Saskatoon

Researchers oppose changes to University of Saskatchewan's community outreach program

A group of researchers has penned an open letter opposing changes to the University of Saskatchewan's community outreach programs.

Changes are part of a larger restructuring plan, U of S vice-president says

Some researchers oppose the changes being made to a University of Saskatchewan research unit at Station 20 West in Saskatoon. (Station20West.org)

A group of researchers has penned an open letter opposing changes to the University of Saskatchewan's community outreach programs.

They say that they weren't consulted about the closure of the U of S community relations and engagement office inside the Station 20 West building, and that this move will damage connections gradually built up over many years.

Once those connections are lost, "it takes years to establish trust again, which is both inefficient from a resource standpoint and disrespectful to all involved," reads the letter sent to U of S president Peter Stoicheff, vice-president of research Karen Chad and others.

One of the signatories, associate professor of community health and epidemiology Rachel Engler-Stringer, said this is an example of administrators in an "ivory tower" thinking that they know better than researchers or community members.

University of Saskatchewan associate professor Rachel Engler-Stringer is one of the researchers who penned a letter to administrators opposing changes to the university's community outreach programs. (Lauren Winter Photography)

Engler-Stringer said the two staff members of the unit that were laid off helped create connections between professors and residents of core neighbourhoods.

Closure part of larger review of research programs

In a written statement, Chad said the unit will be closed, but the work will continue. The university has extended its lease at Station 20 for three more years. Chad said researchers and community members will be consulted about new ways to use the space.

Chad said it's part of a larger review of all research programs at the U of S. The priority is to keep all remaining programs sustainable, given the added financial pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We look forward to continuing with consultations and discussions with our researchers and their partners about the core elements of a new strategy," Chad said.

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