Nfld. & Labrador

Cut 'administrative excess' not libraries, MUN grad students say

Graduate students at Memorial University are calling for salary cuts to MUN executives, instead of cancelling journals at the library.

MUN says no final decisions have been made on cutting journal subscriptions

Students and professors at Memorial University rely on academic journals to do research and stay up-to-date in their field of study. (Laura Howells/CBC)

Graduate students at Memorial University are calling for salary cuts to MUN executives, instead of reduced services at the library.

The university is considering cancelling its subscription to 2,500 academic journals.

MUN says that rising subscription costs and a high US dollar means the Library's journal budget of $7.5 million can't go as far as it did last year. 

The MUN Libraries website says it must find $300,000 in savings.

"Cancellation projects are a complex last resort when budget increases cannot keep pace with increases in the cost of scholarly research resources," the website said.

Memorial University says it is not cutting the library budget, but money doesn't go as far as it used to. (Laura Howells/CBC)

Professors and students, however, said the move will hurt Memorial's reputation.

The proposed journal cuts are part of "a troubling trend to put research and graduate studies on the chopping block when budgets are tight," the MUN Graduate Students' Union said in a news release Thursday.

"Memorial University needs to get back to the basics and focus on teaching and research," said the group's communications director Hesam Hassan Nejad.

"If our institution needs to find savings, it should be looking to administrative excess, not something as important as access to up-to-date research."

The GSU news release questioned why the library is trying to reduce its costs when "MUN President Gary Kachanoski continues to make more than $460,000 per year."

Graduate students will face a 30 per cent tuition increase in September 2016.

Kelly Greenfield, a PhD student in Sociology, said she uses many of the journals currently on the proposed cancellation list.

Academic journals are crucial to the work of both graduate students and faculty, said Kelly Greenfield, the executive assistant for the GSU. She said many of the journals on the proposed cancellation list are ones she uses frequently.

"I wonder what this is going to do for my competitiveness with my fellow colleagues at universities across Canada," she said.

Greenfield said that cutting access to journals may hurt MUN's ability to recruit grad students in the future.

Grad student petition gaining traction

MUN said it began consultations on how to cut corners at the library in June. Greenfield, however, said most students felt blindsided by the news of potential cancellations.

"They said that they've consulted the university community, but I've never heard of this," said Greenfield.

"If they're not being used it makes sense, but if all of the sudden they're cutting so many in one full sweep—it's a bit much."

The GSU began an online petition on Tuesday to "Keep Research Alive" at MUN, which now has more than 780 signatures.

MUN responds

The university, meanwhile, said Thursday it will not make a decision on cancelling any journals until January.

MUN also said the budget for journals has increased by 25 per cent over the past five years. 

The Queen Elizabeth II Library, University Centre, and clocktower on the St. John's campus of Memorial University of Newfoundland. (Wikimedia Commons)

Memorial subscribes to 80,000 journals, and said in an email that "the university is exploring ways to protect itself from the shock of currency fluctuations."

MUN said its July budget asked for a one time reduction of $1.3 million in administrative costs, and included a $2.6 million ongoing base budget reduction. 


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