One of three panelists reviewing the future of the Institute of Island Studies at the University of Prince Edward Island answered questions from the public Thursday afternoon.
Concerns have been raised by students, graduates and community groups since the institute lost its executive director Dr. Irene Novaczek in May due to cutbacks that were part of a plan to eliminate the university's $9-million deficit.
About 40 people attended the meeting headed by Dr. Liette Vasseur.
'This kind of feels like an autopsy rather than a review.' — Nathaniel Preston
"Island Studies as a theme is very important for this university, We can't deny it." said Vasseur.
Along with its research and education roles, the internationally respected program runs Islands Studies Press and publishes the Island Studies Journal. In 2015, the institute will host the North Atlantic Forum, an international conference that brings together researchers, policy makers and community leaders.
"Having the institute essentially shut down and then reviewed, this kind of feels like an autopsy rather than a review," said masters student Nathaniel Preston.
Laurie Brinklow, who graduated with a master of arts in Island studies and used to work for the institute, said when the director position was cut, she thought it was the end. She has since changed her mind.
"Finally, maybe, the university administration will sit up and take notice that the good work the institution does has ramifications far beyond our shores," said Brinklow.
Godfrey Baldacchino, the outgoing Canada research chair in Island Studies, said he was initially skeptical about what the review would entail. Now he said it's a good thing.
"It is very likely that the reviewers would recommend that it be strengthened or at least supported better by the university in order to be able to fulfill its mandate in a better way," he said.
Despite cost-cutting measures, the university said it remains committed to the institute and that the review is meant to enhance, not diminish its role.
Vasseur said she and the other panel members will submit recommendations in September.