University staff launch Save Waikato’s ASS campaign

Posted By TEU on Apr 6, 2017 | 5 comments

Staff and students at the University of Waikato have come together to campaign to save the arts and social sciences, as bosses press ahead with plans to cut 17 jobs.

Save Waikato’s ASS launched this week by staff responds to a proposed shake up of the university’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) that jeopardises the study options available to current and future students in the Waikato region.

History, political science, linguistics, music, geography and a wide range of other courses face an uncertain future if the plans to cut back FASS go ahead.

Programmes dedicated to Women’s and Gender Studies, Labour Studies and Religious Studies will be cut entirely.

Staff are struggling to make sense of proposals that come less than 12 months after the university posted a $13.4 million surplus, an increase of $5.2 million on the previous year.

Megan Morris, organiser for the TEU branch at the University of Waikato said staff were extremely worried about what the job cuts would mean for them and their students.

“We cannot see how the Vice-Chancellor can guarantee the long-term viability of arts and social science subjects at Waikato University if these proposals go ahead. We now face a future where the Vice-Chancellor may have to say to future generations of students that coming to Waikato is no longer an option if they want to study music, history, political science, or any of the other quality programmes the faculty teaches.”

The proposed cuts are part of a wider attack on the arts, humanities, and social sciences in tertiary education. These subjects have been put under huge pressure over the last decade, both from funding cuts and the expansion of the education marketplace.

Save Waikato’s ASS is asking people to back their campaign by writing to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Neil Quigley.

A template letter is available asking Quigley to withdraw his proposals and talk with the community about a way forward that guarantees future generations the world class arts and social science education Waikato deserves and expects.

Staff will hold a rally to oppose the cuts at midday on 11 April on the campus Village Green.Music students at the university have also been campaigning to stop the planned job cuts that threaten the future of the university’s Conservatorium of Music.

Students are hosting a Concert for our Conservatorium at 7.30pm tonight in the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts to celebrate the contribution staff, who are now at risk of losing their jobs, make to their studies.

Rachel Twyman, one of the students leading the campaign, told Stuff “we are known so personally by our lecturers. They’re highly concerned about making us into good musicians and good people as well. I feel that’s unique to Waikato. The university is not seeing that we can’t run a department with five staff members. We’ve got eight full-time staff members that are highly specialised in what they do. Obviously, a cello lecturer cannot teach me how to play a violin.”

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  1. Excellent to see action being taken and including both staff and students. I think the Union should take 2 further steps:

    1 argue strongly that asking x staff to apply for x-2 post-redundancy positions is tantamount to constructive dismissal of the 2. There is just too much freedom for the fox in the hen house!

    2 Get staff and students to attend the April Academic Board meeting to see what sorts of arguments are presented by their representatives charged with maintaining academic standards and offerings. This is one of the prime responsibilities of the Academic Board. During Brian Gould’s reign as VC a couple of Academic Board members took a court case alleging that Academic Board had not been asked for its advice on the academic implications of collapsing faculties to a smaller number. We won this skirmish and the reduction in Faculties did not proceed.

    Education Faculty has lost staff and will lose more, ASS, Arts and Social Sciences, is currently being targeted although they lost staff not so many years ago. Waikato Management School is cunningly picking off staff by offering “under the counter” deals even though the academic offerings are being compromised there also.

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  2. I strongly advise TEU members at Waikato to take more substantial action than the symbolic kinds of protest that have occurred so far. Rallies and letters are highly unlikely to work. They certainly didn’t work at Otago. Industrial action is the only thing that might make VCs back down on these disastrous cuts that are being implemented left, right and centre.

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  3. From faraway University of Nigeria, I respond to this development with a heavy heart. I obtained my doctorate in UoW in the area of Political Science. Another Nigerian who also left his faculty position like me, for further studies, completed his doctorate in Chemistry. One more is currently studying there. Though it is my own discipline and faculty (FASS) that it in the direct line of fire at (UoW), I like the Vice Chancellor to note that the little efforts of the products of Waikato University over here in a Nigerian University attracts impressive recommendation for the institution and many more are considering coming to study there.

    It is so difficult for me to imagine that I cannot at some point in the future visit my alma mater in Nz and have the refreshing feeling of seeing my Department still in place! If the reason for wanting to shut down courses in FASS is that they do not generate funds, then the way to go is to redesign the disciplines. But care must be taken to keep in mind the mission and role of the social sciences beyond the expectations that programmes should generate funds. I invite the initiators of this plan to please have a rethink.

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  4. This is very bad news. I have studied counseling and supervision at Waikato University and am proud of the qualifications I received from there. The quality of the teaching staff and the respect for students was outstanding. I use my learning from my Master in Counselling and Grad. Cert. in Counselling Supervision every day as it was so useful. This attack on the humanities will leave Waitkato University bereft of quality and caring

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  5. I agree with Malcolm. The sky won’t fall in. And there’ll be some chance of saving jobs otherwise lost forever. None of us personally own our jobs. They’re not ours to give up or abandon, sure as hell not ours to sell. They belong to the working class & in this case to future students & the future of education. If you don’t fight you lose!

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