TransformUS protest rally at U of S

Protestors voice concerns over the TransformUS project at the University of Saskatchewan. (Kathy Fitzpatrick/CBC)

A few dozen students, staff and faculty at the University of Saskatchewan held a protest rally on campus Thursday.

They were raising concerns about the TransformUS project, which aims to reset spending priorities and find $20 million in savings in an attempt to head off a $44.5 million dollar deficit that is expected by 2016. 

The deficit amounts to about five per cent of the total operating budget.

Critics of TransformUS argue it is taking academic decision-making out of the hands of faculty and skewing the focus of the university in the wrong direction — charges the administration adamantly rejects.

The protesters also question the accuracy of the deficit projection.

 "In fact, the first year which they projected as a $6 million loss was actually a $12 million surplus," said one of the organizers, Howard Woodhouse. "So in fact this deficit is a sham. It's a way in which they can reconstruct the university for their own purposes."

Some people from outside the university also participated in today's rally, including local actor Kent Allen.

Allen is pleased to hear the university's administration aims to cut it's top layer by more than 20 per cent, "but in terms of using numbers, the increase over the past few years in administration has far outstripped that of the faculty, and so a 25 per cent cutback I don't think is equitable to the kinds of cutbacks that are happening in faculty and course offerings here at the university."

Pat Tymchatyn came to the rally out of concern for cuts at the Centre for Continuing Education. She has been sending her eight-year-old daughter there for arts and music classes.

"We just found out that there's not going to be a Centre," Tymchatyn said. "They just sent us an e-mail yesterday saying that there wasn't going to be classes anymore."

Tymchatyn said in a booming provincial economy, she doesn't understand why the university no longer wants to continue this kind of programming.

She said her daughter got better quality programming at the U of S than what's available through the public school system, which she said has been "cut back to its knees".