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Cap U arts students protest cuts

Capilano students destroy art in protest as several university programs suspended

Students of Capilano University took sledgehammers and chainsaws to their own art pieces Thursday to protest the proposed cuts the university is making in wake of a $1.3-million budget shortfall.

A video on YouTube posted on behalf of the Save Capilano Studio Arts movement shows university students filming and taking pictures while one art student uses a chainsaw to destroy a large pencil - an art piece that was installed publicly on campus. Pictures also show a cement chess board that was smashed by sledgehammers and art pieces shrouded in black cloth around the campus in protest of the proposed cuts.

The video states students and faculty weren't given any notice of the proposed cuts by the administration. Students also posted a Facebook link to sign an online petition to save the arts program.

Sandra Ferrens, program co-ordinator for the studio arts diploma - one of the programs on the chopping block - said students are making a mindful protest and are not acting out of hand.

The students dismantled their own projects and did not cause any sort of vandalism, she said.

Ferrens calls the cuts "short sighted" and said axing arts programs takes a toll on not just the faculty and students, but the community as well.

"This is exactly the kind of mentality that results in the problems we're facing around the world," she said.

She added faculty were given such short notice of the changes, it has left some staff without enough time to find new work.

"We were told they were waiting to hear from the provincial government as to what the budget would be before they alerted people to bad news or stress," she said. "That seems a bit dubious to me."

About 220 classes will be affected. Programs potentially falling under the axe on the North Vancouver campus are: studio arts; textile arts; medical office assistant; interactive design; and applied business technology programs.

Short and summer courses on design and film and animation could be suspended.

Advanced ceramics, an art institute certificate and the guided imagery in music certificate could also be suspended.

There could also be a reduced number of courses in the arts and sciences, including commerce transfer and computing science transfer programs, Capilano University stated on their website.

However, if students are entering into the second year of these programs they will be still be offered in the 2013/14 year.

"Our operating costs continue to face inflationary pressures, and the transition to a university has resulted in some increased costs, however, our operating grants have remained flat," the university states on their website.

Provost Bill Gibson said the situation is not ideal, but said university administrators are dealing with it as best as they can.

"The institution is very cognizant of the impact this has on people," he said. "We're trying to introduce it and take it through in as humane a fashion as possible."

Cap U would need $1.3-million more in funding to continue offering the same programs as it does now, according to Gibson, who said the provincial government hasn't provided that.

Gibson said the university couldn't announce details until April 9 when the budget was fully developed.

"We had been planning before that time, but we couldn't release anything until we knew what the budget was and what the shortfall was going to be," he said.

The board has chosen to cut these particular programs because they don't fit in as well with the university model, Gibson said.

"We certainly came to the realization that we can't be all things to all people," he said. "I guess the bottom line is we'd like the ministry for come up with some money, but we understand they're in a tight situation too."

Capilano University Faculty Association's president Joanne Quirk is protesting the cuts as well, asking administration to revisit the decision and make changes.

"Over the last 12 years post-secondary institutions in B.C. have seen a 13 per cent drop in real per-student funding from the provincial government," Quirk said in a public statement. "Today's budget cuts at Capilano are part of that sad legacy."

As economic conditions improve, funding for Capilano will increase, according to a joint statement posted by local Liberal candidates.

"We commend the responsible actions announced by the president and board of governors today, keeping Capilano University on a sustainable financial footing and strengthening its position for the future," the statement reads.

The Liberals state since 2001/2002, operating grants have increased by 27 per cent for the school, and new capital projects have been funded up to roughly $45 million.

The Squamish campus is facing suspension of its Adult Basic Education offerings and the Sunshine Coast campus will see a reduction in general courses as well.

A final budget decision will not be made until after the May 14 board meeting.

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