Calgary

ACAD students hold protest as college struggles with budgetary woes

Some students at the Alberta College of Art and Design are frustrated with a host of issues at the institution, from timetable changes, to registration problems, to accessibility concerns and an overarching sense that administration is not listening to them.

Registration, timetable changes, accessibility issues were just some of the concerns

Jonah Derkson, a student at ACAD, organized a protest on Monday to highlight frustrations with the school. (CBC)

Some students at the Alberta College of Art and Design are frustrated with a host of issues at the institution, from timetable changes, to registration problems, to accessibility concerns and an overarching sense that administration is not listening to them.

"I really want to bring together the students of ACAD," said Jonah Derkson, who organized a protest at the school on Monday. 

"Many people have been very frustrated with some very systemic issues that have been facing the students for a very long time — years — at the school. We have issues with accessibility, with funding, lack of clarity, with our administration staff being understaffed."

Eight years of 'budgetary challenges'

The funding crunch at the school has taken a toll, with ACAD outlining its concerns in a comprehensive institutional plan submitted to the Alberta government in 2015. 

According to the document, the college is in the midst of its eighth straight year of "budgetary challenges requiring operational reductions," and that it has the "same basic administrative obligations of much larger institutions but has a much smaller set of resources."

The document, approved by former Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Lori Sigurdson, doesn't pull punches on the consequences of the repeated cuts. 

"The College recognizes that after years of reductions in administrative areas, this year, the reduction in service will be felt by students and all those working within the institution and has not made these decisions lightly," it reads.

Timetables

In addition to funding concerns, and the effects of reduced services, one of the concerns highlighted at the Monday protest was changes to the school's timetable, reducing studio time from six hours to four and a half. 

Derkson, who stressed students want to work with the school for improvements, said students didn't support that change and voted against it being implemented. 

"We've come together today to face that problem again and to really raise that concern, saying they are implementing these changes without our consent. We have concerns that aren't being met entirely."

Students have been frustrated with registration issues and concerns over not being able to get into courses needed to graduate, according to Derkson and posts to the protest Facebook page.

'Student concerns are always top of our list'

Alison Miyauchi, the acting vice-president of research and academic affairs was at the school on Monday to listen to students. 

"Student concerns are always top of our list and we've been asked to be present and take note of what their issues are," she said. 

Miyauchi said registration issues are front and centre.

"I absolutely guarantee every graduating student gets the course they need to fulfill their degree requirements. It might not always be their first choice course, but it will fulfill their degree requirements so that they can graduate in a timely fashion," she said.

"We have a very small registration staff, so we have what we can actually afford to have in the institution."

Long-term plans

ACAD is currently developing a 100-year sustainability plan, and will submit a business plan to the government in the fall it said will make a case for growing the college and setting out a 10-year operational budget and 10-year capital plan.

The ACAD student association did not participate in the protest, but said in a statement that it was on hand to take notes on student concerns. 

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