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University prioritizes funding to under-appreciated faculty

 Illustration by Tina Wallace

THE UNIVERSITY OF Ottawa has announced major changes in its funding allocations to better reflect the evolving academic world.

The faculties of science, engineering and management—all said to be overfunded for years—will face large funding cuts, as the faculty of arts becomes a funding priority.

The Board of Governors (BOG) has been considering the change for years, as science and technology have increasingly become a thing of the past.

“We must ensure we remain competitive on the world stage,” said Bob Gyros, chair of the board.

“Our future lies in the arts.”

University president Al Stone reiterated the importance of the decision by emphasizing its financial implications.

“The university has always been a business first,” said Stone. “As we move into the future, it is imperative that we continue to make record-breaking revenue. This can only be achieved by turning to more profitable research in fields such as philosophy, languages, music and history.”

For many, the decision does not come as a surprise. The faculty of arts has been thriving for years and many believe it is finally receiving the recognition it deserves.

Its recent development is due in part to changes in the workplace. Students are increasingly concerned about choosing a program that will benefit them in the future, and many believe arts programs offer the best career opportunities.

“Employers aren’t interested in graduates who can discover the next big cure, design city skyscrapers, or manage the finances of their business,” explained Jane Smith, a career consultant at the university.

“They want those who can think critically, write papers, and offer their interpretation of things.”

In addition to directly funding more research in the arts, the university’s plan includes the construction of a new arts building on Tabaret lawn, to be completed as early as 2015.

With a $60-million price tag, the purchase of the new building exceeds the $55 million spent on the Advanced Research Complex currently under construction, making it the U of O’s most expensive facility yet.

Equipped with state-of-the-art swivel chairs and projector screens, the building will be like no other arts building on campus. Students will even have access to their own electrical outlets, meaning they will no longer need to bring extension cords to class to use their laptops.

Stone said the large allocation of money was simply a matter of favoritism.

“There was really no need to spend that much, since research in the arts is relatively inexpensive,” he said. “But we thought it would make a strong statement.”

An increase in spending means students in all faculties can expect their tuition fees to soar. Nevertheless, the BOG does not expect any backlash from students who are beginning to acknowledge the superiority of the faculty of arts.