and Global, can all be contacted via their websites.

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