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NSCAD resists cuts

Jessica Squires

January 3, 2012

A new report from former Conservative deputy Minister of Education, Howard Windsor, commissioned by the Department of Education under Darrell Dexter’s NDP, has stopped just short of recommending that the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) be subsumed into Dalhousie University.

NSCAD is the oldest degree-granting independent art school in Canada. The administration ran a $2.4-million deficit last year, which is what led the government to commission Windsor to conduct his top-down, barely consultative investigation. Amidst rumour and conjecture, Windsor did not conduct his investigation in a very public manner. Many expected NSCAD to be wound down.

Unfortunately in this climate, the faculty union voluntarily signed a zero-wage-increase collective agreement; staff received a one per cent increase. In mid-December the Board of Governors effectively capitulated to Windsor before his report was even issued, promising to file a financial plan with the Department by the end of March explaining how NSCAD will balance its budget. But projections had already foreseen a shortfall of significant additional proportions.

The capitulation was followed by the release of the report, which recommended that Dexter’s government fund this year’s $2.4-million shortfall on condition that the financial plan not ask for more money from the government, that NSCAD “investigate collaboration agreements,” and that the government basically hold a big axe over the neck of NSCAD if they don’t comply.

NSCAD cannot ask for additional funding to make up its shortfall. But Dexter’s government cut university spending by four per cent this year, and university funding per student is lower than it was in the 1990s. Any new funding will have to come from a combination of higher tuition fees and program cuts.

Now, some students and alumni are advocating for individual donations to be the focus to raise money for NSCAD. The fact is that no amount of alumni donations and individual actions will save NSCAD in the long-run. Alumni donations are a model completely in synch with a neoliberal approach to post-secondary education, which is why NSCAD is in this situation in the first place.

What is needed is a united fight against the neoliberal approach to post-secondary education: against tuition fees, privatization and corporate management models, against university “competition for students,” and against all forms of rationalization to favour a market-friendly model. Education is a right, and Nova Scotia needs NSCAD.

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