CapU cuts non-degree programs

Board endorses cuts of $1.3M to balance books

THE axe has come down on a swath of Capilano University programs as the school's board of governors passed its 2013 budget aimed at tackling a $1.3-million shortfall.

An overflow crowd, mostly members of the Capilano Faculty Association, came out Tuesday evening to watch the board's fateful vote, which the CFA says will fundamentally change the face of the university.

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In a secret ballot vote, 11 members of the 15member board voted to pass the budget, drawing jeers of "shame" from the packed gallery. Two board members were opposed, one abstained and there was one spoiled ballot.

The adopted budget means the North Vancouver campus will phase out its two-year diploma courses in studio art, textile art, interactive design as well as certificate courses in ceramics and medical assistance training after the current cohort of students has graduated.

The school will also immediately shut down its programs in computing science, CultureNet, geology, German and kinesiology and cut courses across the arts and sciences faculty. At CapU's Squamish Campus, the budget means an end to adult basic education and Sechelt's campus will see a reduction in the courses taught.

Because degree-granting programs were spared the cuts, it appears CapU administrators are quietly trying to take the school in a new direction that leaves behind all of its career training and college courses, according to Mark Battersby, faculty association president.

"If (the president) wants to put forward that vision and we have a deliberation on it over the year, that's certainly one vision we can discuss," he said in an earlier interview.

"It's just that there's been no proper discussion and the revisioning has been hidden in a budget rather than in a deliberation about mission and values of and choice of criteria."

The Capilano Faculty Association had proposed an alternative budget that would see a four-per cent reduction in operating expenses across the board in order to buy time for the school's leadership to shore up senior government funding and consult with the university community on how it should reshape itself.

But that proposal was evaluated by the senate budget advisory committee who decided it simply wasn't feasible as it relied on cutting funding to areas of the budget the board does not have control over, according to Tammy Towill, certified management accountant, a teacher in the school's business department and member of the board.

"Anybody who had any idea, we took it and we looked at it. There was never a time we sat down as a committee and said 'Our first choice is to send our colleagues away from this institution.' That was never our first choice," she said.

University president Kris Bulcroft denied that the administration was carving out a new future meant only for degree students.

"I want to remind you we have over 250 degrees, certificates and diplomas at Capilano. We actually only have a dozen degrees and there's nothing in this budget that implies we're going to increase degree production," she said.

After months of protest from students and faculty as well as delays in passing the budget so the committee could study other options, Bulcroft said it was time for the board to vote and move forward.

"As you well know, this has been a very difficult set of circumstances, but I am convinced the motion I'm about to offer the board provides the best path forward that impacts the fewest number of students compared to other solutions that were proposed and evaluated," she said.

After the vote, despondent students and instructors, many of them in tears, gathered in the adjacent room to shoot a video of individual reactions to the budget, their grievances with the way it was reached, and what it would mean for CapU's reputation.

Particularly aggravating for some was the loss of computing science as the business community has a huge need for those skills, right up to the management level.

"They have ideas and they can drive a business forward but they don't have the technical expertise to make the systems come alive. They need a computer science background to even be able to talk to the programmers," said Joseph Fall, an instructor in the program in an earlier interview.

The justification given for his program being targeted was that computer skills are now taught in every faculty.

Jason Madar, the program's now laid-off co-ordinator, compared that to no longer needing to make cars because everyone can still learn to drive.

Madar has since had job offers from former students - a testament to the value of the cancelled program, he said after Tuesday's meeting.

The faculty association will be seeking a legal opinion on whether the senate and board's decisions are in contravention of the University Act, which mandates that faculty be consulted on major changes to the schools.

The union estimates between 400 and 700 students will now be precluded from attending the smaller Capilano University.

brichter@nsnews.com

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