Faculty association questions Mount A’s decision to cut correspondence, online courses
On behalf of the Mount Allison Faculty Association (MAFA), I am writing to respond to some of the comments made in your story entitled “Students Take Action” (Sept. 19, 2018), on Mount Allison’s decision not to offer correspondence and online courses in the 2018-19 academic year.
The university community has been told one factor leading to the decision to stop offering correspondence courses has to do with a decline in interest in these courses.
MAFA sees things differently. We applaud the student activism and commitment to the delivery of a diverse and accessible university education. As many of your readers will have experienced first-hand, Mount Allison was for many years committed to offering educational services to the general public through the department of continuous learning. This department was eliminated several years ago but, while in operation, it offered university courses at night in Amherst, Sackville and Moncton. The university also participated in the First Year at Home Program in Moncton and Miramichi and, in the late 1990s, offered courses for students all over New Brunswick via Teleducationnb.
Until the recent wave of cuts, Mount Allison offered 30 to 40 correspondence courses on a year-round basis. These are the kinds of programs that serve non- traditional students, including people working fulltime jobs and “empty nesters” who found in them a way of getting a post- secondary education. They are essential outreach for the university, welcoming people who might not have attended university otherwise. In so doing, they help to make post-secondary education more inclusive and more accessible.
Another justification given by the administration for ending delivery of correspondence courses is that there are other on-campus courses that students can take. Here again, MAFA holds a different view. Not only does the administration fail to consider challenges that many students face which make the flexibility and accessibility of correspondence courses so appealing, it also fails to recognize that students have a need for particular courses in order to fulfill particular program requirements; correspondence courses help them to manage timetable conflicts and fill gaps in on-campus course offerings.
Correspondence courses – in particular, those offered in the summer – contribute significantly to Mount Allison’s overall operating budget. There are indirect benefits as well. Many of our members who have taught Continuous Learning and correspondence courses know students who started with just one course and then decided to come to Mount Allison for their entire degree. But rather than promoting correspond- ence education, Mount Allison is advising its own students to find correspondence and online courses elsewhere at their own additional expense.
The decision to suspend correspondence courses during the fall and winter terms is a difficult one for many on our campus to understand. This decision is occurring at a time when other administrative decisions are leading many to be concerned about the future of our university. The number of full-time faculty members is shrinking, and we are seeing a trend towards greater reliance on precarious short-term and contract-based academic positions.
Meanwhile, administrative units continue to expand, seemingly immune to the budget constraints cited as justification for cuts and belt-tightening elsewhere on campus.
MAFA believes this university has done better and can do so again.
The Mount Allison Faculty Association says the university’s former correspondence and online courses provided flexibility and accessibility to students facing a variety of challenges.