UNB recently posted a 4.2 million dollar surplus. Eddy was quoted as saying that “Moving from deficits to surpluses in our operating budgets has clearly come with pain and with sacrifice.” Lauded as firm evidence that UNB is financially sound, the reality is that Eddy’s glorious surplus was was at the cost of students’ diminishing wallet.
In the 2013-14 academic year, tuition costs rose $150. For the 2014-15 year, a fresh tuition increase was imposed on students of 3 per cent. That’s going to be about $180. For undergraduate students, that’s approximately a smooth million in tuition increases. The increase, in an attempt to shift away blame, was instituted on the recommendation of the previous PC government.
The wording of the executive report for the budget attributes the surplus to three things. The most annoying of the three is that the report lists the 3 per cent increase as on of the “Key Contributing Factors to the balanced budget.” As for the surplus, the report comments that the “Budget contains $4.2 million in one-time operational resources that will be allocated to campus priorities through prioritization processes.”
There it is. Prioritization. It’s a scorn that is hitting universities across the Western world. Of course, prioritizing is vital to both one’s life and the proper running of the university. However, the rules by which one prioritizes can be manipulated in such a way that prioritization quickly becomes corporatization. What happens when we decide our Arts faculty is no longer a priority? Arts have fallen out in public conversations. Perhaps the faculty shouldn’t be a priority any longer.
I don’t actually think that will happen. But one thing that has all ready happened is that the university has decided that students are not a priority. If there was no tuition increase, Eddy still could have posted a surplus. But instead, that surplus will be “allocated” through a “prioritization procress.” However that process goes, I very much doubt that students will be mentioned.
Instead, the university, by posting a surplus amidst a tuition increase, has taken money from the pockets of students. Eddy and his administration are sitting with over a million dollars of our money. Some bank account is holding money that belongs to us.
Sure, funding increases were given to counseling services in the budget and I think that’s awesome. In the latest budget, faculty positions won’t be touched. That’s great too. While I laud these decision, it can not be overlooked that the university has shown how they feel about their students. While we make up the university, we are not important to the administration. We can be called upon to give our university a profit.
I completely understand that a tuition increase is insituted to consider the future finances of a university. I know that just because we had a surplus this year does not mean we will have one next year. I also grasp that UNB has some of the highest tuition in the country and Eddy doesn’t seem to think that mitigating tuition costs is an important part of running a university. Sure, tuition costs will go up. But should a profit be on the backs of students?
We already profit the university. We give UNB its name and reputation. We do the work of the University’s marketers. When we succeed, UNB succeeds. For doing that, we’re getting the equivalent of a pay cut. The boss is rolling in the dough, the underlings are getting pay cuts. Why do we matter so little? Do presidents and VPs laugh at us behind their closed doors? “Cheers Eddy, we got ‘em again,” as a glass of scotch is swirled and toasts are made.
And that’s one of the worst parts. As Eddy and the administration celebrates the surplus, they are celebrating how useless–outside of our wallets–we are to them. Eddy said that “We have, in recent years, put ourselves on a sound financial footing. It has not been easy.” When students are bent over on the ground, wobbling from the debt already weighing on their backs, it is not easy to get good footing.
The surplus doesn’t only beg the question of why we saw a tuition increase. It also forces us to ask why we had a strike. Eddy perpetually implied the precariousness of UNB finances to legitimize the stale offer given to AUNBT over and over again. The strike abruptly interupted students lives and work. It created a disdainful and often poisonous culture on campus. And did we even have to go through that? It doesn’t seem like it.
Eddy has shown his complete disregard for both students and faculty. The surplus is not a point of pride. The university has a responsibility towards its faculty and its students. Academia does not have a responsibility towards profit. While Eddy holds this surplus as a success, it is in fact a glowing sign of his incompetence as this university’s leader.