Programs fall under the axe at Capilano U

Two arts programs to be cut as university grapples with $1.3 million budget deficit

THE axe appears to be coming down on two of Capilano University's popular arts programs.

Faculty in the studio art and textile art departments learned Tuesday that both programs would be cut, because of a $1.3-million deficit in the university's budget.

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"It's a huge loss. The program has been open for 40 years and it really serves the North Shore community and beyond," said Toni Latour, a 10-year faculty member in the studio arts program.

The problem is a lack of funding from the province for Capilano, especially compared to other universities, Latour said. Cap U receives about $6,000 per student while the subsidy at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design is closer to $9,000 or $10,000, she said.

"The amount of funding per institution is not the same and as a result, we have this $1.3-million deficit, which is not a lot of money. It's the cost of one house in East Vancouver," Latour said.

The loss of the programs means would-be studio arts students will have to go to Emily Car - something that bodes ill for the future of art education in B.C, according to Latour.

"We really feel like there's a shift toward a monoculture in education," Latour said. "A $1.3-million deficit has closed our program and Emily Carr received $113 million from the government this year for the expansion of their campus."

While Emily Carr provides an excellent education, it is important to maintain diversity, Latour said.

The Capilano program accepted 65 to 70 students per year and employs nine faculty plus technicians. Because of its smaller size, Cap's program was more intimate and offered a different experience than Emily Carr, Latour said.

"We're like a close-knit family here. There's a lot of nurturing of our students that happens here. Many students come here to learn hands-on skills. There have more contact hours with instructors and technicians than other institutions," Latour said.

"Other students at other institutions would go to (our graduates) to learn how to make their ideas come to life because they have the hands-on, making skills that aren't always provided at other institutions."

The timing is also problematic, she said, as applications for 2013 were still coming in, some acceptance letters had already been sent out and it is probably too late for faculty members to find new teaching jobs for the next school year.

The annual budget goes to the university's board of directors on May 14, prompting staff and students to mount a Save Capilano Studio Arts campaign.

"There's been a real groundswell happening here on campus. Our students are really taking this up with a lot of heart and passion," Latour said. Students in the program have been shrouding all the pieces of art on campus in black sheets, as well as circulating a petition calling for the reinstatement of the program.

The news came as students were preparing for the annual graduation art exhibition on Saturday, but that too will be a protest.

Cuts are also being made to other programs and class sizes are being reduced in other departments, according to the university.

"Given our budget restraints, we can't be all things to all people. As a university, what should we be offering?" said provost Bill Gibson.

"There are many, many criteria we use for the adjudicating and one of the examples we use is, 'Are there other alternatives in the Lower Mainland for our students?'"

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