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Gravestones on the quad

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The Studley quad was littered with tombstones on Halloween, each one planted by a student, staff or faculty member concerned about campus operations.

“It’s absolutely befitting considering everything going on at Dal,” says Jacqueline Skiptunis, VP academic of the Dalhousie Arts and Social Sciences Society, “the services, the courses, the integrity of the university has been dying for years.”

The makeshift graveyard had over 20 stones by the end of the rally and saw over 200 students stop by, making their own tombstones or offering their support.

The university has received a lot of attention for its library budget cuts, which resulted in decreased hours and acquisition power. Beyond the library, there have been other budget cuts across campus: departments are being shrunk to meet bottom lines, popular professors are leaving because there is no job security, and international students are receiving fewer services for higher fees every year.

“We pay some of the highest tuition fees in the country but our quality of education is dropping,” says Skiptunis. “If there is a correlation, it’s failing. It is not working in our favor. I don’t think education is being prioritized the way it should be.”

“I’ve seen a lot of changes, especially in the past 10 years, that have really dramatically altered the university,” says Marjorie Stone, who teaches English and Gender studies and has been at Dal for over 30 years. “The administrative ranks seem to have grown while the full-time and tenured faculty have been declining and not been replaced.”

Dalhousie United has formed as a result, starting in 2012 when the university projected a $16M budget deficit. The group has been gathering input to create a Student Bill of Rights which was available at the rally. Members have been soliciting input from across campus for months to build the bill, which addresses rising costs and disproportionate budgets.

“I see students in my classes working 10, 15, 20 a week on top of four or five classes, so I think one of the things resting in peace, but not in peace, is investment in our young people,” says Stone.

“Why does our society not believe in investing in our students?”

The bill is divided into three parts and is available on their website. The main priorities are rights to quality education, ability to participate in governance, and a transparent and accountable university. The group has emailed copies to administrators, including President Richard Florizone. So far, the response has been good but there could always be more.

“Well,” says Stone with a laugh, “I’m looking to see if there’s any senior administrators out here now but I’m not seeing any. Do you?”

Claire Wählen
Claire Wählen
Claire was News Editor of the Gazette for Volume 146. You can follow her on Twitter at @Claire_Wahlen.
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