Fac­ulty as­so­ci­a­tion ques­tions Mount A’s de­ci­sion to cut cor­re­spon­dence, on­line cour­ses

Sackville Tribune - - OPINION - BY JEFF LILBURN Jeff Lilburn is pres­i­dent of the Mount Al­li­son Fac­ulty As­so­ci­a­tion.

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.

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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.

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